If there is one name that gets me up-and-about regarding Thrash Metal it’s the mighty Holy Terror from Los Angeles. Responsible for possibly the greatest Thrash masterpiece of all time in 1987’s ‘Terror & Submission’ – if it isn’t part of your wheelhouse or you simply have no idea what/or who I’m taking about, then really we just cannot be friends!
One half of the dual guitar team that laid down said album (and 88’s just as colossal Mind Wars) was Mike Alvord. Referencing his former band’s second album as his bands name, Mindwars have now put forth their third album ‘Do Unto Others’ (Dissonance Productions) since Mike resurfaced in 2013. In fact, the said title is also another Holy Terror reference as it appears as track 8 on their second album! If it isn’t clear by now, Mike Alvord clearly misses his former band. Are the references too much? Fuck it, Mike is absolutely allowed that luxury such is the majesty of Holy Terror.
Now, if you are expecting a re-tread of former glories, then you probably need to lower your expectations. However, it needs to be stated that the ghosts and spirit of Mike’s former band is lovingly scattered throughout this eleven-track platter. Hell, the vicious opening salvo of ‘The Fourth Turning’ could have you thinking that this was indeed, lifted from 1987. Even the production has that ripping, flowing sound that only former side-kick and guitarist Kurt Kilfelt could muster. Clearly Mike is mindful of pushing the influences too far (and you can add any 80’s thrash gods in here – Slayer-isms, Testament-isms, loads of other isms!) and offers up a variation of the style with some tasteful Hard Rock mid-tempo to almost doom like slower sections. Still, when Mike unleashes those right/left channel intro riffs before the band kicks in…wow, the nostalgic Holy Terror vibe is simply unmistakable. Speed Kills!
There is also a dark seething anger in the riffage tracked here, almost a Punkish/Blackened Thrash edge in some parts. Combined with a sinister lyrical stance and some wild untethered solo work (check ‘In God’s Name & Allegiance to Death’) , the whole thing is, more or less, a lesson in frantic raging aggression – Make no mistake, this is not your bright shiny re-thrash that earlier comments may have led you to believe. Mindwars have their own take with a load more substance.
So what’s not to love? Well, if there is going to be a complaint about anything it’s possibly with Mike’s vokill approach. It is a unique style and one that may hold back the material from being a little stronger in delivery. Having said that, all I hear is a mash up of Tom G Warrior/Ron Royce and the darker, lower register snarl of Dave Mustaine. That should work hey? Look, Mike isn’t setting vokill standards alight with his presentation here and expecting Keith Deen (RIP to the Lord) to drop by any time is just not realistic. For all of Mike’s limitations, I don’t think it diminishes the final product too much at all. All I can say is, don’t be too presumptuous and dismissive. It works well enough.
It also needs to be stated that Mindwars as a band, is but a trio! And whilst Mike Alvord doubles in both the riff and lead duties there is a significant tightness to the bands musical structure. The backing rhythm section of Danny ‘Z’ Pizzi (bass) and Robby Vitari (drums) works a treat and both provide plenty of room for Mike to dance all over the shop with his shredding masterclass. I’d be interested to see how the band comes across in a live setting!
As an unabashed Thrash fan, I am simply over the moon that a band like Mindwars exists. I’m estatic that Mike Alvord and the spirit of the mighty Holy Terror lives on. Look, there is no reinvention here. Absolutely, not! Having said that, Mindwars manages to still sound like its own beast! And that’s the point isn’t it? – this is Mike Alvord doing what he’s always done best – Speed killing Thrash with character! ‘Do Unto Others’ may overstay its welcome by a track or two, but its vibrancy with the added nod to the old school of yesteryear will easily cater for your Thrash cravings.