REIGN, Embrace (1994, Mausoleum)
I don’t know who Marco Stohler is, but he sure is good at copying H.R. Giger. The vertebrae, the slimy sheen, the biomechanical nonsense — Stohler has it all down pat, and he’s put that prodigious talent for emulation to excellent work crafting this big dumb skull. It’s hard to call this a bad cover, because it’s a pretty fine painting, but it rates about a 1 on the originality scale.
And that’s a fair summary of the music, too. Embrace is a British thrash album from 1994, and if that doesn’t make you leery, I don’t know what will. Reign were to late 80s Sepultura what Xentrix were to mid 80s Metallica, although I’ll say I like Xentrix a good deal more than I like Reign. Embrace has a satisfying crunch to the guitars, but the pacing tends to plod (a very common problem with UK thrash), and the singer is completely charmless in the way a lot of last-gasp thrash vocalists were, trying too hard to bridge the gap between their beloved Hetfieldian yarl and the ever more popular death metal growl. This is one of the rare BDS albums that I actually own: the first two Reign albums were staples of discount bins everywhere in the mid 90s, and the cover alone was worth $2 to me. I haven’t listened to this in close to 20 years, probably, and while I remembered it being decidedly mediocre, I guess I’ve mellowed in my old age because this is definitely more enjoyable than my memory allowed. The clunky lurch that is the band’s default tempo gets old quick, but there are more fast parts than I recalled and in general this sounds more or less like the kind of thrash I like, but it never quite gets over the hump. As I’ve said many times, though, this totally forgettable slab of old school thrash is generally much better than all but the best of today’s rethrashers. I will grant that I’ve clearly entered the “get off my lawn” phase of thrash fandom, but that doesn’t make the observation any less true.
— Friar Johnsen