Natur bring ’80s thrash, power fire on really fun debut album ‘Head of Death’

It seems like every other person is into something vintage. Clothes, lamps, cars, music, equipment, food. OK, not food. Old food is gross and dangerous and can land you in the hospital. I know someone who can attest to that personally. He didn’t learn his lesson either.

But vintage has been something going on with music the last decade or so. Old sounds are being embraced, aged equipment is being used in studios to capture the essence of an era (take Opeth and Witchcraft as two more recent examples), and even clothing styles from the past are being embraced again. Personally, I love seeing back patch-emblazoned jean jackets on people’s backs again, if only because I grew up dressing that way and it instills in me a sort of nostalgia. No wonder no one in my preppy high school would talk to me. Fuck them, anyway.

Metal has not been immune to this movement, witness the amount of bands trying their hands as bringing back power metal, the early waves of black metal, and, of course, thrash. Those thrash kids haven’t fared too well with me. There are a hundred too many, and almost none of them get it right. Nor do they understand what they’re trying to mimic, and maybe that’s just me being old and getting pissed that today’s bands don’t quite have the same touch as the ones who shaped my tastes. But I don’t think I’m wrong.

But now and again a band comes along and gets it right, really nailing the sound they’re aiming to create. Brooklyn’s Natur is one that, to me, get it right. They’re not really zeroing in on an exact moment or genre per se. Instead, they’re going for something they sum up nicely below their name on their Facebook page: old metal. That’s what this sounds like. It’s dusty and scratchy and epic and true, and they sound like they have a ton of old Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, and Mercyful Fate albums spread about their practice space. They remind me a bit of Sweden’s In Solitude, only less bombastic and not so, I don’t know, put on? I feel what these guys accomplish on “Head of Death” is way closer to what I remember feasting on in high school, and that’s half of what clinched it for me. The other half is their tremendous execution.

The band members go by some pretty wacky monikers. The fellows in charge of this galloping beast are Weibust on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Dino Destroyer on lead guitar; Sound Mound on bass; and, of course, Tooth Log on drums. Tooth Log is the name that intrigues me the most. No offense on the other fellows. They also pull out some bizarre song titles here and there such as “Goblin Shark,” that comes dressed in New Wave of British Heavy Metal-style guitars, and some Maiden-esque fire, and “Spider Baby,” a name that I once called my cat before she bulked up to full size. This track is a weird, silly anthem that sounds like something Alice Cooper could get along with, at least lyrically. Admittedly, someone who already finds classic metal funny probably won’t be swayed by these details. But who cares? Who needs them?

The one thing about Natur that took the most adjustment is Weibust’s singing. He’s not the most charismatic guy in the world, though he’s not dead or anything, and sometimes I wish he had a little more fire behind his vocals. He does just fine, don’t get me wrong, and he often reminds me of a less shrieky James Hetfield in his early years, but it took me a little while to warm up to his approach. I’ve come around a bit. The rest of the band is tight and has a grasp on the vintage feel, and it does make me feel nostalgic for the era of my youth. If you didn’t grow up with this style, you’ll still be able to enjoy a rock-solid metal album.

The title cut opens with a baby crying and a NWOBHM assault, barked vocals, and chugging riffs that are really fun to hear explode out of your speakers, and “The Messenger” follows with a cool riff, a theme of the dead rising from the grave, and some fast playing. “Decion” is where Weibust sounds most like Hetfield (it’s scary at times how similar his phrasing is), and the texture to the song feels like an old thrash number that eventually gets treated with cleaner guitar lines that bring some clarify to the destruction; “The Servant” is a cool, Maiden-style instrumental, and that blows into “Vermin,” that opens with an aggressive bassline, leans into some speedy guitar work, and has an aura that reminds me of Mötley Crüe from their “Too Fast for Love” era. Closer “Mutilation in Maine” is a strong epic with assorted, dynamic tempo shifts, a haunting storyline, and pure metal goodness that may seem a little wacky, but that’s what makes metal so much fun.

Natur’s debut has grown on me the more I’ve heard it, and I’m getting a lot of mileage out of these songs. It also got me to dig back into my record collection to find the albums that helped shaped my youth and everlasting love for heavy metal. This band’s sound is true, and they may be the ones to reverse the staleness of so many young bands trying to conjure something from an era in which they didn’t exist. Natur gets it, and it’s almost like they’ve been there all along.

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