Critical Defiance - No Life Forms (2022)Release ID: 38618

Critical Defiance - No Life Forms (2022) Cover
Ben Ben / August 04, 2022 / Comments 0 / 1

I think I've just been bitch-slapped by the gods of metal! There I was just a couple of weeks ago wondering whether I'd lost my love for thrash metal. Album after album has been disappointing in recent times to the point where I was left considering whether I was the problem. Thank fuck Critical Defiance came along to set me straight. This is how I like my thrash metal! This Chilean band have followed in the footsteps of some of the more intense 80s and early 90s thrash band, such as Sadus and Morbid Saint. There are riffs flying all over the place, and I can't tell you how happy I am that the production puts them right up front and in your face. Thrash metal has always been about the riffs, and Critical Defiance have given them the love and attention they deserve. The vocalist spits vocals out quite rabidly at times, yet balances that aggression with more controlled rhythms as well, creating an exciting yet palatable level of energy throughout. That said, the awesome mid-album instrumental (the somewhat paradoxically named Elephant) is probably the highlight for me, because it really lets the listener focus in on the band's strength (again, riffs).

The only real flaw here is that the band don't always make the most of all the goodies. While I do appreciate the 29 minute running time, some of the 10 tracks could have been given a bit more time to shine. Many of the best riffs come and go all too quickly, never returning until the listener inevitably presses play again. But I guess I can't have my cake and eat it too. No Life Forms is an exciting thrash metal release, crafted to get your blood pumping and certainly taking no prisoners. Song-writing takes a backseat to keeping the adrenaline going, and who am I to complain. This was the kick up the ass I needed!

2022 RANKING (59 releases so far)

20. Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat - 4 stars

21. Critical Defiance - No Life Forms - 4 stars

22. Wiegedood - There's Always Blood at the End of the Road - 4 stars

2022 THRASH RANKING (11 releases so far)

1. Critical Defiance - No Life Forms - 4 stars

2. Schizophrenia - Recollections of the Insane - 4 stars

3. Nocturnal Graves - An Outlaw's Stand - 3.5 stars

Saxy S Saxy S / November 07, 2022 / Comments 0 / 0

I might have to come to terms with the fact that thrash metal might just not be for me anymore. It feels like a toxic relationship at times; where I know I should leave, but something just keeps bringing me back hoping for a change. A genre that seems so contempt with playing a very safe formula of thrash music that borrows almost on cue from Megadeth, Slayer and Exodus. The genre has next to no innovation and until someone comes in to fill the void left behind by Vektor, I may never see a need to return to this genre again.

But that opinion does appear to be changing. While many mainstream outlets are paying attention to a new wave of Japanese metal, extreme metal seems to have found a comfortable mold in South America, and specifically, Chile. Within the last six months, I have been introduced to technical death metallers, Inanna, and in thrash, Parkcrest and Critical Defiance. And each album has provided some positive strides for their respective genres, with No Life Forms easily being the most surprising album of the bunch.

Let's get something clear out the way quickly: thrash metal is not a very difficult genre of music to perform. With roots firmly in punk, a messy and juvenile approach is very easy to replicate. For this, Critical Defiance would get a free pass, but would have to compliment it with something else, particularly in the songwriting. For that, Critical Defiance are doing thrash metal far better than most others. No Life Forms is melodic and hook heavy; every track is built on one or two ideas and weaved together instead of just piling riffs one after the other with no sense of direction. 

What also helps is the length of this record. I cannot begin to tell you how agonizing it is to look at a new thrash metal album with a runtime exceeding fifty minutes. Critical Defiance are literally being defiant here by having a record short of half-an-hour. Tracks are punchy and to the point. Guitar riffs take center stage on every piece and they influence every other piece of the song; from the bass lines (yes there are bass lines here!) to the percussion and the vocals. Solos are aplenty and most are implemented remarkably well, except for maybe the instrumental "Elephant", which does suffer from sounding like a glorified wank instead of say "Orion".

Compositionally I think No Life Forms is trying a little too hard to be like classic thrash, but Critical Defiance have a unique timbre about them making them stand out from some still clear influences. Such as the structure of "Kill Them with Kindness" being a direct copy of "Angel of Death". While the rest of the album (i.e. "A World Crumbling Apart", "Dying Breath" and "Warhead (Emotional Fallout)") takes a lot of liberties to early Sepultura.

No Life Forms by Critical Defiance might not be the most modern thrash album ever, but for what it's worth, it is a great album. Music does not need to be progressive in order to be good, it just has to sound like it. This band has mastered the thrash metal formula of old in order to turn it into something new and if more artists start following in their wake, thrash metal will be better for it.

Best Songs: Altering the Senses, Dying Breath, Kill The with Kindness, No Life Forms

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / November 06, 2022 / Comments 0 / 0

Let’s be honest. Out of all the genres of metal, thrash metal is the one that sees little in the way of output that constitutes much excitement in the modern era. Nowadays even the progressive and or super technical offerings that stray over in to our beloved The Infinite clan here at The Metal Academy rarely raise enough furore to warrant a rating pretty much a review. As someone who spends a lot of time with The Pit clan when programming the playlists each month, it is easy to become embroiled in a battle with the algorithms of streaming services to find something that offers enough of a core representation of thrash or speed metal whilst adding something new and interesting to boot.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a band doing an established and recognisable sound well and giving a true representation of the genre in the process. However, at the end of the day there is a lot of thrash metal out there and it is easy to overlook true exceptions to the rule in such a packed and well-established genre. Enter Critical Defiance, another jolt of energy into the thrash metal corpse from the seemingly endless stream of Chilean metal bands who are unafraid to wear their 80’s influences on their sleeves and revive the sounds of old.

