Since the release of their eponymous EP in 2011, Black Fast‘s modus operandi has been clear: slow intros are boring and clean passages are for wimps. This is archetypal blackened thrash metal played lightning fast and earth-shatteringly heavy.
Self-described as ‘unapologetically violent’, ‘Spectre Of Ruin’ does nothing to deviate from this course. The record is characterised by downright feral vocals, a rhythm section like a battalion of steamrollers, exhilarating lead breaks, and whiplash-inducing riffs that sound like they’ve been spat out of the depths of Hell itself.
Every last track bears these hallmarks in some shape or form, and as soon as opener ‘Cloak Of Lies’ explodes out of the gates you know exactly what’s in store for you – an aural experience not dissimilar to having your head shoved inside a cement mixer for 40 minutes. If you think that sounds like a bad thing then this probably isn’t for you, otherwise you’re in for a treat.
Eschewing the sheer technicality displayed by the likes of genre-mates Skeletonwitch, the emphasis is instead on overriding power and brutality. Instrumentally speaking there’s no pretension or self-indulgence at play, each facet exists to serve the compositions as a whole, as such each of the nine tracks are kept lean and the unrelenting, breakneck pace never has to halt to accommodate an overlong solo or moody interlude.
The tightness and focus is let down, however, by the somewhat muddy production. The individual instruments lack breathing space and come dangerously close to a wall of sound during some of the more intense moments where they should really pop. Furthermore, despite starting and ending strongly, the lack of sonic diversity grates somewhat after stand-out track ‘Scarecrow And Spectre’, during the middle third in particular it sometimes becomes difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins.
The band have clearly put their black metal influences to work when it comes to creating atmosphere. Gothic orchestral overtones are subtly but effectively employed on almost every track, draping a pitch dark layer of malice over the proceedings. Vocalist Aaron Akin in particular strikes a brilliant balance, snarling his deliciously evil lyrics with utter demented conviction whilst still enunciating enough to ensure that every word is pretty easily decipherable. That’s something that may make this release that bit more palatable to more mainstream metal listeners without watering down the sound in the least bit.
Akin has been quoted as saying “We’ve pushed our chips all in since the beginning. We’re playing metal. We don’t give a shit about making it.”, and ‘Spectre Of Ruin’ is nothing more or less than a manifestation of that intent.
As Black Fast continue to write songs designed to decimate all in their path, you’d best either get on board or stay out of their way, because it seems unlikely that anyone or anything is going to stop them.