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The British thrash metal scene is a lot like Rodney Dangerfield's many classic characters, it just doesn't seem to get any respect, even decades after the sub-genre's original heyday. Thus any band coming out of said era and location comes to the table at an obvious disadvantage given metal heads having a curious and dubious sense of deference to past mainstream media sentiment. Couple this with such an outfit also flying under the banner of Christian thrash, it may well seem that a latecomer upstart such as Bristol, England's own Detritus would be doomed to obscurity without a fair hearing, and this has largely proven to be the case. Generally pigeonholed as a mid-80s Metallica ripoff, with little mention of the flourishes of other contemporary British thrashers Xentrix and Slammer, let alone a healthy power metal influence, their 1990 debut Perpetual Defiance receives scant mention in conversations regarding the latter day albums that reaffirmed why thrash metal was such a compelling force in the closing years of metal's original ascendancy in the 1980s. But when the actual contents of this forgotten opus are objectively considered, this album's fatal flaw is less a lack of originality or ingenuity, but rather that it came out during the time of the style's apex of saturation and was passed over in favor of more established names.


This recurring sentiment that this album is a carbon copy of Master Of Puppets, which extends beyond a couple of lone published critiques of it, is both mistaken and borderline laughable. It carries the same general commonality of sound with said Metallica album that could be gleaned from the generic stylistic attributes of offerings heard out of Testament, Exodus and fellow Britons Xentrix in the late 80s, but combines it with a slightly more melodic, almost power thrashing demeanor that is not terribly typical of any of the three aforementioned bands. The only element that really comes off as somewhat generic is bassist/vocalist Mark Broomhead's raspy gruff vocals, which definitely reminds heavily of a slightly lighter Chuck Billy with a Chris Astley accent, and even this is not a constant as the album's softer moments see a crooning vocal sound that is closer to what Warlord's Rick Cunningham than anything normally associated with thrash. All of this being said, there is a general similarity in the pacing and overall song structure of this album that could be compared to Metallica's overrated third studio outing, but differs in that the execution is far less repetitive, formulaic, and anticlimactic. Call it an unpopular opinion, but this album is basically a revision of the aforementioned album that, while not as slickly produced, outclasses it at every other point.


Playing off a haunting atmosphere established by a distant sounding music box rendition of Brahms' "Lullaby", things quickly come to a head with a chug-happy crusher of an opening anthem dubbed "Subliminal Division", which sets the tone for the entire album flawlessly. Picture an amped up, chunky galloping version of "Battery" that enters on a similarly dense yet creepier intro that's more in line with the theme to Overkill's eponymous 4 part song series and unloads with the fury of the faster material off Testament's The Legacy. This tendency towards a sound that's more frenetic and also a tad rawer than the much lauded godfathers of thrash is further exemplified in similarly streamlined riff monsters like "Point Of No Return" (also featuring an auspiciously effective bass intro without going overboard) and short yet sweet killers like "No Mercy" and "Eviction", showcasing a precision rhythm guitar assault that is fairly similar to where Jon Schaffer was at on the other side of the Atlantic. Even when these mad Englishmen deviate from this effective, streamlined thrashing approach for more drawn out material such as the doom-infused creeper "Morbid Curiosity" (a far less redundant and more climactic version of what "The Thing That Should Not Be" was attempting), and the acoustic guitar and keyboard-drenched power ballad "Child" (where Broomhead's clean croons really shine), a dull moment is nowhere to be found.


That this album is not considered one of the high water marks of Christian thrash metal is bordering on a travesty, as it presents an energized and highly competent display of everything that makes thrash metal such a powerful expression while presenting a fairly nuanced and nonabrasive lyrical delivery of the gospel message. Admittedly, it's a fairly narrow niche given the style's closer association with darker expressions and political commentary, but musically this is a fair degree more intricate than a number of well known albums to come out of New York or California in the early 90s. It definitely grounds itself in a more traditional blend of thrash and power metal that was more in the tried and true department by the time the 80s ended, particularly in its atmospheric aesthetic, but the degree of intensity here is enough to rival the likes of Overkill's Horrorscope and Cyclone Temple's I Hate Therefore I Am, while the blend of bludgeoning riff work and melodic hooks could stand toe to toe with a lot of Exodus' widely hailed outings with Zetro in the late 80s. Those seeking hidden treasures of the past will find an impressive stockpile of textbook neck-ruination served up in a fairly unorthodox way, and particularly those who like their thrash fast and fancy will want to hear this a time or twenty.


Under One Flag 1991



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Detritus - Perpetual Defiance

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