HOLYCIDE – Fist To Face
- by ER
- Posted on 12-01-2023
RELEASE YEAR: 2020
BAND URL: https://holycide.bandcamp.com/
One of the most underrated countries when it comes to metal proliferation is Spain. Home of the fantastic thrash act Angelus Apatrida whose last year’s excellent eponymous album I reviewed here (5.5/6) it has one of the most vibrant all genre metal producing mines in Europe, if not the world, thanks to the (compulsory) ex-soldier David Sánchez “Dave Rotten” González turned a legendary metal vocalist in groups such as Avulsed, Chirst Denied, Famishgod, Putrevore, Rotten, Weaponry, Decrapted and ex-Golgotha, to name just a few, but it was his founding of a trilogy of prominent labels whose names continue to echo in underground metal’s on-going history: Drowned Productions (1990-1994), Repulse Records (1994-2002) and, finally, Xtreem Records (with its Fighter Records sundivision) which changed the scene in Spain and beyond, including the most recent invitation to all Spanish thrash metal bands to send in their music for consideration. After all, one of the first fruits of his work is a thrash metal act Holycide.
Formed in 2004 by Dave Rotten and Golgotha and Unbounded Terror guitarist Vicente Javier Payá Galindo, the project had a rough start with no forthcoming demos or records and Payá left in 2009 likely with intention to reactivate Golgotha, not returning until 2022 (which is why Holycide could not be part of my Vicente Payá review series). Undaunted and understanding, Rotten co-opted Miguel Bárez Lobato (guitars) and Daniel Fernández (bass) to independently record a 2 track, fairly unique and melodic if understandably rough “No Escape”²⁰¹³ demo, followed by a much better sounding “Toxic Mutation”²⁰¹⁵ EP which included both tracks from the demo in improved versions (such as no more sudden end of the excellent Panteric “Life Turned To Dust” but a gradual fade to black), and which included a ferocious cover of Dark Angel “Merciless Death” (which makes Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” sound like Metallica’s eponymous) and which saw Salvador Esteban Barranco (guitars, vocals) and Jorge Utrera (drums) join the flock, overall an even more unique and engaging material than the EP while wearing the San Francisco Bay Area influence on their sleeves and riffs, so the stage was set for the first full length made flesh in “Annihilate… Then Ask!”²⁰¹⁷ released on, where else, Xtreem Music Records. A predominantly very fast and raw yet powerful affair with almost none of the progressive transitions of the EP (the fantastic “Deserve To Be Erased”, “Leather, Spikes, Chains & Blood” and the deathly “Back And Forth” notable exceptions) but with occasional slow downs foreshadowing the sequel (Motörhead, Bonebreaker), 9 tracks reminiscent of Dark Angel, Infernäl Mäjesty, Atrophy, Coroner, Sacrifice, as well as Sepultura’s “Beneath The Remains” (all of the above by their own admission) plus a great if a little ill-fitting cover of Détente’s “Loser”, “Annihilate…” was an all around excellent debut, a bar set high for themselves, a true trial by fire for the Rotten, Lobato, Barranco, Fernández and Utrera quintet passed with flying colors, so there was no reason why the same five point lightening could not strike twice and that’s exactly what happened on the superior “Fist To Face” only fuller in every way and, you know, now with a clear target to boot (pun intended).
On November 9th, 2016 a controversial Hollywood celebrity with ties to Neo-Nazis (which will later become as evident as the sun in the sky), a proudly misogynistic host of the moderately successful American TV show “The Apprentice” (a show he had once briefly quit for a failed Presidential bid in 2011), Donald John Trump accidentally had become the President Elect Of The United States, the 304 Electoral College votes prevailing over the will of the excess of 3,000,000 votes of the American People preferring Hillary Rotham Clinton. As soon as he was sworn in for the 45th President Of The United States on January 20th, 2017 all hell broke unprecedentedly loose, multiple Jewish universities receiving over 2,000 death threats in just his first month in office. The new Electoral College President had been a vocal opponent of any people who were not male rich and white, with the exceptions of his regular campaign donors, particularly virulently hateful of the Spanish Americans (or would be Spanish Americans if given a chance he didn’t intend to give) so it naturally attracted the backlash of the Mexican and Spanish indiginous folk such as Holycide members. And just because Vicente Payá was not a part of the ensemble we must not be fooled into a false assumption that he wouldn’t have supported that outrage in spirit. At the time of the debut recording Trump likely wasn’t even president elect yet and the record was released only barely a month after he took office so there was nothing to write home about yet. Not so for the sequel released 3 years later.
Thus, “Fist To Face” was born. Simple yet poignant in its righteous delivery it both understates the necessity of its time and the present. The beautiful cover, featuring the MAGA (Make America Great Again – a motto stolen from Ronald Reagan ’80 campaign) hat wearer getting righteously viciously and apparently repeatedly battered by an Area 51 alien (a clear allusion to Megadeth’s “Hangar 18”), a presidential visit gone unpredictibly bad due to the leader of the free world’s inherent and incurable hubris that will one day assure his downfall, is a work of art akin to the legendary thrash metal cover creator Ed Repka (although he neither created it nor is he really a big fan of the genre in the first place, preferring punk). The intro track “Intrump” is a sample of Trump’s ridiculous, often self-contradictory, xenophobic comments which make it obvious that a highschool bully military draft dodger who’d never outgrown the time should not have been allowed to run a village corner shop much less the most powerful country in the world, whereas the observer’s obvious and naturally forthcoming comment “you suck” is probably meant as an understatement. What follows, though, is what matters most, at least here.
