According to their biography System Overthrow, born in 2011, are a Dutch/Belgian three-man-one-woman outfit playing old school metal with a fresh angle. Well, they are spot on. Their music is old school thrash metal with a touch of speed which takes me right back to my teens when bands like Exodus, Flotsam & Jetsam and, closer to their native grounds, Jewel roamed the earth. From the straightforward song structures to the sharp, raging solos that seem to be seperate entities in the songs, from the machinegun-like drums to the somewhat rasping vocals often ending in a high pitch, everything on this debut album breathes eighties thrash.
Despite the unmistakable influences from the aforementioned and other similar bands from that era, System Overthrow is not simply piggybacking on the old school thrashers’ fame by copying their sound. In stead they extracted the best elements, blended them with a touch of System Overthrow and came up with, well, new old school thrash. This self titled album proves old school thrash, when played by skilled musicians, is still very much alive and viable.
Now for the actual album. Clocking well under 30 minutes there’s no time to waste, so the boys and girl jump into overdrive right from the start with the uncompromising album opener and title song System Overthrow. Strong playing guitarist Luc de Warem, who has no problem throwing in a solo or two, is backed by a solid rhythm section with Els Emonds on bass and Joeri Warmerdam on drums. Together they set the musical tone for the entire album in this short but furious song. Willy van der Kaa’s wide range vocals give the song the perfect extra bite to make it stand out. One of the best songs of the album in my opinion, if not the best!
Obviously there’s no rest for the wicked, they maintain the same speed and aggressive playing in the next two songs, Cry Or Die and Raining Death, before changing course in Rise From The Ashes. Being a slow paced song with a high singalong level, Rise… provides a much needed moment of rest and variation before the overdrive kicks in again, although slow paced is a relative concept here. The next three songs are, again, solid trash songs where all members can and do showcase their skills. Next it’s on to the more accessible closing track Fallen Angel, a great song to let the built up adrenalin flow out of your system again.
As far as I’m concerned, System Overthrow has released a great debut album, there’s definitely a lot of potential here. Old school thrash with a fresh coat of varnish, solid compositions, skilled play, screaming solos, they tick all the right thrash boxes. Pleasant on the ears of both old school thrashers as well as new generation metalheads, this album is an asset to many a metal collection. If they manage to keep these high standards up and are able to translate the energy of the album on to the stage they could have a great future ahead of them. I for one am curious to see them perform live when given the chance.
Despite of all this, there are a few points of attention in my opinion. First and foremost there’s the danger of monotony. There is not too much variation between the majority of the songs, apart from the vocal lines, which is perfectly fine for a certain amount of time. However, when you hear enough of those songs in a row you will inevitably lose your focus and interest. Let it be clear though, that this is not an issue on this album not in the last place because luckily (or was it intentionally?) the songs Rise From The Ashes and Fallen Angel have been placed at strategic moments in the track list, shutting out monotony before it can strike. Keeping the total playing time below half an hour helps as well of course. It is, however, definitely something to be wary of in the future.
My other point of attention is that the drums are a bit too thin in the mix for my liking, making them sound distant and somewhat blurry at times. This of course has nothing to do with the drummer’s skills, it’s simply a recording or production issue. This kept the album from showing its full potential, even though it’s impressive as it is anyway.
All this being said, System Overthrow is an album well worth your attention and time.