A phenomenal heavy music album full of groove, fury and energy by an extremely talented Thrash Metal band from Down Under.
When I saw Australian thrash metallers 4ARM here in Toronto opening for Slayer in 2013 I knew there was something special about those guys, as I was able to truly enjoy their performance even knowing nothing about their music. That’s what high-quality music does to people, and that’s what will happen to you when you take a listen at Survivalist, the magnificent new album by this Melbourne-based Groove/Thrash Metal band.
Put together the speed and violence of Testament with the modernity and groove of Trivium, adding to that beautiful mixture the talent and refined technique of this band from Down Under, and the final result is an album (or should I say a concept album, as each song is a different “chapter”?) that will become an intrinsic part of your day-to-day playlist so awesome it is. Not only that, the album art by Colin Marks at Rain Song Design, who have already worked with bands such as Exodus, Whitechapel and Suicide Silence, wraps up the musical content perfectly. With that said, let me stop typing for a few seconds while I hit play to listen to Survivalist for the 100th time.
Opening this beautiful album we have Eyes of the Slain, and it’s such a great start it’s hard to explain what it represents in just a few words. Its intro reminds me of some excerpts from the biggest classics by Trivium, before turning into fast and technical metal music perfect for circle pits with the vocals by Markus Johansson being more melodic than the average in Thrash Metal. Besides, there’s an awesome dose of melancholy and anger in this song that only makes it more remarkable. In the following tune, Fragment of a Dream, the riffs are so amazing I dare you to not enjoy them. The level of professionalism is outstanding, and I’m sure you’ll be singing its catchy chorus for days in a row (“HUMAN nature is to kill / NEW WORLD disturbing of the beast / ODER chaos / Reality is hardly what it seems / HUMAN nature is to will / NEW WORLD survive in the extreme / ORDER chaos / Belief is just a fragment of a dream”). In addition, what lead guitarist Evan K and drummer Michael Vafiotis do with their instruments is beyond amazing.
Poisoned Mind is not just another kick-ass tune: it’s an extremely dense and complex composition with the whole band demanding we bang our heads nonstop during its execution, with highlights to the beastly and harmonic drumming by Michael and to the sick bass lines by Andy Hinterreiter. This is in my humble opinion the best song of the album and a lesson in Heavy Metal that truly deserves our recognition. Slowing down a bit (but as heavy as hell), 4ARM deliver the groovy Poverty of Flesh, where its lyrics blend perfectly with its instrumental parts. Markus and Evan offer us a feast of riffs and solos only bands like Trivium and Exodus can do, and if you’re a longtime fan of Testament you’ll go crazy with the last part of the song for sure.
Sounding like the good times of Metallica mixed with the latest works by Trivium (and 4ARM’s own personality, of course), Lights Out presents great lyrics once again (“It’s in the darkest times / We reveal who we are / Those that can endure / And live beyond the scar / Scars are but a darkness of the soul / Revelation of might, silent control”), and it’s amazing how in just seven minutes they were capable of fusing three or four different “songs” in a very progressive and melodic way. In the next song, In Living Decay, they come blasting a powerful blend of 80’s Thrash Metal with modern extreme music right in our faces. I can imagine the smile on Michael’s and Evan’s faces while playing this song, and in the case of us metal fans, the question is: how not to get into the mosh pit with this song?
Now try to imagine if Dream Theater were a Thrash Metal band. Well, the song Ignitor would probably be the result in your mind. It’s nonstop violence with a strong melody and guitar solos tailored for any guitarist in the world to admire, with highlights to the vocals by Markus for giving genuine life to the lyrics. Last but not least, if 4ARM started the album on a high note, why not closing it with another brilliant tune, right? And for that they chose the title-track, Survivalist, the longest and most introspective of all tracks. This is a stunning semi-ballad where the music follows its sorrowful lyrics flawlessly (“And so it’s come to this / As the days cease to exist / Life in decline / Stare at the abyss / Count down the days yet still insist / There’s always time”), with the final guitar solo by Evan being so awesome it really makes me feel sad the album is over.
I’m not only going to say Survivalist is one of the best albums of 2015 so far, but that its level of professionalism is absolutely unbelievable for a 100% independent band. How come 4ARM do not have a record label yet playing this first-class metal music? Anyway, you can give them a shout at their official Facebook page, and also purchase Survivalist on iTunes or on their BandCamp page. I really don’t know how we all survived until today without this album on our hands, but that’s how life is. At least we have it now to be listened over and over again, which reminds me what I’m going to do next.
Best moments of the album: Eyes of the Slain, Poisoned Mind and Survivalist.
Worst moments of the album: Honestly, there’s absolutely nothing bad or weak on this album.
Released in 2015 Independent
1. Eyes of the Slain 7:30
2. Fragment of a Dream 4:47
3. Poisoned Mind 5:11
4. Poverty of Flesh 7:37
5. Lights Out 6:59
6. In Living Decay 4:45
7. Ignitor 5:22
8. Survivalist 8:31
Markus Johansson – vocals, guitars
Evan K – lead guitars
Andy Hinterreiter – bass
Michael Vafiotis – drums