Artist: Shrapnel

Album Title: Palace For The Insane

Label: Candlelight Records

Date of Release: 15 May 2020

Whilst looking for my next batch of review victims, I admit that I was seduced by the devastating combination of a striking album cover and a respected label. And, with a new-found love and admiration for thrash, having put to bed the ridiculous notion that it’s one of my least favourite metal subgenres (that’ll be metalcore & nu-metal for the record), I was game to give the UK’s Shrapnel the once over. In my line of fire is ‘Palace For The Insane’, the quartet’s third full-length release during an eleven-year career to date.

First things first, I’m a fair reviewer and so I take no notice, as an Ipswich boy, of the fact that Shrapnel hail from the city of Norwich. None whatsoever. And to demonstrate this point, I’ll just say that the album sucks, it’s ‘Norfolk ‘n’ good’, and no, the album title doesn’t refer to Carrow Road as I thought at first…Only kidding, I promise. Heck, I’m not even an Ipswich Town fan. And so, with infantile jokes out of the way, brought on by lockdown fever no doubt, let’s get down to the serious business.

Importantly, ‘Palace For The Insane’ is a rather fine record, that ticks the vast array of boxes required to be a successful thrash release. You get riffs galore, groove, a rhythmic battery, speedy aggression, and caustic vocals that are in that classic mid-way point between being clean and growled. There’s also a hint of hooky goodness to be heard within many of the twelve compositions that make up this release, not to mention a strong production that enhances the whole offering.

Those of you who were reading carefully may have noticed that I referred to Shrapnel as a quartet. This wasn’t a mistake, because since the release of 2017’s ‘Raised On Decay’, there have been a few changes in the line-up. Out have gone bassist Cai Beschorner and vocalist Jae Hadley, to be replaced by Arran Jacky Tucker who fulfils both roles à la Tom Araya in Slayer. No further changes mean that Tucker now forms one quarter of a four-piece. He is joined by the trio of lead guitarist Nathan Sadd, guitarist Chris Martin, and drummer Chris Williams, all of whom have been around since the band’s formation in 2009.

It was early on that I knew I’d probably like ‘Palace For The Insane’, around the 18-second mark to be exact. That’s when the first strains of a melodic intro emerge from the depths, to build into a rousing, highly melodic opening to the album, that lasts one minute and thirty-nine seconds to be precise. At this point, in march the razor-sharp dual guitar riffs, frenetic drums, and vibrant bass work to signal the end to the niceties. The switch between aggression, groove and melody, albeit understated, is extremely nicely done and we’re off to a powerful start.

Ester Segarra

By and large, the remainder of the album continues on a positive trajectory also. There are a couple of songs that I’m less keen about but in the main, the quality remains high. ‘Salt The Earth’ is a slower-paced stomper for the most part, with a genuine Bay Area feel about it, complete with gang vocals and a hint of hardcore too. ‘Vultures Circle’ ups the pace but injects a certain cheekiness as well as a decent hook or two to make the track feel memorable.

I’m also very fond of ‘Begin Again’ which, like the opener before it, starts off quietly, this time led by a delicate piano melody over the sound of gentle waves lapping on the shore. It’s short-lived but makes an impression, as does the ensuing slow, churning and lurching riff upon which the track is partially built. Then there’s the unexpected sections of serenity that punctuate the heaviness, something that should be commended. The vibrant bass-led section that flows into an exuberant and melodic lead guitar solo is a great touch too. I’m liking the fact that Shrapnel have taken the opportunity to mix things up a little, it really pays off as far as I’m concerned.

That said, there are songs like ‘Bury Me Alive’ and ‘Infernal Choir’ that are unrelenting, fast-paced thrash attacks, but then it’d not be a proper thrash record without a damn good kicking would it? My slight beef is that the mid-section of the record is stuffed full of them and, if I’m being completely honest, it’s a couple of these that lack the ‘wow’ factor.

Nevertheless, with songs like ‘Violent Now, Forever’ and ‘Future Sight’, the variety returns with vengeance. The former offers a rampaging, groove-laden stomp and arresting chorus, whilst the latter sees the vocals of Tucker move between a full on growly snarl and something cleaner than anywhere else on the record. I’d argue there’s a heavy Bay Area influence at play again, mainly in the early Metallica realm, but it is also one of the most instantly melodic tracks, thereby immediately grabbing my attention.

I’ve got to say that I am impressed with this record. It is up against some tough competition this year, what with Havok and Testament having already delivered stonking albums recently. However, on this evidence, Shrapnel more than deserve their fair share of the love, especially if you like sharp riffs, plenty of attitude and a couple of curveballs thrown in for good measure. Nicely done, lads.

The Score of Much Metal: 83%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjEhK745F3s&w=560&h=315]

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews