ARBITRATER, Darkened Reality (1993, Cyclone)
Looks like North America is suffering an impossibly gigantic pimple of bone; a hellish, ugly growth that North America does not want its neighbors in Europe and Africa to see. It better wear a baseball cap when it goes out. Added bonus is the reflection of the upper teeth in the water.
Thrash metal from the UK was a dicey proposition even in the genre’s heyday of 1987/1988, so the prospect of listening to some obscure UK thrash band’s second album from 1993 is a grim one. Surprisingly, this is not half bad. Which means it’s about half good. And only half good. The guitar tone is appropriately fried, and there are moments that compare favorably to early Xentrix or Dyoxen (although “compare favorably to Xentrix” is not necessarily a compliment in my world). The vocals are incredibly average, but this being UK thrash, you expect that. There’s not a lot of super-fast stuff here either — Arbitrater take their time with their thrashing. But listen long enough and you’ll find a scattering of semi-potent riffs that a Bay Area band like Defiance would surely have liked to co-opt (“Deadline,” “No Second Chance”). Unfortunately, songs like “Suicide Commercially” (huh?) and “Guilty of No Crime” offer nothing of use. And I’m referencing bands like Xentrix, Dyoxen and Defiance, so you see that this is decent at best — hardly mandatory thrash. You also see where this sits in the thrash hierarchy — decide for yourself if you need to track it down or not.
— Friar Wagner