It's probably a coincidence, but let's go with it: just as thrash metal flourished amid the Cold War paranoia of the Reagan era, so 2020's innumerable horrors seem to have pushed the genre to fresh heights. WARFECT have been snarling and slashing their way through underground territory for over a decade now, but this sounds like just the kind of unequivocal elbow to the eyeball that the Swedes need to establish themselves as a major force. Just as recent albums by the likes of SHRAPNEL, ORMSKRIK and HOLYCIDE have bolstered the notion of yet another thrash renaissance, so "Spectre of Devastation" violently bridges the divide between old-school ethos and new school sonics, with aggression and melody shoved to the forefront with equal fortitude.
Put more simply, this fucking rips. From the opening battery of "Pestilence" onwards, WARFECT's simple but devastating formula hits the target. This is pure, red-blooded thrash metal to a great degree, but as much as the fastest moments recall the psychotic intensity of early KREATOR, SODOM and ONSLAUGHT, there's also a depth and maturity on display that feels closer in spirit to THE HAUNTED and, well, recent KREATOR. WARFECT also know how to weave some death metal riffs into their all-out, blood-splattered tapestry: "Colossal Terror", in particular, gleefully betrays a foam-mouthed debt to POSSESSED, while the brooding, black-hearted title track could be some bug-eyed cousin of SLAYER's "Seasons in the Abyss". Elsewhere, the anthemic and endearingly knuckleheaded "Hail Caesar" combines the expected speed-freakery with some churning, hard rock vibes, while "Left to Rot" edges into more adventurous pastures, with doomy atmospheres and a hint of blackened grandeur.
More importantly, WARFECT have written some distinctive and memorable songs here, blending different strains of thrash to form something undeniably familiar but stupidly exciting, nonetheless. "Witch Burner" is going to cause an outbreak of dangerous driving, for a start: nearly six minutes of high-octane, berserker thrash, it's the kind of song that you can guarantee will be played even faster live, at which point someone will upturn their beer on your head and stamp on your ankle. The only downside to the situation is that the closing "Dawn of the Red" doesn't push the adrenalin quite as far into the red, despite being a near-perfect thrash metal song. But if one sequencing misfire is the only thing about an album that doesn't rule harder than an Egyptian pharaoh, WARFECT must be doing everything else right. In a great year for thrash, this is yet another gem.