RIVERGE, Rebirth of Skull (2009, Rock Stakk)
This has to be the worst reincarnation ever: reborn as a cheap-ass Giger knockoff, a crappy biomechanical skull poked full of ugly dripping tubes. At least he’s a little scary-looking, maybe. I wonder what this guy was in his previous life? Probably an accountant or something. An evil accountant.
This is medium-sloppy Japanese thrash that generally fails to impress. It almost has the feel of crossover, but there really isn’t any hardcore in Riverge’s sound – it’s almost like they took their Leeway and Crumbsuckers albums and excised the NY hardcore, leaving only hyperactive caveman thrash. The singer sounds like a Japanese Tom Araya, but not young and awesome Tom. Instead, the Riverge dude sounds like late 00s Tom, a yelling, greying gorilla, now with a thick Japanese accent. That said, Riverge are not exactly a Johnny-come-lately thrash act; they have existed in some form or another since the mid 80s, and some of the songs on Rebirth of Skull, their first actual album, date from the band’s earliest days. Japanese thrash generally doesn’t do much for me, and that’s more or less the case here, although I’ll admit that overall, Riverge are better than most of the other Japanese thrash I’ve heard, and in fact a bit better (if only barely) than most of the rethrash I encounter. Their newer album sounds a bit better, so that’s probably a better starting point for those interested in Riverge, but you’d have to be a pretty serious thrash maniac to bother.
— Friar Johnsen
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