By Antony Illingworth
Album – North Of Nowhere
Release Date – 21/07/2012
Genre – Thrash
Lyrical Themes – Post-Apocalypse
Being from Blackpool, I rarely get the chance to hear bands from other towns in England, so when given the chance to review a local band from Hull’s music scene, I considered it, as I knew nothing about the band or its members. It was only after hearing that it was a thrash metal band, I jumped at the chance and gladly accepted the challenge.Being a huge thrash metal fan, and also being really difficult to impress, XIII’s (13 in Roman Numerals, and unlucky number in some religions and lifestyles) debut album “North Of Nowhere” was listened to with an open mind and eager ears, and upon hearing the opening track of the album “Triskaidekaphobia”, (Greek for the fear of the number 13) I heard influences not only from the modern thrash metal bands, but also influences straight off the continent. I could have sworn I was listening to one of the German Thrash Titans Kreator or Destruction. The track comes in at just under 6 minutes and immediately kicks off with an amazing riff and drum beat that kicks you square in the gut and keeps you down on the floor throughout, right up until the blistering end where it fades out with a Megadeth style radio news bulletin leading seamlessly into track 2 on the album.
“Breaking Point” is track 2 on the album, starting out slow and heavy, this track keeps with the style of European thrash metal, eventually speeding up until about halfway through where the tempo yet again changes again to slow and heavy, this track has everything, it has speed, it has ferocity, the whole thing works together and isn’t just a mash up of each musician doing his own little thing unlike another well-known thrash band, famous for being in the “Big Four”. This song is perfect for pretty much everything, you can sit, chug a beer and listen to it, or you can get up and headbang like a lunatic, the choice is yours. Obviously the latter would be chosen in pretty much every thrash fans head. “Retribution” is the next track on this album, and it takes a surprising turn by starting out slow and melodic, this is an amazing example of the bands musical talent but specifically Dan Murrays’ actual singing capability, his voice is fantastic, almost haunting to listen to in the beginning, while reverting to his harsher sound, the transition works incredibly well, the guitar slides, and the drumming that accompanies this track fits perfectly well, again the end to this track fades out the same way as the opening track, with another radio news bulletin that leads into track 4.
“The Longest Day” ploughs in with a riff that leaves you feeling like you have been hit by a speeding truck, and left wondering if anyone got the number plate. It’s hard hitting and when you think it has finally let up for a few seconds, it hits you again with a barrage of guitar licks, and blast beats that don’t allow you the time to breathe , the vocals and guitars give each other energy and constantly bounce off each other to make this song hit hard and hit fast. Track 5 is“Fahrenheit”, and although the intro is no way near as fast or heavy as the previous tracks, some may consider it slightly boring, yet I find it strangely satisfying that it’s a completely different style and adds depth to the album. Although the guitars follow a simple riff pretty much throughout this song, once again the radio voice overs are ever present in this track and allows the listener to imagine a land that is destitute and desolate, which in turn brings around a whole feel of a world torn apart by nuclear Armageddon.
Track 6 “Down N’ Out” is classic thrash at its best; the opener is all about raw speed and energy, and this song has it in spades, with the guitars leading the assault; the drums are not far behind, with the vocals finishing up the attack on your unsuspecting ears. Everything about this song is fast, the vocals are everything that would make you believe you are listening to a European thrash band, the riffs are tight, the drumming is relentless, the solo midway through fits perfectly with the rest of the song and the vocals are amazing in every possible way.
“The Beaten Path” is a slow starting track, it carries this throughout, and although the preceding tracks were heavier and faster, it’s the drum beats in this track that stand out the most, almost as if the beat was set against a backdrop of soldiers marching. Although there is little technicality in this song, a slow track can be good and fits well into any album, and this gives the much needed break before the onslaught of “Unlucky For Some”. That once again returns to the speed and heaviness of the previous tracks on this album. Unfortunately, the solo in this song feels a little out of place, although executed fantastically and with precision, it feels like the band threw it in there as an “end of song” filler. Once again we hear the return of the radio voice over that throws us straight into the albums’ title track “North Of Nowhere”, being the shortest track on the album, this is the strongest track on the album, and it really shows in Dan's vocal capacity as he uses its full strength to prove what he can do, the guitar work and drumming reaches an amazing pinnacle near towards the end of this track, and everything fits together perfectly.
Even though I try not to pick a favourite track from an album before I’ve heard the whole product, I think I would have to break that rule and say this is my favourite by far. Next up is track 10, “Eclipse”, which opens up with a riff that sounds exactly like it has been lifted straight from “How The Story Ends” from Megadeths’ “Endgame” album. Although slowed down incredibly. The lyrics and vocals fit the guitars and drums beat for beat flawlessly, the tempo quickly rises midway through the track but soon bows down to a blistering solo that would make even the hardiest guitar players hold their hands up. It eventually returns to the original beat and sticks to this until the end of the track, this is an amazing 6 minute ride that will keep you singing the chorus until another catchy tune enters and makes camp inside your brain. “Fuckin’ Scum”, is track 11 and is an all-out attack against what I perceive to be the liars and two faced people in the world. Its chorus is catchy and again it will have you singing along before the song fades out, clocking in at just over 4 minutes, it’s a barrage of clever abuse without focusing on a single target. The vocals are angry, and constantly in your face, like the schoolyard bully, this track will still be in your face regardless of how much you try and ignore it. It closes down, and leaves you wanting more. Like heroin, or any other class ‘A’ drug, this song is very addictive.
“When God Is Gone…The Devil Takes Hold” is track 12 on this album and is an 8 and half minute epic, beautifully crafted from the opening riff, and is a mash of different guitar techniques, fusing the speed and technicality of both classic and modern era thrash but done in such a way that it all fits together in a way that I didn’t think would work. There’s also the different vocal styles in this song that show us how much diversity Dan has in his voice and that he isn’t just subject to one style and can easily switch from one to the other. Easily the longest song on the album, this is one that will stick with you long after you are done listening. The final track “Forever” is track 13 (There’s that number again) on the album, took me by surprise with an odd mix of piano, harmonica and guitars, but as with the rest of the album, it was welcomed as a great change from what is mainly a heavy thrash record. The soft vocals again are fantastic, and once again are welcomed, and I can imagine this song being received well by crowds if played live. The track has a haunting melody throughout that fades out slowly with the final radio broadcast and brings an amazing close to an incredible album.
With XIII’s album “North Of Nowhere” now at a close, I can say that this is an amazing piece of music, from beginning to end, the vocals and lyrics are impeccable, the guitars and drums, meticulous, every detail on this album has been looked at, time and time again, this is not a debut album that has been smashed together in a couple of days, it’s been made to stand toe to toe with some of the bigger band that have formed to usher in a new wave of modern day thrash metal, and it will stand tall. I feel like I’m heralding yet another coming of our so called saviour when I type this, but I don’t care, the guys have worked hard to achieve what they have in this album, and every track proves it time and time again. The guys of XIII are going places, and the future looks very bright for them all…
Devil Horn Rating (out of five)
\m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m