Self-Release (via ClawHammer Records)
Luke 'Loki' Milne
It's no joke; Survival is a fitting name for the hardcore Metal four-piece hailing from Oakland, California. Frontman and songwriter Nick Noro has endured multiple changes to the band's line-up throughout the years, with some incurring bouts of jail time, tackling substance abuse and even coping with the unsettling loss of a bandmate to an overdose. Talk about a rough ride...
Following on from the band's debut release 'Love God' (2012) and the more recent 'Unity' (2013), their third and latest studio album 'Shadya' also seems to echo the theme of survival. 'Shadya' seemingly draws inspiration from 80s rhythmic thrash, mixing in a dash of punk-infused vocal flavours to ultimately serve up a twisting journey of grit and grime that feels very much like a walk in the history books of the heavier genres of music that have survived decades of change and still make a big impression even in this day and age.
Let's be clear from the word go - Shadya is a fully psychedelic, rhythmic experience. The riffs presented here aren't hugely technical or "widdly", but they hit home with marked effect and present just enough turns in the road to maintain interest in spite of a somewhat bland melodic palette – by today's standards, at least.
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'Shadya' isn't an album for fans of melodic masterpieces and interesting vocal hooks. It's not for fans of eight-minute guitar solos or blisteringly high-octane vocals. It's not going to leave you open-mouthed in awe at it's musical genius. 'Shadya' begins, however, as a vicious, spitting, grinding, coarse and aggressive soundtrack to a furious moshpit in some dingy shithole bar. Oh yes kids, Survival present 'Shadya' as a bloody bookmark in the pages of thrash Metal history – a reminder to all of how it used to be; blood, sweat and... a layer of someone else's blood.
'Shadya' weighs in at just eight tracks, with a surprisingly brief seventeen minutes of content. It's definitely not going to win any prizes for length, and may feel a little rushed to some, but the driving factor of the content here is more quality than quantity. Yes, it'll probably take you more time to polish off a pint than it will to work your way through this album, but with a fairly stripped-down format of songwriting that's probably not such a bad thing. 'Shadya' is the kind of album you could happily stick on repeat or flesh out with a playlist of other similar genres, and it'll fit well among the A-listers of the genre.
Listening to the teen-angst-dripping opening track 'Living With Depression' might instill the sense that you've just purchased some plastic-sleeved underground CD from the back of a grubby tour bus in the arse-end of East London (especially with the rather abrupt and artsy finale sample)... and actually, that's a pretty good feeling to get.
'Shadya' seems to take their thrash Metal sound back to the early roots of simplicity, when the driving inspiration behind Metal songwriting was to create thick, low and heavy riffs that made your stomach feel weird and gave you the urge to give the guy standing next to you a knuckle sandwich. The gritty, underground vibe resonates throughout the preceding tracks of 'Shadya', with the cutting guitar chords and step-like riffs of 'Walls' and aggressive grouped vocal shouts of 'Pose' creating a moody atmosphere. It's a rough, raw and edgy ride, for sure.
Reaching the mid-point of the album presents a little bit of a problem, however. See, there just isn't enough melodic variety presented in 'Shadya' – at least not for my tastes - to keep things interesting. Four tracks in with four to go and it becomes apparent that maybe Survival have run a little dry on tricks.
As mentioned, there's a healthy amount of rhythmic exploration that keeps the album afloat, but the exclusion of melodic movement (coupled with recycled, rehashed chord progressions) becomes apparent at the arrival of the album's mid-point, where things start to fall a little flat. For me, 'Shadya' pulls out of the driveway with the roar of a V8 before losing it's bite as it hits the freeway.
Harsh, I know, but the album's just not fleshed out enough to keep staring at it under the microscope, and there's very little more in terms of content and variety that can be spoken of in regards to Survival's third release. This is a little surprising, to be true; the band have had some three years to work on the album, and you'd be forgiven for expecting a little more than seventeen minutes of content after such an amount of time.
The truth is that 'Shadya' is an album that can be taken at face value - it's a stark reminder of older styles of Metal (with a dose of punk injected for good measure) and it's certainly effective in it's delivery. Sadly, there just isn't enough here to keep the history lesson afloat for longer than the given time frame, and while there are some heavy, mosh-worthy and satisfying riffs with plenty of bite-sized moments of enjoyment laced throughout (including some fucking twisted audio samples!), it's not going to be breaking any new ground for seasoned metal fans and won't stand out on it's own for very long.
The short length of the release plays to Survival's favour here, as to make the album any longer would probably have been stretching the drumskin a little too tight. It's a shame - Survival have a great sound and feel to them and I feel a little underwhelmed at my brief encounter with them, and would have liked something a little meatier to play around with. That said, what is presented will appeal to some in spite of it's brevity.
'Shadya' is an album best placed in a more fleshed out playlist among other tracks of a similar ilk. Think Slayer, possibly some of Nirvana's heavier tracks, anything to do with Punk... just make sure you've got something else going on or you're in for a short and ultimately disappointing ride.