Chilean beasts Critical Defiance bring true thrash skill to table on brutal debut ‘Misconception’

There’s always going to be a mushy, somewhat gross spot in my heart for thrash metal, because that’s the form of music that pretty much shaped my formative years. Bus rides to school usually were sound-tracked by bands such as Testament, Metallica, Overkill, Kreator, and Death Angel, artists that remain major parts of my record collection to this day.

That’s made the last decade or so a little tricky, because there has been so much new thrash metal out there and so many new bands playing it, and unfortunately, not a ton of that has resonated with me. So much of it just doesn’t feel right. That’s why I’m overjoyed when a band such as Chilean monsters Critical Defiance comes around and shows everyone how this stuff is done. Their debut record “Misconception” is being released by Unspeakable Axe, and if you Calso carry a torch for the glory days of thrash, this will hit you right in the feels. Driving riffs, gang-shouted choruses, vocals that mangle but are easily understood are major components of this album as the band—guitarist/vocalist Felipe Alvarado, guitarist Felipe Espinoza, bassist Ignacio Arevalo, and drummer Nicolas Pastene—ramps up the intensity and never lets it relent until nearly 40 minutes later when it ends.

“Desert Ways” gets things going by throwing punches, delivering on their thrashy promise as guitars go crazy, and the pace is nuts. The vocals come in gruff shouts, while the aforementioned gang shouts get the blood flowing, with the track coming to a blistering end. “Spiral of Hatred” has guitars spinning out as the track bursts from the gates. Alvarado’s vocals sound a lot like Tom Araya’s, as the pace punishes and chews, and strong dual guitar lines get fired up and dangerous. The track goes cold for a stretch before reigniting and hammering toward the gates. “Punished Existence” has rapid drumming, guitars flying off the handle, and the vocals pounding at your chest. The tempo chugs and blasts away, with Alvarado wailing the song’s title before the crushing ends. “507” is an instrumental that opens with cold guitars trickling before the pace kicks in and delivers punishment. The leads burn and slash, raging through the night before ending in a bath of synth.

“What About You” has drums encircling, as the pace crushes bones, the vocals shred, and they pulverize everything in front of them. The back end of the song is thrashy as hell, upping the ante over the song’s first half, which is pretty smothering. “Onset” delivers blows, with the leads guitars fluttering and everything feeling glorious as hell. Raspy howls and gang shouts send shrapnel, with the guitars driving and surging energy, as the song bubbles and bursts. The track then blasts to a crescendo, with everything coming to a head and exploding into oblivion. “Pursuit of Chaos” is bulldozing as maniacal vocals smear your psyche, and the guitar work takes command. The band hits a heavy groove, feeling like they’re revisiting old NYC-style madness, with everything coming to a massive end. The title track closes with a burst of speed, as the guitars race and explore, and the vocals are barked. The band digs deep for one final blast before freezing winds blow, and a classical-style run drives us to the finish line.

Critical Defiance put a smile on my ridiculously picky face, as “Misconception” reminds me of walking to the bus through mist, rain, and snow while I had headphones plastered to my ears with the volume impossibly high. This is Grade A thrash, the real fucking deal, and if you’re protective of the style like I am, you’ll feel pretty great when this is over. Thrash metal still lives as long as bands such as Critical Defiance are the ones carry its banner.

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