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Power Trip - Opening Fire 2008-2014 Music Album Reviews

This collection of early recordings from the Texas thrash powerhouse makes it clear that their influences and focus set them apart from the thrash revival they followed.

If you’re not from Texas, your first exposure to Dallas thrash resuscitators Power Trip possibly came through one of their two excellent studio albums, like 2016’s Nightmare Logic, a rare crossover moment for the metal underground. No shame: Their fury is unmatched in modern thrash. But if you were a hardcore fan or even a hardcore-curious metal kid in Texas, you’ve known what Power Trip can bring maybe for a decade now. Released digitally in April and now out physically, Opening Fire collects Power Trip’s earlier EPs and compilation appearances, made mostly before their 2013 breakthrough debut, Manifest Decimation. Their debt to New York hardcore is more apparent in these formative tracks, which offer an elemental look at how they came to define thrash this decade.

Power Trip bested a thrash comeback they never really joined. Crossover was a big part of the mid-2000s thrash revival, epitomized by Municipal Waste and Warbringer. But those bands lifted from the West Coast tradition of Suicidal Tendencies, Cryptic Slaughter, and D.R.I. Power Trip instead tapped NYHC—specifically, Cro-Mags’ metal-leaning Best Wishes. What’s more, lead guitarist Blake Ibanez and rhythm guitarist Nick Stewart borrowed from the tight playing of Canada’s Razor, evident in songs like “This World” and “Divine Apprehension.” Razor eschewed Slayer’s looseness and the prog overtures of Megadeth in the name of pure velocity. When Power Trip sped up, they became a visceral storm. This different batch of thrash influences set them apart, allowing Power Trip to become their own band.

Instead of moving chronologically, Opening Fire begins with Power Trip’s self-titled 2011 EP. On “Divine Apprehension,” sprightly, major-key thrash tics ride above the maelstrom. “Suffer No Fool” captures the essence of Power Trip—thrash with unspeakable fury, combined with slower breakdown sections so the kids can let loose in the pit, all in less than three minutes. “Apprehension” and “Fool” set the tone for Decimation’s breakdown-filled “Crossbreaker,” whose larger-than-life gang vocals have made the song a live staple. With these songs, Chris Ulsh, a formidable figure in Texas hardcore with [Mammoth Grinder]( and Hatred Surge, joined Power Trip, then a few years old. He brings more fury and discipline to a band already brimming with both.

“This World,” from a 2014 compilation, sounds most like today’s Power Trip, with reverb crowning Riley Gale’s vocals and a beefy guitar tone riding alongside it. Meanwhile, an earlier version of “Hammer of Doubt,” a track that eventually made it to Decimation, signals the more relentless turn Power Trip would take, with Ibanez abusing his whammy bar as the band plows through fast verses. Though “World” and “Doubt” may be more familiar from Power Trip’s studio records, it’s telling to hear them in their infancy, stripped of some manipulated vocals, cavernous drums, and noise segues. What remains is an incredibly tight and energetic thrash band.

Fire’s second half revisits 2013’s The Armageddon Blues Sessions, a re-release of 2009’s Armageddon Blues, Power Trip’s first official release. They’re more blatant about their influences here, and these tracks thrive on the youthful charm of aping what you love. “Vultures” is their first experiment with Razor’s formula, and they almost nail it. “Armageddon Blues” and “Questions” brim with NYHC riffing and offer homages to Iron Age, the Austin group who served as spiritual mentors to Power Trip. Still, even here, Power Trip were wildly different and more serious than the Ed Repka-core that seemed to have arrived in droves. Opening Fire doesn’t just collect Power Trip’s roots, then; it demonstrates how they’ve used them to flourish more than their contemporaries, despite their delayed arrival.

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