Artist: Municipal Waste
Album Title: Electrified Brain
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 1 July 2022
Seeing as I have finally embraced a greater love and appreciation for the thrash metal genre over the past year or two, I felt like it would be a good opportunity to listen to the new album from Municipal Waste, one of several bands within the genre with which I have never previously clicked. Entitled ‘Electrified Brain’, it’s the seventh album from the quintet hailing from Richmond, Virginia. And, at the end of the day, it is the seventh album from the quintet of Tony Foresta (vocals), Ryan Waste (guitar), Nick Poulos (guitar), Philip ‘Landphil’ Hall (bass), and Dave Witte (drums) that has failed to fully ignite my enthusiasm. Allow me to explain why, if I can…
Firstly, there’s that ‘crossover’ aspect of the music. Municipal Waste play a form of thrash metal that seeks to blend in a heavy dose of hardcore into their compositions. As such, you’ll find plenty of ‘gang’ vocals, where a number of voices basically shout in unison. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this, which is why I don’t tend to listen to very much hardcore music at all. The attitude is there, front and centre, but it’s not the kind of attitude that I am drawn to if I’m honest – it’s all a bit shouty and overly angst-ridden.
Yes, there is plenty of tongue-in-cheek attitude as well, but that doesn’t always help because it adds a vaguely comedic element to the output, meaning that it’s hard to take everything seriously. In effect, it only serves to dilute the usual messages of political corruption and discord, which could have been more impactful otherwise. With that said, I am not a fan of overly political music either, because I get enough of that in my daily life, so I’m looking for more of an escape route. Yup, the world is awful in many ways right now, I get it.
The fourteen songs that feature on ‘Electrified Brain’ rip from the speakers with plenty of energy and enthusiasm but without wanting to sound too harsh, the album feels a little one-dimensional. There is a change in pace here and there, but for the most part, the music skips along at a similar brisk pace with a precious lack of variety. I’ve listened to this record a number of times through, including during an eight-hour train journey to Scotland where I had no distractions aside from the sight of green fields rushing past my window. And even then, after listening, I couldn’t pick more than a couple of the songs out of a line-up if my life depended upon it. It’s not quite a case of ‘heard one, heard them all’, but it isn’t far off to be perfectly honest.
This is all a bit of a shame because actually, the album begins in promising fashion thanks to the first three tracks, the title-track opener, followed by ‘Demoralizer’ and ‘Last Crawl’. ‘Electrified Brain’ sets off like a stabbed rat after a short intro, full of pacey aggression, led by some sharp, thrusting riffs and Foresta’s unmistakeable, higher-pitched semi-shouted vocals. Just as the song is about to end though, in marches in a really nice bass-led groovy ending sequence that’s totally infectious.
Speaking of infectious, ‘Demoralizer’ continues the trend with a combination of riffs and melodies that seemingly blend the naked aggression of thrash with the immediacy of Maiden-esque NWOBHM. It makes for a thoroughly decent and enjoyable song, with much more depth to it, one of the few to stick in my brain for a little longer than others. And even though ‘Last Crawl’ is a faster, more uncompromising cut, it features a couple of thunderous riffs that catch my ear, alongside a cool lead solo that sparks and fizzes nicely. But there it more or less ends.
Undoubtedly, the musicians within Municipal Waste are talented at what they do, with each musician apparently fully committed to making as much focused noise as possible. The riffs in particular, are sharp, incisive, and the guitars are blessed with a great tone that feeds my inner metalhead soul. The solos are equally impressive, full of venom and executed with style and aplomb. Occasionally, there’s a dip in the speed in favour of a mid-pace groove, which is positive too. But it doesn’t quite feel like it’s enough. The album comes to an end, and I’m left thinking ‘oh, that’s it, then’, which is never how you want to feel at the end of a record.
Now, I’m well aware that an album shouldn’t be judged on outside factors, such as what other bands within the same genre are doing, but in this instance, it’s hard not to. Over the past year or two, a number of the heavyweights of the genre have released some excellent new material, and there are a handful of exciting releases still to come before 2022 is out. More than ever therefore, it is imperative that bands are on their mettle, delivering the best that they possibly can. But that doesn’t feel like that’s the case here. There will be the hardcore fanbase that’ll lap up every confrontational moment of ‘Electrified Brain’, but it’s nowhere near essential enough for me to recommend it more widely than that. Unless you’re a devotee, I’d search elsewhere for your thrash metal fix.
The Score of Much Metal: 69%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: