Power Trip has been kicking hindquarters for nearly a decade now and Nightmare Logic’s arrival changes none of that. The Texas quintet’s considerable powers are on full display here: the might, intellect and imagination central to classic metal from the ‘80s underground joins seamlessly with contemporary sensibilities, creating an impenetrable wall of awesomeness. Walloping guitar riffs are the bedrock of metal but what sets any metallic outfit apart from the herd is its talent for creating hooks. The former and the latter arrive in ample supply here.
One can hear echoes of a different, more socially aware time. Just as the threat of nuclear holocaust, the scourge of drugs and inescapable poverty provided lyrical fodder for the aforementioned wave of American underground metal in the Reagan era, today’s socio-political nightmares give Power Trip vocalist Riley Gale plenty to growl about. “Waiting Around to Die” takes on the pharmaceutical industry while religious greed and hypocrisy land in the crosshairs via “Crucifixion”. More than mere sloganeering, the lyrics resonate with blood-chilling clarity and accuracy. If some are surprised at these grim realities, perhaps it’s because they weren’t looking hard enough. It’s evident that Gale has been and has had these matters on his mind for some time.
In “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)”, guitarists Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart provide smoldering, napalm-soaked six-string maneuvers that enhance Gale’s fittingly frightening vocal performance. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Chris Ulsh (drums) and Chris Whetzel (bass) create the sound of an earth-scorching machine roving the landscape with a precision that should lead to the pair being spoken of in the most reverential of tones for some time to come. (Ulsh’s work on the opening blast, “Soul Sacrifice” proves especially inspirational as rattles and shakes the earth with his propulsive blasts of rhythmic precision.)
As impressive as that inaugural run is, one of the greatest feats here is the one-two punch of the aforementioned “Executioner’s Tax” into the wholly uncompromising “Firing Squad”, as the quintet moves from a meaty, swaying rocker into a relentlessly galloping slice of fist-in-the-face metal. What Power Trip also gets across in those tracks and others (such as “Ruination”) is what must surely be a force of ferocity on the stage. Too often we hear metal bands that carry great weight on record but become bogged down in trickery to the point that imagining it carried out in the live arena stretches to the point of absurd. These songs, however, seem born of musicians who know the studio is but one piece of the puzzle and that the live world is where one’s true mettle guarantees survival—or results in an early and uncomfortable death.
What does it all add up to, then? This is a record that seems capable of setting a new standard in the genre and a band that could easily become one of the leading and most enduring of its kind. There are no missteps here; one struggles to find any fault in the material or the performances. This is an album that works end-to-end, which knows and keeps the plot. There are many unforgettable moments, including those found in the tracks listed above. Ibanez and Stewart will surely inspire a variety of young players to take up their axes and swing wildly against the injustices described in these lyrics and maybe against the rage these young men and women feel.
Some early words about this release have drawn comparisons between Power Trip and acts such as Crass and Discharge. It’s fitting, given the Texas quintet’s laser focus and apparent determination to be among the best of its kind. Nightmare Logic is already among the best metal releases of this still-young year and easily one of the most inspired and thought-provoking of the decade. Here’s hoping that Power Trip keeps this level of intensity and inspiration coming for a long, long while.