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February 12, 2012

Review: Workhorse – Fire Before All

Brutal Tunes

workhorse-fire-before-all-steffmetal

I got this folder on my desktop titled “Awesome Stuff to be reviewed,” that’s filled with about-to-expire download links, and an iPod bursting with metal from bands all over the world. There are simply not enough hours in the day to listen to and appreciate all this wicked metal you guys keep sending me. So, unfortunately, with the best of intentions, many, many deserving bands go unmentioned here on Steff Metal.

The physical promo packs that arrive in the mail tend to jump to the front of the queue. And that’s how I managed to avoid skipping over Workhorse, a Californian death metal band who released their debut album, Fire Before All, in Jan this year. Unlike the two bands I reviewed last week, Erupted and Sadistik Forest, Workhorse combined their classic thrash influences – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth – with progressive sounds and structures to produce a crushingly heavy debut that doesn’t sacrifice fine musicianship.

The blistering drumming and deep, rumbling vocals on “Seven Circles” serve as the perfect introduction to the band. The songs “New Age” and “For Which We Stand” have an Amon-Amarth-but-less-polished feel, with both the lyrical themes and the riffs evoking a sense of riding into battle and brutally slaying your enemy before raping their death, descrating their villages, and burning their women. (It might sound like I have these mixed up, but when you’re in the middle of violating and desecrating and burning, you’re not much fussed which one goes where). “Slave” is slow to get going, but worth it for the progressive madness that is the last minute. The staccato guitar and pulverizing solos in “The Eye” and frenzied madness of “Quiet” give a nod to idols Meshuggah and Gojira without sounding wholly derivative.

If I had one criticism, it’s that Fire Before All lacks consistency. It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific style that could be defined as “the Workhouse Sound”, simply because the band moves from straight death to melodic to thrash to progressive without keeping a specific element constant throughout the album. There might actually be too much variety. Honestly, though, whatever direction they follow on subsequent releases, I’d definitely be listening, because these guys are pretty fucking good.

You can keep up to date with Workhorse on their Facebook page, and check out their song “Seven Circles” from Fire Before All on their reverbnation page. Their entire album is available for free download HERE.