SUSPENDED, Prelude to Indignance (2008, self-released)

The skull:
I love skulls that look like they were drawn in MS-Paint. Every element looks like it was added to distract from another, until you’re staring at a giant pile of mistakes feebly coalescing into a whole. What are those yellowish-brown things in the background? Chains? Made out of baby puke? And why is the skull glowing green? Just because it matches his eyes? And speaking of eyes, this skull must be baked, because his eyes are completely and comically bloodshot. He’s screaming because he can’t close his mouth (his fangs get in the way) and if you’re gonna gape, you might as well yell. Of course, the two headstocks (Jacksons, from the looks of it) poking out of the top can’t be comfortable, but this is a skull who is entirely unused to comfort anyway. I’d say the prelude is well over. This skull is very much indiginant, en ce moment.

The music:
Suspended walk a line between thrash and Death-worship, and while the playing and songwriting are a bit raw, the ideas and ambition are here. Vocalist Melynda Montano is the weak link; her gasping rasp is not particularly interesting in itself, and she has a tendency toward wordiness that overextends her voice in a bad way too often. You’ve heard worse singers, for sure, but that doesn’t offer much relief when you’re listening to Prelude to Indignance (which is a thrash title if ever I heard one.) One thing I can say about Suspended is that despite being a new thrash band, they don’t really sound like all the other new thrash bands, with their single-minded fixation on Slayer and Exodus. There’s a little bit of crossover to be heard here, but it’s an influence and not an aspiration. And there’s the aforementioned Schuldinerian vibe, with a lot of riffs reminding me of Chuck’s early forays into more melodic areas on Spiritual Healing. Suspended aren’t awesome, but they’ve got a lot of potential, and should be showing on your thrash radar, if you are so equipped.
— Friar Johnsen


EXILED, Exiled  (2002, Hellion)

The skull:
The fact that this is Exiled’s first-ever release — no demo, no EP, and on a fairly well-known label — and it looks like THIS tells you that almost no thought whatsoever went into the artwork. They’re like a baby fresh out of the womb that’s expected to get dressed in its finest and make an immediate public appearance. No wonder Exiled just went “uh…skull, that’s it!” Grab any skull you can find on your favorite clip-art page, make it glow and stamp a barcode on its forehead…voila! There you have your first album cover. Brilliant.

The music:
Well-crafted, highly energetic, aggressive power metal with plenty of speed but also enough timing shifts to keep you on your toes. The vocalist hovers in a mid-range, but dips low sometimes and every now and then well move to higher ground — he’s pretty good, although lacks something truly identifiable. The capability of each musician is fairly high too, and the songwriting is solid, if nothing groundbreaking. Exiled do what they do pretty well, delivering passion, darkness, melancholy and spirit in equal measure, played with remarkable ability, and you can’t help but like it at least a little bit. I wouldn’t return unless they really started finding their own unique muse, but it was good for one-time listen.
— Friar Wagner