Review by Vinny for Total Annihilation - ...on Chains of Doom (2020)
Some fifteen years into their career, Swiss thrashers Total Annihilation are only up to full-length number three. Indeed, last year’s release was their first for eight years and although I have no idea why such a lengthy absence occurred from the band it is obvious from the off that …On Chains of Doom is a record that is put together a band who know their stuff to some degree.
Perhaps predictably for me, I chose a band who play that more intense death/thrash style of metal for my first featured record on MA. That having been said, opening track Falling Fast has some passages that rely on the heavier side of that death/thrash sound and Daniel Altwegg performs in the death metal realm of the vocal spectrum. There is no high-pitched squealing from him as per a David Di-Santo for example, instead his gruff and slightly guttural tones impress a consistency that unfortunately becomes one of the albums challenges, but more on that later.
Riff wise, as you would expect, this is a chuggfest of a record. The tempos are driven well by the twin guitar attack of Nicholas Stelz and Jurgen Schmid, with the former giving some stellar sonics as well as the recognized lead guitarist in the band. He is absolutely superb on Tunnelratten with a blistering solo, full of energy and brimming with flair and talent. The guitars in general sound clear in the mix without feeling blunted by the production and the drums thunder along nicely in the background albeit a little too far in the background, to the extent that they lack some degree of presence in proceedings. Even on slow-burner Dead Souls which builds and builds they seem to be a tad muted overall.
Despite the variety of pace and tempo on the record, I do not feel overly excited by much of anything I hear. On the aforementioned Dead Souls, the band build up to a good track of powerful and groovy metal but the build up just sounds redundant and almost stagnant at times. It is like they flog the concept as opposed to develop it and what should be a standout track on the album comes off as a let down overall.
Looking at that artwork I am expectant of a full-frontal assault but in fact I end up with the odd sortie into battle with little in the way of heavy shelling or machine gun fire. To keep with the war theme, it is an album that is more of a sniper than any artillery personnel. It takes pot shots at ideas it thinks it can hit and whilst it usually hits the target so to speak the penetration of the bullets only goes so far and the fire patterns are predictable. This leads me back to my earlier comment on the vocalist. If you are going to use this vocal style, then the consistency needs to be tempered by something, anything, to create sufficient distraction and avoid monotony setting in. Despite the obvious quality of the guitar work here, it is not enough to defer attention away from track after track of the same vocals and so the band are reliant on changes of pace and tempo in writing songs that whilst they try to develop and build, do not always deliver.
The two singles that turned me onto this record to check it out in the first place are by far the stronger of the eight tracks. Reborn in Flesh is a memorable blaster of a track and Black Blood continues to play to the strengths of the band. Other than that, penultimate track Tunnelratten is the only other real standout track with it’s clever variance of pace without the sacrificing of any energy. It is these three tracks that save this album in all honesty and if the band can consistently hit the vein of form displayed on these tracks then they will realise their full-potential I am sure.