Shrapnel - Palace For The Insane review


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Band: Shrapnel
Album: Palace For The Insane
Release date: May 2020

01. Might Of Cygnus
02. Salt The Earth
03. Vultures Circle
04. Cannibal
05. Begin Again
06. Bury Me Alive
07. Turn Off The Lights
08. Infernal Choir
09. The Mace
10. Violent Now, Forever
11. Future Sight
12. Palace For The Insane

Almost again.

One of the leading lights in the UK underground thrash scene are East Anglia's Shrapnel, a band who have long paid their dues and appeared across countless shows across the UK over their decade-plus-long career, building a fanbase from blood, sweat and tears. The band always had it in them to take things to the next level, but for whatever reason they have remained an underground phenomenon, accruing more miles on the odometer and an increasingly long list of thrash luminaries that they have propped up the bill for. Palace For The Insane sees the band hit the reset button as such; with a new line-up, the band aim to make a new start and use their prior reputation as a means for a jump start. While it shares much in common with their prior work, it does add some new wrinkles and directions to the sonic arsenal they're already sitting pretty on top of.

As noted earlier, this incantation of Shrapnel sees the departure of long time vocalist Hadley, bassist Beschorner and drummer Grimley, and the return of Williams on drums (last heard on the band's The Devastation To Come EP), along with the introduction of Tucker, who steps up to the microphone with bass in tow. This new-look version of the band adds a level of edge and harshness that adds an extra dimension to the music, giving songs like "Cannibal" and "Begin Again" a lease of life that may not have worked as well without the frankly menacing vocals of Tucker. There are two sides to every coin though, and the flipside to this particular coin is that the band conjures up the similarities that fellow UK thrashers Xentrix had recently undergone with their own reset on Bury The Pain, trading in on a wider pool of potential but at the expense of some of their own identity.

With that said, the trade-off does pay off in spades, with much of the album featuring a high level of quality and diversity that will raise the pulse of any fan of thrash or harder edged metal to dangerously high levels. From the aforementioned slower tracks like "Cannibal" to all-out dyed-in-the-wool thrashers ala "Turn Off The Lights" and "The Mace" and the groove-orientated heavy hitters "Vultures Circle" and "Violent Now, Forever", the band are deft hands at producing quality tracks of each style such that they make the most of the 53-minute run time and fill it with strong ideas.

While long-established fans may bemoan the shift away from the semi-hardcore element the band always had lingering in their music (if so in structure, sound and approach rather than outright in the music), it is a valid point to an extent. It was something the band had done very well to this point and benefitted from; with the band casting their net so wide, it is an omission that does leave you somewhat wanting, although given that this is a semi-reset, it is something fans of this style will have to take in their stride.

What the band also are not quite able to amputate from their past is that for as close as they get to crossing that line between good and great, they never fully make that transition. As compelling as the album is, they hit a glass ceiling repeatedly and with force but while it may crack, it never shatters for the band. It is a roadblock the band has encountered before and while they have all the pieces in order to overcome this obstacle, it doesn't take hold somehow.

Palace For The Insane is a much cleaner and polished album production-wise, sounding like the band were taking the step up to academies from clubs in their sonics, if not in reality. Like a shot across the bow, it is a statement of intent from the band that they are ready to move into a higher league and want their songs to sound the part. Enabling the music to sound crisp without blunting its impact by polishing away its rougher edges, Shrapnel find a perfect median in which to occupy.

Where the band have been making ripples in the water, Palace For The Insane churns the seas so that they soon become waves for Shrapnel to ride to the shore. Palace For the Insane is a solid listen that just lacks that special something to take the band up to the next level. As it is, the album is a very enjoyable listen and one that offers a bright future for the band.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 8


Written on 08.10.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.

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