Taking a card from the band in question’s deck, we’re jumping over the typical long-winded intro you’ve undoubtedly come to expect ‘round these parts. Today it’s straight into the fray as we fire up another rotation of Restructure the Molded Mind, the third effort from Bay Area death thrashers Hemotoxin. Let's pulverize a blood vessel or two, shall we?
Hemotoxin's approach recalls a wide variety of bands from the primordial days of thrash-infused death metal--the era where experimentation into increasingly violent and technical territory represented, for good reason, the heights of innovation. Instrumentally, they hit (with a varying degree of accuracy) that vague point on the thrash metal timeline right after Death came a-knocking.
Besides Spiritual Healing-era Death, which seems to be a bit of a spiritual touchstone for these communicants of raw firepower, I'm reminded at times of Kreator, just as they were really coming into the swing of things. While frequently utilizing a breakneck pace, the resulting carnage is heavily reliant on the downtrodden and aggression-ridden banner carried by the obvious cohort of death metal pioneers. Early Xentrix might be another decent touchstone--thrashy, but also molded by an underlying technicality. It's a bit of a weird time in music history to emulate, but I appreciate it nonetheless. But for all the talk of old-skool influences, let it be known that Hemotoxin are happy to venture into proggier outskirts.
From both a sonic and compositional standpoint, Hemotoxin have cleverly allowed themselves a lot of room to maneuver, which remains a rare sight in these frenetic genre waters. Sure, it’s all raucous and rambunctious--a veritable whirlwind of chaotic death/thrash energy--but the elements are seemingly cherry-picked with a respectable openmindness. This thing is packed to the brim with groovy molasses-thick basslines, high-octane arpeggios, cyclonic kicks, some tasteful sweeping melodies, and riffs that fit anywhere between “buzzsaw” and “meathook” on the Sleeping Village’s Spectrum o’ Riffage. For a three-piece, it’s an impressive display of noise. For a death-thrash outfit, it’s tastefully eclectic.
Hanging above the resulting cacophony, the vocals are grating as hell--but, like, aren’t they supposed to be? Michael Chavez chants and roars with a gloriously unhinged quality that, while vaguely disconnected from the instrumentation, fits the mood so well that I would feel remiss casting them in a negative light. In a less boisterous outfit, the raspy vox/screams simply wouldn’t work, but here they fit like a glove--particularly due to the mid-pitched legibility. While there are no weak moments, “Unreality” boasts a particularly grisly performance, with the mid-section of the track enunciated with a vitriolic chant stamped across a stomping rhythmic riff. It certainly helps that the lyrics are so well conceived--unlike the typical banal thrash fare, we’re treated to some genuinely intriguing diatribes. Intelligent thrash always gets a thumbs up from this haggard scribe, and Hemotoxin are quite well equipt to stand stoically in the untamed no man’s land between brains and brawn.
The obvious side-effect of this album--brief as its 29 minute runtime may be--is a remarkably steamroller-esque ability to smush anything in its path. Utter obliteration, as it were. A particularly noteworthy casualty of said smushing are the distinctions betwixt tracks, which all but disappear once your attention is diverted. In this sense, Restructure the Molded Mind is very much like unto a single track, which somewhat negates the whole “only 29 minutes long!” argument when it comes to concise songwriting. There are, of course, moments that do stand out from the roaring crowd. Take the amorphous axework throughout “Legions of Alienation,” or the melodic underpinnings that define “Automation.” Tempo shifts abound amongst the swirling riff stew, but, as every track maintains this formula, it doesn’t feel remarkably fresh. That said: we’re not here for interludes, or overtly melodic passages, or sample-laden diatribes. Hell, some of us aren’t even here for dynamics. We’re here to have our ears blown out and our souls rejuvenated, and in this sense, Hemotoxin deliver in spades.
So, the question remains: can and will I, in good faith, recommend that you seek out this album? That answer necessitates a flowchart of sorts. If you have a hard time enjoying albums that rely entirely on the same style of energetic delivery across their breadth, you'll undoubtedly burn out after a few tracks. Just bein' honest. If, however, you can get down with consistent kinetic catharsis, then by all means give Restructure the Molded Mind a spin or three. (Simplified, of course, we could just say: "do you like thrash, Y/N?" and be done with it, but if we ain't verbose, we ain't shit). As such, this album's strength remains its biggest weakness, and, frankly, that's the danger of charging headlong into this particular minefield. While I’m not entirely sold on the long-term viability of their model, Hemotoxin come out intact after this particular skirmish--even if I hope that, in the future, they change up their method of attack.
Hemotoxin - Restructure the Molded Mind was released March 16th from Unspeakable Axe Records
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.