Metal isn’t exempt from rock ‘n’ roll’s chronic reappraisal of past styles, and it’s just as full of retro bands that just about get the sound right but can’t reproduce the soul of the original stuff. This split brings together six new tracks by Landmine Marathon and Scarecrow, two bands that revolutionize nothing but exhume well-established styles pretty damn well. The two bands couldn’t be much more dissimilar — Arizona’s Landmine Marathon emphasizes aggression over riff-craft, San Francisco’s Scarecrow goes vice versa — but this actually works in the listener’s favor. The pairing feels complementary, and the music feels familiar and comfy, assuming you’ve been listening to tinnitus-inducing music with any regularity.
The three tracks by Landmine Marathon tweak ever so slightly the template laid down on the band’s debut, Wounded (2006). They favor the hyper-speed, sloppy riffing of early grindcore bands like Terrorizer and Napalm Death, with a bit of Bolt Thrower’s repetitive groove and obsession with war themes. “Skin from Skull” makes better use of Landmine Marathon’s two-guitar lineup than usual, throwing in a proper guitar solo (atypical for older grind bands) and some Death-style parallel fourth action in with all the face-ripping bludgeon. Lead harpy Grace Perry possesses an awfully formidable scream, and although Landmine Marathon isn’t so big on charisma or personality, the band’s brute force is plenty impressive on its own.
Unique among the hordes of Bay Area metal revivalists, Scarecrow reenacts the ornamented thrash of early Metallica instead of Exodus or Vio-Lence’s perpetual upbeat gallop. The twirly riffs in “The Scum Also Rises” and processional intro to “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” hark back to the days before Hetfield and Ulrich began pissing away their legacy via middle-age rock-star tantrums and a steady stream of awful albums. Leading man Matt Harvey can’t touch Jimbo vocally, but he turns in a thoughtful critique of power a la And Justice for All on “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” and lead guitarist Bud Burke deserves special mention for his fleet Hammett tribute act.
Harvey founded old-school death-metallers Exhumed and thrash throwbacks Dekapitator, and each of the other members is a veteran of several local bands — the history shows in the energy and craft of Scarecrow’s half of this split. Even if the upcoming Rick Rubin-produced Metallica album doesn’t capture the band’s old thrash fire (and let’s be honest, it probably won’t), we can trust Scarecrow to kill ’em all like it’s ’85 all over again.
Landmine Marathon: http://www.landminemarathon.com
Level Plane: http://www.level-plane.com