Album Review: Hatriot - "Dawn of the New Centurion"

The common album cycle these days tends to run two or three years. A band composes a selection of music, rehearses it, perfects it, records it, masters it, markets it, releases it, tours on it. Probably twice. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So it comes as a surprise to many to see Hatriot, roughly a year from their debut “Heroes of Origin,” back already with a second supercharged album of high octane thrash in the form “Dawn of the New Centurion.” Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, most famously of Exodus, has made it clear through his participation in what seems like a hundred other projects that he’s not a man to sit on his laurels. Challenging his band Hatriot, composed principally of his sons, to release three records in three years, “Dawn of the New Centurion” is chapter three in the band’s own Homerian epic.

To completely understand the machinations of “Dawn,” one must first understand the history of “Heroes.” The debut record was a thrasher from cover to cover, ten straight-ahead, single-minded songs whose sole aim was to kick someone in the face and then mosh on their skull. It wasn’t terribly elegant, but it didn’t want or need to be. It got the job done in the hallmark style of that classic Bay Area thrash sound.

Zetro and company know that approach won’t work for two consecutive records, so there is a sense of growth and something approaching maturity for “Dawn of the New Centurion.” Yes, it’s still in-your-face thrash at its burning metal heart, but the anger is tethered and tempered by a strong sense of composition and timing. You only need get as far as the second cut “Your Worst Enemy” to realize that Hatriot isn’t the same band they were on their debut, at least not compositionally. Here we see a track that churns and stomps, but maintains a deliberate pacing to keep the listener’s head moving without losing attention. The masterstroke of such a song comes toward the end, where it seems like the steam might have petered out, only to be greeted by a rejuvenating, quick burst of guitar solo that injects enough strength to get through one more verse before coming to a close. It’s a sort of ‘there-and-back-again’ songwriting that speaks to a kind of delicate thrash patience that’s only obtained through time and experience.

This skill established, its frequent appearances color the entire “Dawn of the New Centurion” experience, as we immediately transition into “The Fear Within,” a seven minute(!) thrash epic that yes, is given to periods of mindless banging, but they all fall in appropriate places, and not one lasts a measure longer than it should, giving ground to the baseline foreboding melody. To top off the mix, Zetro tries some new ideas with his vocal presentation, including a convincing growl that gives his iconic voice some depth and versatility.

The rollercoaster crests in the second half with the seminal “Silence in the House of the Lord,” a thrash anthem composed with new millennium sensibility and timing. It’s hard to describe why this song works so well except to simply say that it does, which I know is a massive copout, but I’m sticking with it. There’s an overdriven rhythm to the song that is both familiar and edgy, and Zetro’s cadence fits nicely in the pocket of said rhythm. While there a number of good-to-very-good songs on “Dawn of the New Centurion,” this is the one where all the seams fit, including a savory solo, without reservation or thought.

There’s not really anything wrong with “Dawn of the New Centurion” except to say that some of the songs don’t work as well as others. But in isolation, that same sentence could be said about “Master of Reality,” “Abbey Road,” “Fear of a Black Planet” or any album ever recorded, ever. Guitarist Kosta Varvatakis has done a fine job of writing songs that keep a central musical idea in mind while throwing in a fresh twist and some great riffs. The fact that some work better than others is nominally human and nothing more. “Dawn of the New Centurion” probably isn’t a world changer or mold-breaker in the metal world, either, but it doesn’t need to be to be a great record.

Attentive readers know that I loathe rating things on a numerical scale, but I’m given to o it here just this once. “Dawn of the New Centurion” is probably a 7.5/10 record, because it does a lot of things well and has no obvious failings. It’s a really solid, enjoyable record that marks significant progress from “Heroes of Origin,” and shouldn’t be missed by metal fans, especially those partial to thrash. This is a good listen, and moreover, a fun listen. Go bang your head and join me in looking forward to part three…

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