Written by Sam Agnew
What is the main ingredient that makes Thrash Metal kick so much ass? That would be, first and foremost, the riffs! Condition Critical's very first real recording has an overabundance of riffs of the bad ass variety, and much more! This band from various parts of New Jersey has finally been able to record a demo, and it is well worth checking out. Complete with aggressive riffs, fierce vocals, a powerful bass tone that backs up the rest of the music perfectly with the drums, masterful shredding lead guitar work and impressive drumming worthy of being compared to the late great Vinnie Daze, this short three song demo does not disappoint even for a second.
As I said before, this demo has great riffs, which is the backbone of kick ass thrash, but not the only ingredient. A lot of bands come up with great riffs, but fail to back them up correctly. This is not the case for Condition Critical. It takes more than just a talented guitarist or two for music to come together so well. Aside from Alonso Maguiño and Dave Hewson's guitar work, we have the drumming talent of Ryan Donato, and Mike Dreher's stand out bass lines. The combination of drums and bass on this recording combine to build up the riffs perfectly, and draws out their true aggressive potential.
This is exemplified perfectly when the music builds up from a slow, heavy riff to an explosion of speed and aggression, and this happens very often on the recording. A good example of this is the first minute or so of Time Wave Zero, but I will get to that in a little bit. The music never bores the listener because of the tempo changes, and they keep the riffs interesting at all times. The dynamics created by Ryan's drumming and Mike's bass allow the rest of the music to shine through for maximum head banging potential.
This means the “rhythm section” accents the guitars perfectly, which distinguishes Condition Critical from many other new bands. The coordination between band members is noticeable, and the transitions between riffs seriously increase their overall “headbangability,” and make them more fun to listen to. All of this combined with relentless thrash breaks, and energetically aggressive, yet catchy gang shouts (that are actually well executed) makes for a high quality first release.
(Disclaimer: I do not intend to be one of those guys that gives track by track reviews, but seeing as how this is only 3 songs it seems fitting to do so in order to describe it in detail)
Now getting onto the actual individual songs(there are only 3 of them, which makes it a lot easier to talk about every detail). There are a total of four tracks, one of them being a short intro. The intro is only 30 seconds long, and is not very special, compared to the rest of the demo. It serves it's purpose of being a good introduction to the band though.
The riff is very crushing, albeit pretty standard, but what stands out is the double bass behind it. It serves as a good introduction to the band's sound, but the real attention grabber comes as soon as the opening riff of “Bred to Kill” kicks in. That is when the head banging starts, and all throughout it the rhythm section backs it up perfectly, as I discussed earlier.
My first real surprise was when Alonso's vocals came in for the first time. I have played shows with these guys two times(and another time in a few days at the time of writing this review), and both times I could not clearly hear the vocals besides noticing the fact that they were there. I was completely thrown off guard when I first listened to this demo because I did not know his vocals were that fitting.
They are definitely reminiscent of that brutal style in between thrash and death metal, but not to the point that I would call the band death metal, because the music is mostly pure thrash. He has a growled style similar to the first Malevolent Creation album, and the obvious comparison of Steve Reynolds from Demolition Hammer. That seems to be the most common description of this band; they are even called “Demolition Hammer Jr” by people. While the heavy Demolition Hammer influence is apparent, this is not all there is to the music.
Listening to the rest of Bred to Kill clearly reveals this, especially during the mid section of the song contains parts similar to what I would expect from bands like Testament. The guitar harmony part also stands out. This is not your typical “Iron Maiden” guitar harmony though, mainly because it does not utilize thirds and does not come off as “melodic.” Instead, it is more reminiscent of something Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman would coordinate between each other, although with a hint of the previously mentioned Testament influence behind it.
As Bred to Kill comes to a rampaging end, the next track, “Self Mutilation Ritual” (better known as S.M.R.), comes kicking in. The first riff of this song is very likely one of the main comparisons to Demolition Hammer that you can find on this recording. The riff is repeated with variations until the music explodes into a frenzy of Slayer inspired aggression. The riffs continue to grab the listener's attention, while forcing you to bang your head with them when it all comes to a grinding slow down into a section that drives along at a mid tempo.
Ryan's drumming underneath this section of the song stands out even more than the riffs sometimes, which is very rare for me to notice as a guitarist. This culminates into a chugging section with some technical guitar picking. Again the “rhythm section” continues to impress me, making a simple riff sound more layered with the snare hits, and the accenting of the bass. The song continues to induce more head banging until it returns to the very first riff of the song and builds up to a slow ending. Until...
Time Wave Zero kicks in. The first riff catches the listener off guard with it's brutality. As it progresses into one of the faster parts of the demo, everything comes to a brief, sudden stop. The pause towards the beginning of this track is one of the greatest moments of this entire recordings. The use of thrash dynamics really shows that these guys know what they are doing. Time Wave Zero shows what this band is truly capable of, and it is personally my favorite track on the record.
It also has what I believe to be the coolest lyrics out of the three songs. It is far from typical thrash song topics, and it makes things more interesting. As the demo comes to a close, the last ringing note of Time Wave Zero leaves you wanting to hear more from this band, and I am pretty sure giving us more to hear is exactly what they intend to do.
This seriously is a stand out release for a local band. Aside from the purely musical aspects that I have been talking about on this demo, the mixing and production is very impressive as well, especially for a band's first demo release. I think they want to use the same studio for when they record an album. The CD that I have does not sound like a recording of a band that just started; the sound is literally high enough quality to be put on a full length album.
This is even more impressive because it was mostly recorded live in the studio, so it fully captures the band's energy and personality. It is bands like this that give the New Jersey metal scene hope. They know what they are doing, they are serious about it and they show no mercy.
I am not saying this as a friend of the band, but as a listener. This demo is more than worth buying, and you don't even have to pay for it because it is up for free. I would recommend supporting this band, buying some merchandise when it comes along and showing up to shows if they play near you so we can continue to support local music that is actually really good.
This release is a breath of fresh air for the NJ thrash scene. All of the members of this band were in death metal bands as well, and still are in those other projects, but you can tell just by listening to this that they were all meant to play thrash. The bottom line is: this demo will blow your mind.