This is one of those moments where you can look at the album cover and know exactly what a record is going to sound like. Well, maybe not exactly. One look at the tank-driving, beer-swilling skeleton on the cover of Fastkill’s Bestial Thrashing Bulldozer and I knew I was in for a high-speed, palm-muted ride. (As if the title didn’t give it away.) But what I didn’t know was that Fastkill hailed from Japan, a country which has a prodigious history with thrash/speed metal. I also didn’t know that these dudes have been thrashing since 1996, and that Bestial Thrashing Bulldozer was their third full-length (they were retro before retro was cool, I guess). But I got the important things from that cover: that this is gonna sound 80s as hell, and it’s gonna be fast as hell. I wasn’t disappointed.
First off, holy damn, these dudes only have one speed, and that’s lightning. Guitarists Akihiro Ito and Jiro Mochizuki tremolo pick like their lives depend on it, and drummer Kazuhiro Mochida stays in lock from the word go. The danger two guitarists face in a thrash band is becoming sloppy and losing track of one another, but Ito and Mochizuki are tighter than my belt at Thanksgiving. Their flurry of notes on tracks like “In Thrash We Trust” evokes a certain sense of awe. And just when I was wondering how these two would fare in a good old fashioned shred duel, along comes “Terminal Disease”, where the pair channel the legendary King/Hanneman team and go head to head in a maelstrom of guitar fury. I guess when you’ve been doing this for 16 years, you build up a rapport with your co-guitarist, and the Japanese duo are no slouches.
Toshio Komori’s lead vocals are the other thing that caught my attention. Imagine a Japanese Joey Belladonna on speed and raise his voice by another octave and you’re pretty much there. His nonstop yelp on “Guillotine Attack” is a thing of wonder, and his wails in the intro of “Endless Game” instantly make your ears perk up, which is a pretty mean feat after seven near-identical tracks of high speed thrash. While I don’t consider the sameness of the songs to be a major issue on this type of record, one drawback that it does have is the lack of substantial “punch” to any of the elements on Bestial Thrashing Bulldozer. The guitars, as speedy as they may be, certainly come from the thin, chainsaw-y school of playing. Komori’s vocals, likewise, hit some impressive notes and display remarkable energy, but don’t have a lot of raw power behind them. Even Fastkill’s use of the signature thrash gang vocals doesn’t have much force. It’s clear what these guys are going for (I mean, they have “fast” in their name), but some more force would go a long way.
So it turned out I was mostly right, and Fastkill’s new record delivered thrash-a-plenty, though I was caught off-guard by how well-executed it was in several ways. If you’re looking for something new to mosh to all alone in your room to, you can certainly do a lot worse.