The titular “Fist To Face” is a raw thrash metal indictment with power of the People simply denouncing the bully, something the genre has been well-prepared for since its inception. That in this case it happens to denounce and literally stone a bully who was a lifelong Democrat (literally: the rule of the People) until his sudden 2011 Republican (literally: the rule of the few Representatives) conversion is a testimony to the fact that, contrary to the popular online opinion, thrash metal has not been conservative or liberal but actually non-partisan, aware that often wolves appear in sheep’s clothing. That is why I appreciate fantastic thrash metal classics (bordering on death metal) such as “Fake Libertarian”. Dave Rotten and I may be as divergent on spiritual matters as North and South Pole but boy, can we both smell a FAKE LIBERTARIAN, he or she represents us NOT! We both recognize this new Libertarian fad (myself a former brief year-long adherent of) as nothing else but a fifth column of the conservative multinational corporate status quo insuring that the rich, the tax evaders and the oppressors of the working class will never pay for their crimes, crying wolf whenever there’s a chance the likes of W(o)all(ves) Street might pay at least financially but strangely serene and dormant when all 3 branches of the government are firmly under the global corporate thumb and for as long as that is the case, while they continue to pay lip service to the fake outrage against supposedly both major political parties while Libertarian pundits encourage to and vote straight Republican tickets every election.
The flagship of the album, it’s chief champion and the rightly soon to be thrash metal classic (which is confirmed by their choice of the video single) is undisputably the perfect “Trapped By The Crappy Trap” (the second single released after the title track), lyrically about all these online forum warriors who trap you into membership in their groups which are later revealed to be contrary to your beliefs and moral standards but, since you’ve been a member, their reputation is tied to yours even after you leave, which can be impossible to shake off or, more likely since straight off the band’s main website, the social manipulation suffered by young boys where they are absorbed and directed, at the risk of being excluded from their circles, towards the consumption of an almost religious form of Trap (and also Reggaeton), a “music” that promotes sexism, gender violence, consumerism, lame ostentation and easy money among young boys between 15-25 years, turning the future society into what is wanted: mindless sheep! To say it is rightfully the leading single is an understatement as this track oozes everything that makes thrash metal thrash metal and a pleasure to listen to at that: a clear verse/chorus structure, an infectious yet simple chorus that won’t leave your head for days if not weeks (like the failed plan of D.C. Comics Ma’alefa’ak to keep Martian Manhunter burning alive on magnesium alloy the former had deceptively introduced into the latter’s bloodsteam via deceptive drink and then set alight as the latter began to continuously extrete it due to his Martian biology thus indefinitely fueling the flames). Indeed, the only one even close to it for the aforementioned “hit”-like qualities is the aforementioned “Fake Libertarian”.
It is in “Fist To Face” (which I would normally call the title track but I like the sound of that especially when I know where it lands), “Fake Libertarian” and in “Trapped By The Crappy Trap” where not just the tight Lobato/Barranco guitar duels bolstered by Fernández/Utrera ADHD-like section driving it are revealed but also Dave Rotten’s magnifiscent vocals which are both different from (in the precious fairly mid-pace parts) and somewhat the same as (especially in the faster parts) his regular death metal tenure in, say, Avulsed or, later, Decrapted, and are most akin to Steve Souza. They mostly accompany the music with its twists and turns and, as on the debut so here, Rotten joins Barranco for wonderful Antraxian gang shouts on the aforementioned “Fist To Face” (there I go again) and “Trapped By The Crappy Trap” as well as on “Empty Cyber Life” and “Napalm Sweet Napalm” (most originally and creatively sounding ones), which is to prove that by no means the rest of the actual 10 song affair is immemorable, far from it, just because they largely lack a clear verse/chorus structure.
Take “Empty Cyber Life”, almost progressive for its twists and turns without a slight slowing of the thrashy pace and then with a georgous transition a’la classic Metallica or Testament or Exodus, which the material is kept in general vein of to begin with as if to call back the old geezers to arms, rightfully or not. On that note, a Testamentian “The New Order” stylings of “Napalm Sweet Napalm” are proof in the pudding with the album’s second (after “Empty Cyber Life”) georgous transition (why not more?), the influences worn on their sleeves this time by the ending recalling “One Man’s Fate” from “Souls Of Black”.
The rest of the material kept at a surprisingly (in a reviewer’s experience) and unusually even keel (nothing deserving less that 5/6), I must also bring up the “Among The Living/Persistence Of Time” Anthrax for a witness and, obviously, some Megadethian “Rust In Peace” accents to the front (Empty Cyber Life, Voltures) as well as early Revocation back when they loved thrash metal more than death (Trapped By The Crappy Trap). Finally, the practically death metal cover of Recipients Of Death “The Aftermath” blows the original out of the water so much I thought I was listening to Obituary’s “Slowly We Rot” in the left channel and Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” in the right, with a modern production to boot. Overall, this is not just as good as the debut but easily outdoing it in every way, including far better, less garagey production.
Holycide is one hell of a hellish thrash metal band and “Fist To Face” (that’s 7 fists including the heading) one fire and brimstone of an album, but now, that they have proven beyond reasonable doubt (a required legal standard in criminal cases) they can slash and thrash with the best, how about we celebrate the return of Vicente Payá on bass (in exchange for the amicably departed Daniel Fernández post album release) and write a nuanced, progressive and more melodic material that will blow the first 4 Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and (dare I dream it?) Slayer albums out of their waters, something my over 30 years of metalheadery and over 15 years of sharpened reviewer instinct tell me I don’t think but know you’re capable of delivering, caballeros?