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Annexation – Inherent Brutality

Annexation
Inherent Brutality
by Andrew Graham at 16 October 2020, 4:42 PM

When you hear the term ‘death-thrash’ what is usually being referred to is that magical transition period in the mid to late-1980’s when the more extreme elements of thrash metal slowly changed to a point where it was clear some new brutality was evolving. The source material is broad, including the very early material of groups like SEPULTURA, SLAYER, and SODOM. Indeed, POSSESSED arguably carved an entire career out of this ambiguous middle-ground between thrash and death metal. What we have with “Inherent Brutality” by German thrashers ANNEXATION is a subtly different kind of death-thrash. In a period of time after the full developments of thrash and death metal, ANNEXATION have seemingly managed to masterfully blend the two styles seamlessly together, resulting in a collection of songs that stomp, crush and smash the ball right out of the park! There’s something here equally for fans of thrash and death metal: a wide variety of lyrical material, groovy and exciting riffage, bubbly basslines, throaty vocals that almost give POSSESSED’S Jeff Becarra a run for his money, and epic drumming that combines the very best of both genres.

In many ways the album resembles CANNIBAL CORPSE’S 1991 debut “Eaten Back to Life”. On this debut offering it Is still heavily laden with thrash elements but dialled up to eleven, and it is clear what is emerging. From start to finish “Inherent Brutality” perfectly mixes thrash and death metal together in a joyous union which thrills and exhilarates at every turn. The melding of the two is so ingenious and simple that by itself it’s a boy to listen to and follow. For instance, a common denominator across a song will be the main riff, and the drummer will alternate between the traditional fast-paced thrash style and death-inspired blast beats – it appears seamless. It is just as well that this is all done so masterfully – any band that has to following the footsteps of the “Big Four of Teutonic thrash metal” has big shoes to fill indeed!

The lyrics are, at surface-level, characteristic of the gore and violence one comes to expect from death metal and much early thrash. On a deeper level we can read remarkably aware social and political critique, between the lines as it were! For example, “A.T.R.” reads as a savage criticism of our culture of political correctness and the self-assured, self-righteous intellectual extremism that characterises many elements of our contemporary social movements.

“Beyond Humanity” casts a dark and brutal mirror on the phenomena of online beheadings, through the more general lens of our culturally ingrained fascination with gore and violence – you’re repulsed by what you’re looking at and yet can’t quite bring yourself to look away. Almost as a case-in-point, “The Beast” presents the listener with a more familiar death metal gore-fest (I see what you did there!) “Holycaust” is a classic anti-war anthem that so often features on thrash classics, followed by another violent head-banger in the title-track “Inherent Brutality”. “Wrecked” reads almost like a running narration of the goriest scenes in ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (intentional perhaps?) “Global Assassin Grid” is a scathing, and frankly shocking, attack on drone warfare. We have heard some cutting social critique up to this point but the spoken intro and outro on this track of US soldiers casually remarking on “collateral damage” is really jarring. It hits the listener like a ton of bricks, not just in the ears but in the conscience. I’m reminded of the title track on LAMB OF GOD’S “Ashes of the Wake” – in my opinion one of the most powerful anti-war songs ever written. It hits you where, and when, you least expect it and that’s precisely why it’s so powerful. Poignantly done, chaps!

“Colonia Dignidad” shines a harsh light on child sexual abuse in the church – more social shock material! It is precisely the fact that these kinds of tracks are interspersed with the more traditional gore-shockers that makes them so powerful. We get comfortable and then bang! Another social issue that demands our attention! More case in point for this pattern, “Craving for Flesh” again mirrors a classic splatter horror, this time ‘Necromantic’ (these Germans seem very much aware of their horror-themed cultural heritage!) “Masscontamination” is… well… under our present circumstances the reader will hardly need any input from me to guess what the subject matter here might be about! The album closes with “Raped and Impaled” (lovely), another surface-level splatter-fest that secretly contains incisive social critique of the exploitative and unequal aspects of our culture.

Some words on the production seem appropriate (if overdue!) What can I say: the production is excellent! The drums make themselves heard in every blast beat and double kick with clarity that would make Scott Burns proud. The guitars have all the chunk and chug that one would expect from the very best thrash has to offer. Piranha’s basslines underlie the groovy foundations of the ANNEXTATION house – and are fortunately not banished to the bass-ment! Infektörr’s vocals are crisp and dense, demanding centre stage whenever he appears. For their first full-length this is a stellar piece of production: massive respect due to Marc Wüstenhagen!

My perspective on music, indeed any kind of art, is that it ought to say something. If what is said is not 100% original, then it should at least be clever about it. What we have here most definitely says something, and the way it’s said is just so bloody clever and well-constructed that you couldn’t help but find it arresting. And it successfully shocks too, but not in the conventional sense (gory lyrics and so forth). The social criticism contained herein is precisely what is shocking, because it is current and thus plucks nerves. They are not afraid to hold up a harsh mirror against the most ugly and despicable aspects of our culture and rub our noses in it! What ANNEXATION have achieved here is an absolutely outstanding example of its type, and certainly the best example of its type I have heard in a long time (who says RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE are the only ones who can be overtly political?!)

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. A.T.R.
  2. Beyond Humanity
  3. The Beast
  4. Holycaust
  5. Inherent Brutality
  6. Wrecked
  7. Global Assassin Grid
  8. Colonia Dignidad
  9. Craving for Flesh
  10. Masscontamination
  11. Raped and Impaled
Lineup:
Rotten Piranha – Bass
Uncle Crocodile – Guitars
Sickfuck Sanchez – Guitars
Infektörr – Vocals
Volcanic Nun Desecrator – Drums
Record Label: Iron Shield Records
     


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