REVIEW: SAVAGE MESSIAH – “Hands Of Fate”
Savage Messiah is savage. When I first heard these dudes back in 2007 with their ‘Spitting Venom’ (2007) EP, I was extremely happy for a band that managed to create fresh and enjoyable music despite the swarm of groovy new thrash bands that were surfacing and contaminating the genre (the so called “plastic thrash metal”). True, their sophomore effort ‘Plague of Conscience’ (2012) wasn’t as good as the EP and their debut ‘Insurrection Rising’ (2009), but they rose again with the awesome ‘The Fateful Dark’ in 2014.
Three years is a long time. Millions of things happen in this time-span, including a band shifting their sound completely and/or signing with another label, which can be harmful to its creative process. The London-based thrashers left Earache Records after their 2014 effort and signed with Century Media for this new endeavor, entitled ‘Hands of Fate’. As I said above, the Brits changed a lot of their core sound, maybe to tend to the increasing demand of the more commercial and casual listener, which, turns out, does way more harm than good.
So, with a heavy heart, I need to correct the first phrase of this review: Savage Messiah is not savage anymore. Savage Messiah is now yet another bland, uninspired and market-driven metal band, with mainstream appeal as their main objective. Don’t get me wrong, though; appealing to the mainstream is often needed to assure a band’s survival, but when you do this without any regard whatsoever to your legacy – as small as it may be -, ideals and honesty, and your selling point is that you are “a band that can have commercial appeal, because we could appeal to a Trivium fan or an Avenged (Sevenfold) fan but hopefully we also have some real metal credibility too” (words from vocalist and guitarist Dave Silver’s), you kind of lose my respect right there. Not because you want to appeal to a Trivium fan or anything like that (although I don’t perceive heavy metal as those bands do), but because you actually know that, by doing this in the way that you’re doing (which is resetting your entire sound just to please more people and make more money), you lose your “real metal credibility” (again, Silver’s words, not mine).
Starting with the cover art, the entire aesthetic of the band’s image and sound has changed. Instead of the aggressive, fierce and blasting riffs, powerful and loud drumming and harsh and violent vocals, the guys now choose to stack their songs with groove, melodic and cheesy verses and a more mid-paced tempo. Opener “Hands of Fate” paves the way by doing exactly just that, in a very generic way. Worse bits can be seen in the semi-ballad “Lay Down Your Arms” and in the plasticized “The Crucible” – the latter one recycling Hetfield-esque riffs that were done a thousand times before, all while providing non inventive and lame lyrics, which in fact plague the entire effort.
A strong Megadeth influence is still heard in some of the leads and especially in Silver’s voice, which is one of the few things that haven’t changed. I don’t think, however, that this is a good thing because this particular vocal approach and the groovier guitars don’t match with the album’s atmosphere. In fact, only glimpses of thrash metal remain here, mainly in a few selected bridges and solos.
‘Hands of Fate’ relies heavily on catchy, radio-friendly choruses and toned-down instrumental parts, well exemplified in songs such as “Blood Red Road” and “Fearless”. The bass is almost non-existent – aside from the first seconds of “The Crucible” – and the drumming sounds flat at times, despite the production being albeit decent. All in all, the entire experience feels over-polished and manufactured to be mechanical and formulaic.
In what seems to be a distant past now, Savage Messiah had the potential to be a huge deal in the thrash metal world. But life is made of choices, and these guys favored commercialism over creativity and respectability. The result is this, four guys imploding themselves and turning into yet another faceless semi-groove excuse of a band, moved by sheer market demand. ‘Hands of Fate’ goes against what the conception of honest, passionate and meaningful heavy metal is, so I’d advise you to stay away from it. Stick to their other works.