There is something that became quite apparent in the opening moments of After All's This Violent Decline. Thrash lives on in the hearts of many. For a moment I thought I had slipped back into the thrashy days of the 80s. You remember, back when bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, and Exodus ruled the metal scene.
After All takes those sounds of yesteryear, adds a more modern spin, and spits out hardcore tinged heavy thrash that will make you want to jump in the pit and cause some damage. This Violent Decline is also an invigorating mixture of melody and hardcore. Man, this album definitely has some brutality. This is no emo/screamo/metalcore, this aims to tear your head of, and it nearly will.
Hailing from Belgium this quintet delivers a thick crushing sound that will bring to mind memories of early Testament and Slayer (check the opening of "Sacrament for the Damned" and try not to be reminded of "Seasons in the Abyss") mixed with a little bit of Hatebreed. While those other bands may cross your mind, by the time it is all said and done you will be left wanting more After All.
From the skull crushing opening of "Frozen Skin" your blood begins to boil. The first few songs move forward at an ever-quickening pace. Never slowing, never letting up. Why should they? After All is not here to pander to your emotional sensitivities, they are here to sandblast the flesh from your bones and leave you quivering in the corner whimpering for more.
The production is polished to a raw finish. Meaning, this is no amateur recording, but it is not so polished that it removes the semblance of the live atmosphere. I get the feeling what you hear on the CD is exactly what you will get in the live environment. That is with the added bonus of a seething, swirling pit of bodies surging in front of the stage as they throw down.
This Violent Decline clocks in at a lean 38.5 minutes. After All does not waste any time on the superfluous. Big, crushing rhythms, driving drums, a think back end, growled vocals, some nicely melodic solos and on to the next song. I cannot say it is the most original sound, but the blending of old and new school thrash does have that feeling of freshness.
If I had to criticize them for anything, it would be the vocals from Piet Focroul. It is not that they are bad, but his voice does not particularly stand out. The heart and soul of the band lies in the dual guitar work of Dries Van Damme and Christophe Depree. These two throw down some thick rhythmic walls of crushing sonic power, but also have strong moments of melody and a few speedy solos. The rhythm section of bassist Erwin Casier and drummer Kevin Strubbe is not to be overlooked either. Pay particular attention to Strubbe who offers up a good dose of driving drums that don't feel repetitive.
Proving that while their sound is more or less straight up thrash they still have a sense of experimentation. This is shown in the short instrumental "Monolith #11." It is a song that slows the pace a little, and plays up their melodic side. It is a pretty good way to break up the album, allow a little bit of a breather from the thrash surrounding on both sides while not sacrificing any of their ability.
Bottomline. Looking for something that brings back the old days of metal, but with a distinctly modern sound? After All is a band to check out. They bring the heavy and layer on the thrash. No pretentions of grandeur, just skull crushing metal that will leave wanting for more. Thankfully, all you need to do is press "play" again.