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CD Review: DEKAPITATOR – The Storm Before the Calm

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dekapitator thestormbeforethecalmSeemingly every metal label now has an entry in the retro thrash sweepstakes; Relapse's is Dekapitator.  But to the Bay Area band's credit, it was thrashing long before it was fashionable to wear tight jeans and white hi-tops and proclaim allegiance to the '80s.  Dekapitator's 1999 full-length debut, We Will Destroy…You Will Obey!!!, dished out brutal, breakneck, old-school thrash, complete with delightfully excessive gang vocals and awesomely cheesy artwork.

Eight years later, the retro thrash field is much more crowded.  However, Dekapitator stand out, ironically, by picking up where they left off.  Instead of cribbing from obvious influences like Exodus and Kreator, We Will Destroy synthesized thrash as a feeling and spit it out as a singularly rabid whole.  The ingredients are the same here – buzzsaw riffs, Matt Harvey's beastly vocals, polka beats for miles, and a charming tendency for leads much more melodic than the riffs underneath.

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The Storm Before the Calm does have a few tweaks.  Though it's often speedy, it's generally a few bpm slower than its predecessor.  The production is also both sharper and heavier, though still plenty raw.  Additionally, gang vocals aren't so prevalent this time to remind listeners (again and again) of the titles of songs.  Harvey's howl mostly picks up the slack, though ultimately the songs are less memorably manic now.  The spirit is there, and so are the riffs, but a certain "something" lacks to push this album to match We Will Destroy.

Which is not to say The Storm is weak – far from it.  With a collective resume that includes Exhumed, Repulsion, Cretin, and Splatterhouse, Dekapitator have a steely maturity that most retro thrash newbies lack.  Melodies are more plentiful now; "Toxic Sanctuary" has harmonies so epic, they'd fit on Ride the Lightning.  "The Call to Combat" is similarly massive, while brief interlude "Eye of the Storm" unfurls "Call of Ktulu"-esque clean guitars.

Relapse graphic designer Orion Landau summons his inner Ed Repka, slathering the package with hilariously over-the-top apocalyptic artwork.  It's a perfect tribute to '80s classics; while nothing can top that original Camaro, this secondhand model is worth a few spins around the block.

7/10

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Dekapitator on MySpace
Relapse Records

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