ALBUM REVIEW: Warbeast’s “Enter the Arena”

ARTIST: Warbeast + ALBUM: Enter the Arena + LABEL: Housecore Records + RELEASED: AUG 4, 2017

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Dallas-Fort Worth’s Warbeast are back with their latest (and possibly final) album, Enter the Arena. The thrash metal stalwarts offer 10 songs, over 50-plus minutes, that will make you instantly forget every other metal album you bought this year. Yes, it’s that good. Sounding truly inspired, angry, and at the top of their game, the band succeeds in delivering an album that doesn’t sound like a throwback to the glory days of thrash metal, but rather something that sounds current and exhilarating.

There’s certainly an undeniable pedigree that powers the band. It’s two founding members have more than 30 years in the game. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt fronted the incomparable Rigor Mortis and lead guitarist Scott Shelby first made his mark on the scene with his band Gammacide (whose Victims of Science LP is among the best underground thrash albums of all time). The two formed Warbeast a decade ago and have proven to be a formidable tandem of songwriters and performers. In recent years, the band has had a few lineup changes that has added some young blood into the band. Drummer Joey “Blue” Gonzalez (who also plays in Superjoint), bassist Lyric Ferchaud, and guitarist Drew Shoup bring a palatable energy and intensity to the songs on Enter the Arena. 

The album kicks off with “Centuries of Poisoned Soil,” a 7-minute track that instantly grabs you by the throat and drags you through various time-changes, breakdowns, and relentless riffage. “Poisoned Soil” is also a great showcase for all the band members. Most importantly, on this track and the rest of the album, the mix is stellar. All instruments and players can be clearly heard and they’re certainly firing on all cylinders. Gonzalez tirelessly pummels his drums, be it with ground-shaking double-bass or maniacal blast-beats. Bassist  Lyric Ferchaud delivers some great bass work and the song also features his custom-made bass that adds a percussive element most akin to a sledgehammer pounding a two-by-four. Guitarists Drew Shoup and Scott Shelby shred through their riffs with precision and Mr. Corbitt sounds as great as ever. Indeed, this song is the perfect lead-off track as it sets up the rest of the album in terms of the musicianship you can expect over the following nine tracks.

A few of the songs here are classic Warbeast.  “Punishment for Gluttony,” “Maze of the Minotaur,” and “Ancient Hate” could serve as the soundtrack to a riot. Decibel Magazine is streaming “Minotaur” now if you need a taste of the greatness. Shelby delivers a delirious guitar solo and the rhythm section is unyielding as they drive the song forward. “Hitchhiker” and “Orchestration of Violence” are also stand-out tracks as they mercilessly tear into your eardrums. “Chemicals Consuming,” “The Scalping,” and “Conjuration with the Devil” are each dark and venomous songs that make the second side of the album just as powerful as the first. Indeed, “Chemicals” has some of Shelby’s best soloing and “Conjuration” some of Corbitt’s best vocals. Individual performances are mentioned here, but collectively the band sounds like a single-minded unit on a mission to surpass their previous output. Spoiler alert: They succeed on every level.

It wouldn’t be hard to write another 500 words about Enter the Arena. But, at this point your punk ass should just buy it and hear it for yourself. If you’re a metalhead or just appreciate loud and intense music in general, Warbeast will not let you down. If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and can’t wait until August to get your hands on this album, make your way to the Rail Club on July 14th for the album release show.  If you want to know more about the backstory to each song, check out Corbitt and Shelby’s track-by-track preview.

– J. Kevin Lynch

Track List:

  1. Centuries of Poisoned Soil (7:00)
  2. Punishment for Gluttony (4:51)
  3. Orchestration of Violence (4:05)
  4. Maze of the Minotaur (5:56)
  5. Hitchhiker (4:46)
  6. Chemicals Consuming (6:26)
  7. Enter the Arena (3:09)
  8. The Scalping (5:45)
  9. Conjuration with the Devil (5:16)
  10. Ancient Hate (5:39)

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