Album opener ‘Jezebel’ straddles the line between groovy hard rock and midtempo thrash. It soon becomes evident that Lion Splicer is about intricacy and a lot of interesting ideas just as much as it is about great melodies and hooks and an enjoyable atmosphere. The solo break is not quite what you’d expect, yet it works really well and is interspersed with some tasty bass runs as well.
‘ The Whip’ really puts me in mind of Voivod with its simultaneously thrashy and subtly off-kilter riffing – and a furious lead beak a mere few seconds into the song! With each new change and layer, I continue to be impressed at how this band is able to bring on the musical madness and variety without becoming pompous or incoherent.
The title track, ‘Holiday in Dystopia’ is short and punchy, laced with gritty vocals and propelled by a great punk-inspired energy. ‘Little Conquerors’ is an instrumental that throws in a curve ball, starting with a surf-inspired clean intro that moves into power ballad soloing. The soloing isn’t out and out guitar god fare, but it is tasteful and effective.
We’re back to the dystopian thrash riffage with the menacing‘Forgotten City’, another instrumental, but one that packs a severe punch with its battery of furious yet deliberately mid-paced riffs and a cornucopia of great soloing. On the strength of this song and the previous one, I’d gladly listen to an instrumental album by these musicians, a sort of thrashing version of Karma To Burn with solos.
The next song is the furious ‘Watchtower’ which is packed with searing vocals and catchy melodies. ‘Utopia in Regalia’ pushes the more eclectic side of the band to the fore with a samba-like groove laced with clean strumming and funky wah noodling moving into a stomping, four-on-the-floor riff. The composition moves between a number of sections effortlessly, so much so that I almost didn’t notice that it had somehow become a solo piano piece for a while in the middle before charging back into dissonant, quirky thrash.
Lest this all become too inaccessible, the last number, ‘Panopticon Stomp’ is another infectious romp with vocals and so forth. A solid closer to an excellent album.
This music is going to make old-time thrashers grin and nod, and it’s fresh and inspired enough not to just come across as a less essential retread of the hoary old thrash classics. What too many thrash revivalists ignore is that their idols didn’t just put out multiple versions of the same sound – at its best the thrash scene feared bands who each had their own take on the idiom and weren’t afraid to experiment with the formula – until some of them lost the plot altogether, but that’s a different story. More to the point, Lion Splicer is a ferociously talented who draw on a wide range of musical ideas and abilities without losing sight of the prime directive: to create a heavy, catchy and fun album. That’s a pretty utopian situation, whatever the subject matter of the actual songs.
words by Jayaprakash Sathyamurthy