Take a flick through any review on MA of any of these South American revivalist acts and you will soon find high praise aplenty. This praise is not unjustified either given that in Critical Defiance’s case at least, they give an energetic and memorable performance throughout No Life Forms. Clocking in at just under half an hour, their sophomore release both sounds and feels like a thrash metal record from the heydays of the genre. With two guitarists in the ranks (a change from the debut release as I understand it – see Sonny’s review) the band present a full and complete sound that crackles with fire and energy throughout. As soon as the opening track starts, we get sight of the superb lead work within mere seconds and as such No Life Forms sets it’s stall out early.

The album flicks between all out, maniacal riffing with frenetic tempos and frantic pace swarming all over the listener and straight up memorable riffing and classic thrashing chops. The infectious nature of CD’s passion for their music is obvious on all ten tracks on offer here and they deliver that passion with the album never managing to become a draining experience for the listener. When they tone things down for some chopping punishment on our ears of a more classic variety, they reference Kreator, Morbid Saint, Sodom, and Demolition Hammer in their playing style to show some grounding in the genre’s history.

As a unit you will struggle to find many bands tighter than CD. The drummer is an absolute machine, and the audible bass is a real powerhouse in driving the band forwards also. As already referenced, the guitar work is nothing short of exceptional here and the instrumental track, Elephant (one of two instrumentals) showcases this perfectly with its climbing melodies and charging riffage. Likewise, the vocal work of Felipe Alvarado is a perfect fit for the music.  It reminds me of a more crossover style than the rest of the bands sound indicates as we are spared the high pitched shrieks as seems to be the norm on all retro-thrash records nowadays.

Despite all the positives noted above, I am not blown away by this record. Going back to my opening paragraphs, this has all been done before and although this is done well, I have plenty of this stuff already littered through out my physical and virtual library. In all honesty, even with a short run time, large parts of No Life Forms just pass me by each time I listen and that is not really the fault of anyone in the band, more a reflection of how overloaded my brain is on this stuff nowadays. Five stars for effort but not enough here still to keep this in the higher ratings overall.

Sonny Sonny / November 03, 2022 / Comments 0 / 0

A few of you have probably seen me banging on about Chilean thrash metal for some time now and if you haven't yet been swayed by brilliant albums from the likes of Demoniac and Parkcrest then maybe Critical Defiance's sophomore may be the one to push you over the edge. Forming in 2013, Critical Defiance released their debut, Misconception, in 2019 to pretty good reviews and it was certainly one of my favourites of that year and has only risen higher in my estimation after repeated listens. Since the debut's release rhythm guitarist Felipe Espinoza has been replaced by Mauricio Toledo of Unholyness and more excitingly (to me at least) they have added a second lead guitarist, Javier Salgado, who is main man in Parkcrest as well as a member of Hellish and Mayhemic. Misconception was packed to the brim with great riffs, but the addition of Salgado on No Life Forms has pushed Critical Defiance even higher with some absolutely brilliant lead work to match. Don't get me wrong, vocalist / guitarist Felipe Alvarado did a good job on the debut, but Salgado brings a greater level of proficiency to the soloing on this latest album and without having to handle all the lead work himself it also frees up Alvarado - much to his benefit.

The tracks are generally shorter here than on Misconception and the band have raised the ante as far as tempo, intensity and technicality are concerned. So this all sounds like a No Life Forms is a superior album to the debut, doesn't it? Well yes... and no. All the above is true and it does make a really great modern thrasher for sure, but it just feels like the band have lost a bit of something from the debut that made it so awesome. The longer songs of Misconception made them feel more complete and gave them time to breathe, whereas some of the tracks on No Life Forms are just so short and intense that it feels like the band have omitted a vital ingredient from the songs' makeup, with them sometimes feeling a bit too dense. Don't misunderstand, I still love this new album and the addition of Javier Salgado is a real coup, but it feels like a little bit of the band's soul has been sacrificed in an attempt to produce the most brutal and intense thrash album of recent years.

All negativity aside though, Alvarado's vocals are savage, channeling a fist-fight between Mille Petrozza and Tom Araya and Salgado's soloing is superb. Riff follows riff with machinegun-like precision and the rhythm section are complete monsters. Drummer Rodrigo Poblete is never left wanting by the pace or intensity of the guitarists and bassist Ignacio Arévalo is imperious as his basslines reinforce and sometimes dominate the lead work and riffing. OK, so very few straight-up thrash albums are going to present much new to genre devotees, but I believe that had either of Critical Defiance's two albums been released in the mid to late eighties they would easily have stood out above 90% of the thrash of the time and even given some of the classics a run for their money. So obviously in modern days where even decent thrash albums may be in short supply, this towers over most thrash that has come out in the last few years. If you only listen to one 21st century thrash band then make it Critical Defiance.


Release info

Release Site Rating

Ratings: 6 | Reviews: 4


Release Clan Rating

Ratings: 4 | Reviews: 3


Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 5


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 3

No Life Forms
The Pit
Thrash Metal

Thrash Metal (conventional)

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Critical Defiance chronology