These Californian thrashers, made up of current and former members of Bitch and Abattoir have released their fifth album here in Ad Mortem Festanimus. However, it would be wrong to consider them a mere thrash act, as there are elements of classic metal, doom and even some more extreme moments on display. You'll hear just what I'm talking about on the surprisingly punchy “Aim For The Heart” which features a serious of unexpected blasts from skinsman Rob Alaniz. Danny Oliverio's vocals also tend to go into what I would consider much fiercer territory for mere thrash, as his inhuman scowls seem to bring an almost death/thrash sensibility to it, making the band far more than a simple eighties throwback. When the thundering grooves kick in during “Tombward” an incredibly brackish performance is offered, which makes for a truly punishing listen that once again, is far more volatile than mere thrash. Truly, Anger As Art could be one of the few thrash acts that might find mass appeal beyond that of the mere thrash hordes who want the same old thing. As much as I love classic thrash done right, I also love it when bands explore beyond what is truly an aging form of music. We've done almost everything there is to do with thrash these days, so I feel that the polish and experimentation offered here is just what the doctor ordered to keep such an approach from becoming stagnant. Adding to that, we have the utterly explosive licks from Oliverio as well as Steve Gaines, who both manage to serenade us right into solo heaven. I mean, this is the way that thrash solos are supposed to sound.
This is all well and good until you realize that for the rest of the record, the band more or less want to thrash as they had been doing on the last one, which was only relatively decent. They still manage a proficient job, but it's nothing compared to the rush one gets with the scathing vocal punishment unleashed towards the beginning of the record. I was at first hearing something that almost reminded me of my favorite era of Testament, but that quickly turned into something that just sounded like regular old Testament, especially when the squeals come in. It sounds like one of these guys is being stepped on like a squeaky toy and that doesn't gel with me at all. I do realize that this kind of vocal approach was used a lot in early thrash, which is why I guess such a thing is lost on me. Oddly enough though, things change to material that reminds me a little bit of, well... Iron Maiden. Yeah, I was just as surprised as you will be when “Praise The Firehead” starts up and while Oliverio is no Bruce Dickinson, he still tries his best to deliver that kind of vocal power. It's actually quite potent, but I'm sure some thrash fans will scratch their heads a bit as they wonder what this segue into classic heavy metal is doing on a “thrash” disc. It's a very good piece though and I certainly wouldn't kick it out of bed. Once again, they're experimenting and I think that's a good thing. If you don't like it, you can always skip it.
Following that, we have Castlevania style organs and neoclassicism that works to introduce a closer entitled “Dim Carcosa” that sounds like it doesn't even belong on this record. There's almost a power/thrash sense on here and to be honest, I'd rather hear this than those four or five basic thrashers in the middle of the album. I really like this change of pace right towards the end, and while some might throw up the “OMG, this band is fucking confused!” card (waiting on you, Autothrall) I'm just glad that I didn't have to suffer through a regular old thrash album. In conclusion, I'm quite pleased with Ad Mortem Festanimus and would recommend it to fans of not only thrash, but several other genres as well. There's a lot to chew on here, but I'm hoping that the next one will showcase even more of the band's abilities. They're only getting better with each record, which is definitely a good thing.
(11 Tracks, 48:00)