So, I’m guessing that, minus the band’s 2019 EP, The Last Rager, Municipal Waste have come to the conclusion that the best way to continue to make quality music for the long term is to release new albums every five years. It’s been five years since the release of their second masterpiece, 2017’s Slime And Punishment, and before that it’d been five years since the release of 2012’s Nuclear Blast debut, The Fatal Feast. And with each release there’s some sort of subtle shift in the band’s sound.
The Fatal Feast sounded to me like a traditional Crossover record, which is probably why I wasn’t a fan of it. I’d actually kind of written the band off with that one. Slime… came off as a major breath of fresh air. The songs were short, fast, intense and even introduced a new member – along with guitar solos – for a different dimension. That brings us to Electrified Brain. I just read that, according to guitarist Ryan Waste, his goal this time around was to write a dynamics-based record. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that because you CAN have MORE than enough dynamics in any song regardless of style, length, etc. But now I get it. However, I found Electrified Brain to be more of an album of musical diversity than anything else.
If Electrified Brain really is produced by the band, then they sure did a hell of a job making the record sound unusually slick. I’m talking the head room and reverb found on 95% of everything you’ve ever heard in the 80’s. You hear it in the punch of Dave Witte’s drums right away on the opening title track which comes out the gate like a rampaging fucking bull! It’s fast and HOT until the two-minute mark, where it turns into a traditional Metal headbanger that rides on for the next 45 seconds until the song’s end. It’s immediately followed by the Maiden-like harmonies of “Demoralizer”. It’s a great mid-tempo track that quickly segues into faster territory with a blazing, Mustaine-like solo by Nick Poulos.
Everything sounds….so much bigger. I don’t mean in the same way that everything sounder bigger on the previous album. The guitars AND Tony Forresta’s voice sound like they can truly BREATHE. I’m wondering if that has to do with the way the amps were miked this time around. When Jimmy Page recorded the guitar tracks for Zeppelin’s first album, he remembered that distance equals depth. That’s why he placed the mics relatively far away from the combo amp he used to make the record and wouldn’t you know it, a small sounding amp suddenly sounded far more monolithic in tone. Could that be the approach here?
“Last Crawl” and Grave Dive” seem to fall into a similar formula, the former being faster paced than the latter. And there’s nothing wrong with this because each song has its own character. I’m grateful that a lot of Tony’s lyrics have not changed that much since Waste ‘Em All. “Grave Dive” alone is purely about the allegiance of the band’s longtime fans as he screams “We dig up our fan base/The real ones that count/We’ll bring up their corpses/And toss them all out”. “The Bite” has a little more of my favorite lyrics, as Tony screams “A symphony/Of blended heads/Forced gore/Rotting legs/Skull shards/Springing forth/Bludgeoned with/A spinal chord”.
That song, along with “High Speed Steel” sounds a lot like songs Metallica could’ve written had they recorded Ride the Lighting today. They’re a lot more Thrash in that vein along with some harmonies blended in with the chord changes, something I’d never hear in a Municipal Waste song. Then something happens not to long before this track ends; it transitions from being a Thrash song into sounding a lot like the best Mercyful Fate song they never wrote for Don’t Break the Oath. The gang “whoa” vocals could EASILY be replaced by King Diamond doing the same thing, and Nick’s short solo spot is something Michael Denner probably would’ve played himself! That diversity I spoke about? Here it is.
“Thermonuclear Protection” kicks the album back into a much-needed high gear with its immediate breakneck speed. The more I hear Electrified Brain, the more I wonder how much of an influence Nick Poulos was this time around, especially since he’s been in the band for a while now. Is HE a bigger traditional Metal fan than the others in the band? I fucking LOVE “Blood Vessel-Boat Jail”. It’s a no bullshit, mid-tempo instrumental palm muter until the second half kicks in. It seamlessly transitions between a normal tempo and Dave ripping out blast beats. I fucking shat myself because I had a feeling I wasn’t going to hear that again. Sadly, I was right. The rest of the song had me envisioning the time an old friend of mine jumped off the faux balcony of this loft the band played at in Brooklyn in 2006, forcing Tony to warn people to not jump off it because you can die. This actually happened.
I swear that “Restless and Wicked” is a King Diamond tribute. The first half of the song sounds like a less technical “Welcome Home” from Them before transitioning to break down that comes off as a slightly faster “Curse of The Pharaohs”, the overplayed, yet classic track off Melissa, Mercyful Fate’s debut album. “Ten Cent Beer Night” was NEEDED. It’s CLASSIC Municipal Waste, from its bar fight lyrics to the non-stop speed. No breakdowns into tradition Metal territory here. Minus a few slight nuances, it’s the ‘Waste we all loved in the mid 2000’s. “Putting On Errors”, the penultimate track on Electrified Brain is the most BRUTAL track on the album. Hear that fucking furnace of a voice making Tony sound like a chihuahua? That’s Barney Greenway of Napalm Death. This was more a of a grinder at the end, and Tony couldn’t EVER do that last part justice. Ever.
So how do I feel about Electrified Brain?
After a few listens, both caffeinated while heading to and from the gym and with no caffeine in my system, I’m impressed. I can easily see why one reviewer felt that most tracks blended into each other, as they do follow a similar pattern. But, as I said, I do feel the songs all have their own character. I’m convinced that Nick is the catalyst for the increase in the 80’s Metal influences outside of the Thrash subgenre. I found it to be a treat to hear Municipal Waste step out of that zone and managed to sound good because this experiment could’ve QUICKLY gone South. The only thing I’d hope for, when they release their next album five years from now, as that Ryan and Nick find a good balance between the two styles.
I give Electrified Brain 4 out of 5 middle fingers.
Recommended Tracks: Electrified Brain, Demoralizer, High Speed Steel, Blood Vessel-Boat Jail, Putting On Errors (w/ Barney Greenway)