Nothing has been more of a surprise in recent years than the sustained revival of the thrash scene. Thought dead when the classic 80's bands moved on to more commercial styles of music, nostalgia kicked in a generation later, and we find ourselves in the second coming of thrash. The masters are still out there doing their thing, better than they have for decades in many cases, but the influx of new bands is astounding. Thrash has seen a new wave of bands taking up the mantle, spreading the gospel of speed and heaviness around the world once again.
While many of the new wave of thrash bands are content to recreate the sounds they grew up hearing, Mortal Infinity takes a different tact on “District Destruction”. Yes, it starts with the gently plucked acoustic guitars that opened many a classic record, but the sound that follows owes as much to the modern American metal scene as it does the Bay Area stalwarts. Vocally, this is not your classic thrash band, trading in the upper register shouting for an updated take on what constitutes a harsh vocal. Sounding like sandpaper has been taken to his vocal chords, singer Marc Doblinger roars his way through the tracks with the fire of late-era Chuck Schuldiner.
The rest of the band follows his aggressive take, pounding out an album of tracks that go for the kill. “At Dawn Of Death” is a blistering assault that takes a few unexpected changes along the way, with just enough groove to keep from being an endless rhythmic exercise. With vocals that seldom deviate, the shifts in texture make the song come alive. Bay Area flavor come in on “Wake Of Devestation”, whose main riff's odd chromatic intervals recall classic Slayer, before settling into a groove. Gang vocals adorn the chorus, coming straight out of the Anthrax playbook.
Ultimately, it's that sense of familiarity that both makes “District Destruction” a success and a failure. Utilizing nostalgia is a powerful tool, the calling cards to the past making the songs more readily memorable. We can hear shades of old favorites, and by similarity, these new songs become attached to the same feelings. Of course, there is a downside to playing on those emotions. While the songs feel like something we've heard before, they also struggle to separate themselves from the songs that have become ingrained in us. Mortal Infinity serves up plenty of head-banging riffs, but like many of the other modern thrash bands, their identity is so intertwined with the past that they fail to make themselves unique.
Nothing about “District Destruction” demands to be taken notice of. The riffs are sharp, but many sound like homages to older bands. The vocals are the biggest difference, but their lack of personality and versatility doesn't enhance the proceedings. The band tries to crank up the attitude of the past, but by doing so makes it the only thing about the record that stands out. Classic thrash was a more aggressive take on the metal of the time, but its starting point was a more tame form of the music, so the end result was not yet so extreme. Mortal Infinity, on the other hand, steps just far enough over the line to make the music a chore to sit through. There are good things to say about “District Destruction”, but the album gives you no room to breathe, and because of that, it chokes its own momentum.