Sound — 8
Metal purists out there will be pleased to know that California's own Warbringer has brought back metal elements that reigned supreme during the 1980's. With its second album Waking Into Nightmares, the thrash band comes extremely close to sounding like many of the greats of the day, namely Megadeth, Exodus, and Slayer. While Warbringer still has room for growth in their core songwriting, Waking Into Nightmares will do an effective job of sending many a listener down memory lane. At the heart of it all is a set of musicians who operate together impeccably as one rhythmic unit, all the while throwing in a variety of spotlight moments (i.e., guitar solos, drum fills, etc). Knowing that Waking Into Nightmares has been produced by Exodus' Gary Holt, you do have a sense that you'll get more than a hint of vintage metal thrown in the mix. Warbringer does have its Exodus-like moments, it's still obvious that the band's influences are all over the board. A huge part in capturing that Warbringer sound are relative newcomers, drummer Nic Ritter and bassist Ben Bennett (who delivers some testosterone-driven vocals in the track Shadow From The Tomb). Considering that Waking Into Nightmares is their first go-round with the band, it certainly hits home just how tightly these guys already work as a rhythm section. The opening track Jackal draws you in, with its various crazy tempo changes and the ongoing Megadeth vibe that is created throughout. Comparing this track as well as others like Scorched Earth to Megadeth's work (Rust In Peace era, namely) is a huge compliment, particularly because it emphasizes the band's ability to balance the heaviest of rhythms with fast, yet melodic lead playing. You'll also find that a Slayer similarity pops up quite frequently, but this is probably most due to the fact that frontman John Kevill has a vocal delivery on par with Tom Araya. The lyrical content also adds to this effect, but the band as a whole never necessarily sounds quite as dark as Kerry King and the guys. You won't always hear an Iron Maiden influence in Waking Into Nightmares, but there is definitely a hint of that legendary British metal band in the track Senseless Life. What starts out as a relatively slower thrash number that builds in intensity becomes a melodic guitar fest for the ears at the end. Guitarists John Laux and Adam Carroll pull it all together to create simply amazing dual riff work. Other highlights include the use of breakdowns, which in this case, are never beaten to death. While some bands feel the need to include them in every song, Warbringer uses them sparingly.
Lyrics — 7
As was mentioned earlier, there are times on Waking Into Nightmares where you certainly are reminded of Slayer. The lyrical content doesn't delve into quite as many diabolic references as you might get with Slayer. You will, however, hear plenty of pissed-off content that often provides gory, depressing visuals. Whether in Prey For Death (Left alone to die; Under the sun there's nothing left; Prey for death) or Forgotten Dead (which provides many bloody instances of deaths by bayonets and other assorted weapons of war), Warbringer loves to inject their lyrics with a dark, violent, and somewhat cynical approach to life. It all is a throwback to many of the great thrash bands of the 80's, so it makes sense in the end.
Overall Impression — 9
Warbringer is making the rounds with some pretty impressive names in the thrash world, and rightfully so. Waking Into Nightmares does contain some very impressive moments, whether that be in the amazing Marty Friedman-like melodic solos to the stylized drum fills of Nic Ritter. As is the case with many a staple thrash band, a few of the tracks on the record tend to blend together. However, Warbringer does have enough creative, inspired moments during the course of the album that it certainly reinforces why this is a band to watch for in the future.