(What is old is new again. Wil Cifer reviews a come-back EP by the Texas crossover band Angkor Wat, who first made their deep marks with albums released in 1989 and ’90.)
Once upon a time bands were discovered in zines, Maximum Rocknroll, or on college radio, and yeah I am not counting MTV, it was bullshit. In those golden years you would find bands that seemed like your little secret. Maybe you might get one of your friends into them, but they were a deserted island for your ears otherwise. This Texas band was one of those.
When Corpus Christi came out in 1990 it was light years ahead of its time, though both of Angkor Wat‘s albums held up over the years. They remained marginally active after 1990, with a few small tours here and there. When I stumbled across this EP Worst Enemy released on their website with zero fanfare, it was a wonderful surprise.
They picked up where they left off. The first song rips into you with razor-sharp guitars. This time around they are more straightforward with the ear beatings than Corpus Christi, and it owes more to their first album, When Obscurity Becomes the Norm. The hardcore influence that colored those previous works has not gone anywhere. They have not mellowed with age. Even as this dense and heavy assault of sound continues, songwriting is still made a priority.
The only hint of metal from the ’80s comes on the solo section in “Barrage”. It works well as a melodic texture. On this song the vocals are almost more sung than the caustically shouted vocals on the title track. The production comes close to capturing the warmth of the other albums. Their trademarks, like the vocals being behind a filter of distortion, are still intact. The lyrics might be spewed forth even more aggressively now, each hateful syllable a shard of broken glass. Unlike the vocals of many extreme metal bands today they are not just another obligatory sonic texture. The vocals have a function here, giving the songs a more accessible tone, despite these guys being all up in your face all the time
They close the album with “Knock Out”. The tempos shift and jerk you by the neck with little effort. The riffs are mean, but not a blur of distortion. This band has stuck to their guns and not thought to conform to any of the current musical trends because they do not have to. They were already ahead of the game; today’s bands just caught up to them.
My only complaint is this is a five-song EP, so after all the years that have passed I would have liked more. I console myself with the the fact this might inspire them to release a full-length, though with the current state of the music industry my logical mind knows why they did this. I am not sure how any thrash band will be able to come close to the bar they have raised here. If you were among their cult following in the late ’80s then you will be just as pleased as I am with what they have done here to keep their legacy pristine.