Just as that classic thrash metal sound has been undergoing a resurgence lately, it seems that the classic crossover thrash sound is making a comeback too. With Iron Reagan just having released their third album, which channelled clear influences from the likes of Suicidal Tendencies and Agnostic Front, Texan hardcore thrashers Power Trip are furthering the cause with a classic crossover thrash sound that is more focussed and diverse, whilst still clearly pulling from the likes of Cro-Mags and Sick Of It All. The five-piece’s 2013 debut record, Manifest Decimation, exhibited Power Trip’s worship of many crossover thrash legends, but, in my opinion, didn’t develop this sound significantly enough to leave a lasting impression on me. However, upon hearing some of the material released leading up to the band’s sophomore LP, Nightmare Logic, I was struck by what came across as a heightened keenness to expand their stylings and the beginnings of a unique Power Trip sound, although the group’s influences are certainly still evident. Whilst it still seems that the band has a way to go in order to properly stand out from both their idols and their contemporaries who share similar influences with the band, Nightmare Logic boasts improved song-writing, meatier riffs, more forceful vocal deliveries and better production than its predecessor, showing that Power Trip are on the right track to becoming an outstanding act in the contemporary crossover thrash world.
Soul Sacrifice is an explosive start to Nightmare Logic, opening with some dark, rumbling electronics and ambient rings before bursting into a trudging thrash riff. Riley Gale lets out a depraved howl before the band transitions into a riff-heavy build-up, after which the listener is catapulted into one of the most mosh-friendly passages on the entire album. The cherry on top is a blisteringly speedy solo from axeman Blake Ibanez that displays his dexterity fabulously. The intro riff is reintroduced at the end of the song, taking the form of a breakdown, but could also be seen as a breather from the hectic, thrashy madness of the song’s main section. Soul Sacrifice is certainly one of the most well-assembled cuts on Nightmare Logic, to the point of it having an impact on the next track, Executioner’s Tax – Swing of the Axe, thanks to the abrupt ending that quickly bleeds into this song’s cacophony of wailing guitars atop a steady drumbeat. Once the chaos subsides, the band charges into a rather rudimentary, chuggy, palm-muted section, although Power Trip have a way of presenting themselves on Nightmare Logic that makes even straightforward sections like this somehow thrilling. As the band plays through this section a few times, they continue to add new accents and licks that begin to gear the listener up for the main body of the song, wherein Gale delivers one of his punkiest vocal performances on the entire record, with the nastiness of a singer like Cro-Mags’ John Joseph. Given the deathly, threatening and somewhat apocalyptic lyrical content, this is a fitting comparison on multiple levels. Whilst the rest of Executioner’s Tax doesn’t display the same level of songwriting chops Power Trip displayed on the album’s opener, there will be the odd change to the guitar work or the occasional drumming flourish that keep things from sounding too calculated and by the book.
Although several singles were released in promotion of Nightmare Logic, the only one I had given a listen before hearing the full album was Firing Squad. This track got me pretty pumped for the album, to the point that I actually avoided hearing the other singles because I wanted the rest of the record to be a surprise. Plus, given the short 34-minute runtime of Manifest Decimation, I expected its follow-up to also be on the short side (it’s two minutes shorter than the band’s debut, in fact), so I thought that hearing too many teaser tracks would potentially spoil the album for me a bit. Regardless, I was incredibly impressed by Firing Squad and, in the context of the entire record, it’s perhaps the most thoroughly-written song here. The amount of pure riffage on this cut gives it a vibe that leans slightly more towards a metalcore style than much of Power Trip’s other work, but taking the genre debate out of the picture, Firing Squad launches the listener into unrelenting, quick-fire riffs that all feel like the musical equivalent of having your face slammed into the pavement. As the band cuts out at around halfway through the track, the song really could have ended there, seeing as the listener had already suffered enough auditory abuse from the stampede of thrashy riffs, but a plodding guitar melody brings the rest of the band back into a foot-stamping bridge before Ibanez busts out another face-melting solo. Indeed, Power Trip’s immensely improved songwriting ability could be summed up by just this track, but that’s not to downplay the other highs of songs like the title-track and Ruination. Ultimately, there’s so much going on here that it’s hard to see how any fan of hardcore punk or thrash metal couldn’t be ensnared by this album’s unforgiving ferocity.
I must admit that, when I started writing this review, I had the intention of being a bit more critical of the album. I had planned on detailing my main, underlying reservation for Nightmare Logic, that being that Power Trip wear their influences so clearly on their sleeve that this record doesn’t feel like it pushes the boat out far enough. I still maintain this reservation to a limited extent, but after scrutinising these eight songs to within an inch of their lives, I’ve realised that this album is just too much damn fun for me to fault it considerably for a lack of originality. It could be argued that Nightmare Logic somewhat lacks memorability as a result of a lack of a definitive and unique sound for the group, and this may potentially be true and perhaps the hype for this album will have petered out in a year’s time. However, this doesn’t change how enjoyable this record is for the time that it’s on, to the point where I feel like I’d be a bore if I were to heavily criticise this album’s lack of freshness, as I would contend that this misses the point of Power Trip. I would urge listeners not to go into Nightmare Logic expecting to be enlightened by an incredibly innovative approach to crossover thrash, rather to brace themselves for an onslaught of ripping riffs, brutal beats and generally bare-faced, bloody-knuckled, sweaty hardcore goodness that is hard not to take great pleasure in, or, at the very least, admire. At the end of the day, it seems like this is exactly what Power Trip stand for.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7.5/10