Almost falling fowl of my OCD scythe (get your ID3 tags set properly guys, please!) I found myself in a charitable mood and gave this album a chance, and boy am I glad I did. ‘Blackened Thrash’ they call it, the ‘blackened’ prefix is a bit of needless bandwagoning if you ask me, as this is old-school, brutal thrash with a bit of Death in the mix, which in essence aligns it with proto-BM of the early 80′s.
As the album title suggest, this is an album about Mars with lyrical themes that resemble Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom sequence set in the Warhammer universe. This violent thread sees Earth pitched against Mars in a bloody holy war of epic proportions in the year 2222AD. Native Martian rulers sit high upon Olympus Mons while their minions sacrifice themselves in the name of the Martian Gods, to be slaughtered by Earth’s heretic hordes. Perhaps allegorical, this fantasy yarn exists in a parallel universe without hope of mercy, and is the perfect landscape for Scorched-Earth’s vicious racket.
Mars is a bile-filled, unrelenting attack on the senses, registering somewhere between Sodom, and recent era Darkthrone, almost matching the demonic duo for punkish intensity and old school credibility. The production is as raw as a gangrenous, frost-bitten toe – utterly unprocessed and equally as unapologetic. Every instrument registers, demonstrating a prodigious level of technique and artistry whilst staying loose and lean – this album could have been recorded live, and is no worse because of it. The quantity of gold-standard riffs packed in here is nothing short of staggering, each one demanding to be acknowledged – the track Devils in Iron alone has enough riffage to fill a Gama Bomb album. At times Scorched-Earth venture into doomish territory, as with the bludgeoning instrumental No Blade of Grass, which includes some jazzy bass work and gargantuan riffs, but for the most part Mars remains (and as much as I hate using clichés, but I can think of no more appropriate way of describing it) fast and furious.
Some of the tracks here hang around longer than they should, and at 53 minutes Mars is overlong as a thrash album – 10 minutes could be hacked away and the album would benefit. However, there’s more conviction, energy and credibility than here a hundred Municipal Wastes. Thematically this Mars is considered and immersive, I’d love to read the novelisation. This is a master-class in the essence of thrash, if not metal in general, and reminder of what it’s supposed to be about. Up there with this year’s must have albums.