Band line up:
Guillermo Izquierdo – lead vocals, guitars
David G. Alvarez – guitars, backing vocals
Jose Izquierdo – bass, backing vocals
Victor Valera – drums, backing vocals
1. Sharpen The Guillotine
3. Ministry Of God
4. The Hum
5. Downfall Of The Nation
6. One Of Us
7. The Die Is Cast
8. Witching Hour
10. Martyrs Of Chicago
Evaluating music can be a contradictory process. Particularly when it comes to acknowledging how a band draws on it’s influences. Bearing in mind Heavy Metal is a genre that appears to have a fixed tier at the top of it’s influential hierarchy.
Slayer, AC/DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath seem to be the go-to bands that frequently get used as a stylistic compass. It can sometimes be difficult to recognise the line where a band wearing their inspirations on their sleeve becomes a good thing or a bad thing.
Listening to people talk about music, reading blogs and online comments, etc, it’s not uncommon to come across a band being written off just because they sound like a poor man’s “such and such.” As a direct contrast, I’ve often found myself praising or recommending music to other people precisely BECAUSE it sounds like “such and such” with a little bit of “so and so!”
At what point does one become the other?
In a similar way, some bands seem to get away with plagiarising themselves repeatedly and are celebrated for it. I’ll be the first to admit that when I drop the needle on a Motorhead album I really don’t want it to sound different from any other Motorhead album. However, do I feel the same way about a band like Judas Priest, who have altered their style so many times and built a career on having a creative approach to changing trends in music? Arguably, Judas Priest’s longevity has thrived on change, whereas Motorhead’s thrived on staying exactly the same. It’s an interesting thing to consider the benefits of originality and new ideas vs the risks of alienating your fanbase and the old adage that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
Neither approach is wrong. Both have their pitfalls.
All of this comes to mind as I push play on this brand new album by Angelus Apatrida. A group of heavy thrashers from Spain, who by their own description, “aren’t an ordinary thrash outfit.” They’ve certainly spent time honing their sound; this being their sixth album. They’ve also spent two years prior to writing Cabaret de la Guillotine out on the road in support of their previous album, Hidden Evolution.
They have talked about how they draw their influences as much from the Bay Area greats as they do from the German thrash classics. They cite Death Metal and NWOBHM as key elements to their sound, yet they claim to have always created something new out of their favorite bands. So, as the album’s finger-picked, acoustic intro gradually fades away and the full onslaught of Sharpen the Guillotine comes crashing in I find myself wondering what it is they intend to add to the mix…
The answer is… reassuringly, and gloriously so – nothing at all!
Angelus Apatrida are playing thrash metal very much in the traditional sense. During the first few songs, I’m picking out parts that remind me of bands like Whiplash, Anthrax, Machine Head, Kreator and above all, Testament. Sure enough, they are bringing in elements of traditional metal alongside the thrash, but this is a smooth and authentic blend. The music on Cabaret de la Guillotine is played with such energy, enthusiasm and conviction that I can’t help but enjoy it for what it is. A very good heavy metal album indeed!
Betrayed and Ministry of God both feature some world class, razor sharp riffing coupled with a passionate vocal delivery courtesy of Guillermo Izquierdo.
The band have so far maintained a breakneck pace and there is an uplifting, anthemic feel to the music. By the time we get to the album’s fourth song, The Hum, it’s clear that although they aren’t really giving us anything new, the quality bar has been set very high indeed. If you enjoyed Megadeth’s Dystopia album then it’s likely you are going to be turning up the volume on this and playing air guitar to any one of the impressive, skillful guitar solos or the tight rhythm parts on a song like Downfall of the Nation.
One of Us and The Die is Cast are concrete head bangers. There is some right hand riff work on display here that would make James Hetfield or Scott Ian drop their jaws.
So far, so good. Witching Hour draws the album towards a weighty chug, accentuated by a rolling bass and punctuated with stabbing drums. It’s a solid shift into the final third of what has so far been a rich and satisfying celebration of quality thrash metal.
Cabaret de la Guillotine’s penultimate song, Farewell gives the listener a bit of a dynamic gear change. Arpeggiated chords serve as the backdrop to some solid, harmonised lead lines and momentarily we are held within a more melodic moment on the album.
At this point it’s worth mentioning the production, which is crystal clear throughout. It actually reminds me of Judas Priest’s newest album, Firepower. The drums have punch and the guitars are crunchy. The vocals are powerful and cut through with enough venom that you’ll soon be clamouring along.
After nine satisfying headbangers, we are playing out on the final track; Martyrs of Chicago. It’s a mixture of everything that has gone before it. Hard riffs and slamming drums. The guitars ring in tight harmonies and it features some hardcore gang vocals that give away to a soaring chorus. It all provides enough bite to send me straight back to the beginning for another smash through this album.
In summary, Cabaret de la Guillotine is not giving us anything we haven’t heard before. You WILL recognise other bands woven into Angelus Apatrida’s sound, but this set of songs is presented with such authenticity and persuasion it seems completely unnecessary to criticise it for that. Horns up, I say. Horns up and bang your head.
Review by Beandog