No one expects a surprise from a band twenty years into their career, but Spanish thrashers Angelus Apatrida are the rare exception.

The clues were all there, at least for those like me who haven’t checked in on the band since 2015’s Hidden Evolution. That record, and the one I missed—2018’s Cabaret de la Guillotine—showed off the band’s creative upswell, highlighting a unique musical hybrid beyond just the typical re-thrash template. Another clue is that when a band goes the self-titled route this long into a career (seven albums in for this Spanish group), that usually signifies something is afoot. Thankfully, said thing that’s afoot, Angelus Apatrida, is a wonderful and welcome reinvigoration of the band’s strengths and future.

What the hell did all those deductions mean, Sherlock? Well, the band’s latest record finds them homing in on a semi-unique sound that feels like a mix of 80s thrash classics and 90s groove (think Pantera and Machine Head). The Pantera influence crept up over the records, but it helps cement the sheer catchiness of these thrash anthems. Big riffs, bigger leads/solos, and more vocal melodies (and lots of gang-shouted choruses) all coalesce into one hell of a fun ride.

Songs like “Rise and Fall” and “Bleed the Crown” showcase this new southern-fried riff focus and contrast nicely with the more traditional (yet excellent) thrash in “Indoctrinate.” It doesn’t hurt that Angelus Apatrida has never sounded more frustrated and energized throughout the record. Not that they were ever, say, content with the state of the world before, but the collective lyrical exasperation of their past records feels amplified.

In fact, while the first half of the record is solid, things really open up in Angelus Apatrida’s second half, where a greater emphasis is placed on sonic diversity and taking creative risks. Mind you, not all of them work; the southern hard rock of “Disposable Liberty” is a bit of a mixed bag until the outro, but it does showcase a band unafraid of taking chances. It’s to the band’s credit then that most of these creative decisions do work and enliven the band’s seventh full-length outing.

Angelus Apatrida aren’t necessarily out here reinventing the neo-thrash wheel, but a distinct knowledge of what they want to do and the talent to execute that vision helps make this self-titled record a rousing success.

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