Album Title: Boundless
Label: Metal Blade
It's obvious from the first note that Assaulter have finally gotten the guitar tone they wanted: it's a high, nasty buzzsaw that naturally shreds its way to the top of the mix, anchored by a touch of low-end. There's no comparison between this and the relatively weak guitar sound on the last album! The drums have a lot more punch, too, along with a crisp, dry sound, though the bass is difficult to make out. The snarled vocals are just about perfect: not too loud and not too soft, bolstered by an occasional echo.
Assaulter describe their music as "dark speed metal", and that's pretty much what you get on Boundless: fast-thrashing metal with a blackened feel. Kreator and Sodom are obvious comparison points, but I hear more than a little Mercyful Fate here, too -- the riffing and especially the solos have a vicious heavy-metal complexity which sets this apart from the usual black/thrash fare. Most of the songs on the record are mid-paced, and a few are outright epics, but the record has a powerful sense of forward momentum just the same. There's more variety on display here than on the last record, too, along with shorter, more nimble songs.
"Entrance" is a memorable opener, with its play on words, rhythmic main riff, and extensive lead work, yet "Outshine" blows it away: beneath the frantic solos and the feral vocal performance lie top-notch drumming and a dash of epic atmosphere, all in less than four minutes. I can't help but mention the lyrics, which are just plain outstanding throughout the record, but especially on this song -- it's a perfect paean to the all-devouring joy of the conqueror. "Into Submission" follows it up with a strong dose of swaggering thrash, and the drums are particularly excellent here. "Slave To King" combines atmospheric chanting and disdainful vocals with oriental melodies, calling to mind long-cursed middle-eastern sands...
"The Perpetual War" opens the second side with the most effective epic on the album: six minutes of pounding, ripping metal with martial drumming and a memorable shout-along chorus. The ending is especially powerful, an effortless encapsulation the song's meaning. "Exalt the Master" is a more straightforward thrasher, packed with killer solos near the end. The heavy-metal riffing of "Dying Day" joins forces with its shout-along chorus ("Ride! High! The soulless will RIDE!") to ensure that no head remains un-banged; the guitar work here is just plain infectious, easily the best on the record. "The Great Subterfuge" returns from the band's second demo, and slows things down a bit before the end. As before, the anger and contempt in the vocals make this an ideal anti-Christian song, and the slightly faster tempo lends it plenty of new life.
This is the best black/thrash record I've heard since Ketzer's debut. It blows away everything that's come out of Australia during the last five years, and any fan of bands like Destroyer 666 or Gospel of the Horns ought to hear it. I'll take Boundless over Defiance any day... highest recommendations!
Standout Tracks: "Outshine", "The Perpetual War", "Dying Day"