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Switchtense - "Switchtense" (CD)

Switchtense - "Switchtense" CD cover image

"Switchtense" track listing:

1. Concrete Walls (5:30)
2. Face Off (3:48)
3. Living a Lie (4:11)
4. In Front of Your Eyes (3:56)
5. Unbreakable (4:13)
6. Head of State (3:54)
7. This is Only the Beginning (2:09)
8. Let Them Die Alone (4:15)
9. Scars of Attitude (3:32)
10. I Will Stand Stronger (4:47)
11. The Legacy of Hate (3:57)
12. Awaiting the Downfall (4:42)

Reviewed by on June 28, 2011

"Hardcore fans of the genre won’t be bowing down in reverence at this record, but it has enough solid tunes to be worth at least a listen or two."

When Pantera became metal icons in the ‘90s with their groove metal sound, it unleashed a wave of similar acts vying for the same result. While that movement has died down over the years, mixing groove tempos with manic thrashing is still a viable direction to take. Switchtense seems to feel this is the case, with their sophomore self-titled record as proof. The band tends to thrash more than groove, which works better for them anyway. Without the latter involved, the album becomes stale. Having competent musicians at the helm helps “Switchtense” to graze past below-average territory.

With “Concrete Walls,” the band doesn’t do themselves any favors in skirting out of mediocrity. Drawn-out and forgettable, it’s not a proper way to start the record. What is needed is an infection of attitude from the quintet, and thankfully, “Face Off” complies with that request. The band shakes off the rust and gets down to some gritty aggression. The comparison between “Concrete Walls” and “Face Off” is startling; almost a 180 shift in quality.

The rest of the twelve-track effort sticks to a punchy tempo heavy on the riffs and light on the melody. Slight groove mechanics can be heard on “In Front Of Your Eyes,” but the short “This Is Only The Beginning” and late highlight “The Legacy Of Hate” are uncut thrash. The record really lifts off from “Face Off,” though the album has the tendency to blur into an undistinguished block of music near the last third. A few shredding leads give some clarity to even the most redundant of moments.

Switchtense tries to remedy this with a few twists. “I Will Stand Stronger” has a Hatebreed/Sworn Enemy vibe with its chugging riffs and tough-guy antics. It’s not original, nor is it outlandish. The atmospheric keys on “Awaiting The Downfall” fit in better, giving the closer an epic feel missing from the rest of the songs. Something different like this would have imposed much-needed dynamics into the songwriting.

Having groove and thrash as bedmates has been lampooned to death, and Switchtense doesn’t do their part in putting a unique spin on it. However, they do know how to write a killer thrash tune, and that’s a positive attribute. The album gets off to a rocky start, but falls into place by the halfway mark, and gets out with little recourse. Hardcore fans of the genre won’t be bowing down in reverence at this record, but it has enough solid tunes to be worth at least a listen or two. The replay value will depend on how much groove somebody likes with their thrash.

Highs: Killer thrash tunes throughout, "Awaiting The Downfall" throws some new dynamics into the sound

Lows: Has been heard a hundred times before, album gets off to rough start, nothing really stands out

Bottom line: An average thrash/groove metal album with a few notable highlights, but little lasting value.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)