(c) 2020 Roxx Records
- The Past Of Tomorrow
- Souls In Torment
- On The Way Down
- Pale Rider
- Let It Be Known
Ryan Roebuck--All Instruments, Vocals
Robert Wolfe--Vocals on "Souls In Torment"
How in the world do two guys create such a huge sound? That is what I was asking myself as I sat at my desk working on this review for Motivik (pronounced MOE-TEE-VICK), a two-piece "groove thrash band" from Atlanta. Obviously, technology in the recording studio is a key part to the whole process, but to even consider pulling off such a task as this, a band has to have some serious skill, which Motivik definitely has.
The album kicks off with "Inception", which I honestly expected to be an intro, based solely upon the name. I was wrong. "Inception" is a full-on thrashfest with a style and sound, especially on the guitars ,that is going to be reminiscent of old-school Metallica, while also being infused with the twin vocal stylings and multiple tempo changes of Christian thrash legends, Tourniquet. In fact, comparisons to Tourniquet's Gary Lenaire and Guy Ritter are going to be obvious throughout the record, but would we consider that to be a bad thing? I certainly wouldn't, as the first three Tourniquet albums are among some of the most unique thrash records to come out of the late 80s when thrash was at its peak. The rhythm guitars are high speed and gritty, and the drum work here is exceptional, but it is the solo work that that really caught me off guard. Starting off smooth and soulful, the solo almost sounds like Roebuck is playing an electric Flamenco guitar at the beginning, but then his guitar seemingly sonically EXPLODES into a fit of speed and precision picking that simply must be heard to be believed. This is insane! Things then slow WAY back down into a plodding, morose final run through the chorus, and my brain is trying to catch up to what I just heard, as this is NOT the type of music that most bands are attempting these days. What a killer way to start off a record!
"Away" is up next, and the music is more mid-tempo thrash, with those buzzsaw rhythm guitars and the overwhelming drums, but the vocals are barked in almost nu-metal style...but in a good way! After the chorus, the song speeds up to break-neck pace for a few seconds, then it slows back down to its original pace for the next verse section. After that verse, its back on the gas pedal for the drums and rhythm guitars as Roebuck absolutely tears into a shredding solo that has some serious notes-per-second density, only to be closed out by a little flourish from the bass, then back into the chorus to conclude the song.
"Lament" is an old-Western instrumental, complete with south of the border violin playing and the plodding rhythm of an old gunslinger's horse moseying through the dirt streets of whatever town the hero happens to be riding through at the time. Many will say this song shouldn't be here, others will say it shouldn't work, but all would be wrong, as this is a killer inclusion to this record, really playing upon the title of the album and working to establish Motivik as a band that will do what they want on an album, stylistic expectations be danged. I, for one, love this track, especially as a kid who grew up with Spaghetti Westerns and John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies, both black and white and color. This is really great stuff!
"The Past Of Tomorrow" is a complicated track, focusing almost exclusively on the groove of the track on the first verse section and throughout the choruses, but then just unleashing the speed in bursts between musical sections. Some gentle effects are used on the vocals, which reach pitches and ranges not attempted thus far on the album, and one can hear a nod to the vocal approach of Deliverance legend, Jimmy P, Brown II, especially as the song outros.
"Souls In Torment" is a cover of a song from the underground Christian thrash band Sacrament. Once again, the comparisons to Tourniquet are going to be obvious, but once again, I have to ask if that is a bad thing. Time changes, a huge drum presence, harsh vocals, and alternately chugging and speedy rhythm guitars are all featured in this song, and Motivik stays really close to the original song in the structure, which I will admit made me smile, as I was a huge Sacrament fan back in the day. But the real kicker here is the guest vocals from Robert Wolfe, the singer from Sacrament! If you are an old-school thrash fan, especially a Christian thrash fan, this track alone makes Death Of The Gunman an absolute must own!
"Undismembered" starts off with a somber tone, a slowly picked guitar reminiscent in style of what Metallica did with "One". The drums catch a military rhythm about half-way through this opening section, then the rhythm guitars ignite on a mid-tempo thrash attack, complete with some solo work from Roebuck...and this is all in the first 1:35 of the song! From here, the dual vocals of Roebuck and Simmons join the fray, one barking, the other snarling, again recalling the work Ritter and Lenaire used to do in the first years of Tourniquet, but never with the high-end wailing used by that band. As is the case with Motivik throughout this album, tempo changes abound, never letting the listener settle into an expected pattern with their head banging or fist pounding, which is a huge part of what makes this record work so well, at least for me. The big outro solo is excellent, also, and despite the fact that the song is five minutes long, it seems over far quicker than the running time would suggest.
"On The Way Down" has a power metal feel, not unlike something Iron Savior would do, speedy and punchy, but not quite full-blown thrash. Do not take this as a musical loss, however, as there is a lot to like here! The drum work continues its remarkable charge through the record, and the riffing here is powerful and melodic, crunchy and aggressive, all at the same time. Backing vocals are utilized to musical effect here more than in other parts of the record, which is cool to hear, as the two guys' voices really work well with each other. Roebuck treats us to another string bending solo to feast our ears upon, but power and emotion are the keys here, not just speed and dexterity. A nice change of pace, to be sure.
"Pale Rider" starts off with a church organ intro, accompanied by a spoken word narrative about the Pale Rider that "is coming for us all", of course referring to death. A roar from the singer (I never know which man is singing which part), and the song takes off from here! The drums are once again a true pleasure to listen to here, with so many different fills, and stop-start tempo changes, which really set Motivik apart from so many bands I am sent to review these days. Some of the vocals on this track fall more into the metallic scream category than the harshly barked style that is often used here, which is cool to hear. The solo is catchy and quick, but perhaps not long enough for me now, as it has become quite obvious Roebuck can carry out a guitar run for a considerable amount of time if he chooses to. Another high quality track.
"Pale Rider" bleeds seamlessly into the album's closer, "Let It Be Known", which again incorporates that Western flair that "Lament" so expertly exhibited earlier in the album, including the se of the violins to establish the mood. Unlike "Lament", however, "Let It Be Known" is not an instrumental but the story of the album's hero whose "draw was just too slow" to beat "the bullet [that] lies within me", as the gunman is overtaken by the Pale Rider of Death. Surprising to many, this song never blazes into a big thrashy solo or jackhammer drum pattern, rather letting the song...and the album...ride off into the musical sunset at a (relatively speaking) lazy pace that showcases the band's songwriting skill as much as their musical prowess. Color me impressed with this musical choice, as it is not one that a lot of bands would have made!
The production is very, very well done here, which is necessary when you have so much going on with the various styles, speeds, and tempo changes, and the mix is clean with no muddiness. I don't have the liner notes for this record, but if this is truly all played by Mr. Roebuck, then he may be one of my new musical heroes, as this is flat out impressive from start to finish! Thrash fans, all I can say is DO NOT MISS THIS RECORD! Roxx Records never does massive print runs so this will become harder to find the longer you wait!
Rating: Very, very well done, Death Of The Gunman is a musical treat to hear! Crank this to an 8.5!