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Western Massacre - "Freedom Through Violence" (CD)

Western Massacre - "Freedom Through Violence" CD cover image

"Freedom Through Violence" track listing:

1. Steel Casket
2. Brazilian Carnival
3. Facelift
4. Roadhouse
5. Blood and Stone
6. Western Massacre
7. Defector
8. The Recession
9. Freedom Through Violence

Reviewed by on February 28, 2012

"“Freedom Through Violence” is a muscular, powerful synthesis of death, thrash, and hardcore – all sifted through a filter of mid-tempo groove, spiked with irresistible hooks, and shorn of predictability."

Standing out from the herd is no easy task, as struggling local metal bands (a redundancy, perhaps) the world over will no doubt inform you. If it were, then everyone would be special – and then no one would be. Then we’d all die of boredom. Butt-Head, wise beyond his own understanding, put it best: “If nothing sucked, and everything was like, cool all the time… how would you know it was cool?”

Boasting a moniker that’s at once a clever geographical pun and a loving homage to the music scene that spawned them, Western Massacre possess a magic touch that catapults them light years ahead of the gaggle of underground bands vying for fans across America. Content neither to repeatedly rehash the same Exodus song, nor to drown you in breakdowns, this band has built a loyal following through inspired songwriting that pays collective tribute to various styles of metal while forging an identity of its own. Their full-length debut “Freedom Through Violence” is a muscular, powerful synthesis of death, thrash, and hardcore – all sifted through a filter of mid-tempo groove, spiked with irresistible hooks, and shorn of predictability.

Don’t assume to know what’s around the bend before your first spin is complete. Opener “Steel Casket,” for example, hits you all at once like a Tiananmen tank in a doomsday explosion of drums, bass, guitars, and frontman Matt Lentner’s gutturals. But before the thirty second mark, rhythm guitarist Chad Hoag and lead shredder Kyle Leary take flight with an infectious interplay that is to form the core of Western Massacre’s sound. Then we get a lasso-swinging riff divined straight from Pantera’s ever-present ghost. This Dimebag influence remains welcome throughout, shining through on “Roadhouse” and peaking on the brilliant “Defector.”

Other standout influences include the mournful harmonizing leads of ‘90s Gothenburg melodic death, captured most pristinely on “Facelift” and “Blood and Stone.” Bastardized by American metalcore – a style whose best traits Western Massacre adopts while skirting the genre tag – the Scandinavian strains here come across as invigorating and appropriate for a change. The whole affair stirs the fresh sense of awe at hearing genres mixed for the first time; the excitement of spinning ’93-era Carcass and wondering who let that strange "Amott" fellow through the door.

To summarize, this is memorable stuff that will seize your attention, burrow its way into your brain, and stay there. While the frequent gear shifting within individual songs can occasionally hinder Western Massacre’s ability to bust out a straightforward, classic barn burner (think Lamb Of God’s “Redneck”), the transitions are handled with a deft and steady touch – as are the writing and performances in general, for that matter. This band refuses to rely solely on speed, aggression, and volume to make an impact; theirs is a calculated and controlled Massacre, anchored by their secret weapon: the groove-based rhythm section of drummer Jeff Greene and bassist Nate Larsen. These songs don’t simply make you bang your head – they make you MOVE.

“Freedom Through Violence” is an extremely rare, unexpected, and impressive achievement for an unsigned band still paying its bloody, sweaty, and tearful dues in regional clubs. For that reason, Metalunderground.com is hosting an exclusive live stream of the album here.

Highs: Stellar, memorable guitar work and sexy grooves throughout.

Lows: Each song contains too many changes of pace to qualify as a signature live "anthem," but the capability is certainly there for the future.

Bottom line: A catchy and impressive debut of dark, melodic "DeathGroove" from one of the finest bands in years to emerge from the Western Massachusetts metal scene.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 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)