Jungle Rot – Kill On Command (2011)

Posted: June 22, 2011 in Music

On of metal’s best kept secrets comes in the form of Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Jungle Rot. The band has been around seemingly forever (since 1994), but outside of their loyal fan base, the band has only received attention from the underground media over their career. Sure, they’ve played the shows and festivals and have managed to release a steady flow of albums and EPs over the years, but due to poor marketing from a variety of small, forgettable labels, not many have heard of these guys.

The band recently signed with heavyweight label Victory Records – and it appears that Jungle Rot is about to get themselves some exposure to a wider audience and MUCH better promotion. It’s about god damn time. If they want to play in the big leagues, though, they better bring their “A-Game.” The first attempt at that is the band’s 8th studio released June 21st – Kill On Command.

In modern times, it seems that almost ever metal band has some sort of “gimmick” to make them stand out from the rest – a female singer, a keyboardist, crazy makeup and costumes, background symphonies, pig squeals, etc. Jungle Rot has none of these, which may be why they’ve had trouble breaking through the scene. What they do have, though, is a relentless approach to old school thrash/speed/death metal that falls wholly on the writing and performing. It takes me back to to the days of Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Sodom, when all that really mattered was the music.

The album takes no time setting the tone, as the opener “Their Finest Hour” blasts through with the type of thrash metal fury one would expect from these veterans. The guitars are frenetic, yet clean and technical, and the drums pound so hard it makes your spine tingle. The vocals are coarse, but Dave Matrise (vocals/guitars) stays one step back from the full on growl, making him coherent throughout. This is a good thing, as the songs are as brutal lyrically as they are musically. Usually, a five minute song of this style tends to grows tedious, but not here. In fact, I was upset the track was over, and couldn’t wait for the next.

Continuing the break-neck speed of the opener, “Blood Ties” presents a steady, chugging masterpiece of modern thrash. The blast beat breakdown midway through only adds to the driving beat that pummels you throughout the entire track. The lyric “Baptized in metal!” comes up a few times – and it’s obvious these guys were. A racing solo finishes the back end of the track perfectly, and we’re off to a great start for this album.

“Rise & Revolt” is the first official single from this release. Ironically, it’s also one of the weaker tracks. While the rest of the album is brick-shitting heavy, this track feels a bit distracted. It’s not a bad song, but feels like the intent was to easy back on the throttle a little. It has the potential to pull in an audience unfamiliar with the band (see video below), and if they get new fans from it – mission accomplished. For the seasoned ear, however, there has already been (and will continue to be) better tracks on the disc.

The album’s title track comes next, and eases the listener in with a quiet intro of single-note sustain and building drums. The pace has definitely changed a bit here, as the track moves methodically along to a chorus of bass guitar and high hats. Much more of a death metal feel as well, which gets it’s accent from strong vocals and some echoing guitars and backing screams at the end. A nice departure that still resonated heaviness.

Just after catching our breath, “Demoralized” throws us right back into the mosh pit. Borrowing a very Slayer-esque vibe, the track shows off it’s structure and groove, throwing in a downright nasty guitar solo near the end. Definitely the strongest track on the album, in my opinion.

A freight-train of a solo greets us on “Push Come To Shove”, another thrash anthem. Any concerns that this was getting a little repetitive were erased by an earthquake of a breakdown near the 2:00 mark. Loaded with chugga-chugga riffs and machine-gun blast beats, the last half of this song kept the train from derailing. I couldn’t help wondering, though, if the best of this album was now behind us.

“I Predict A Riot” was as fast as anything else on the album. The drums were complicated, intense, and showcased more here than anywhere else on the CD. The guitars remained tight as ever, but it felt like Matrise’s vocals were wearing out. They just didn’t seem to have the same strength here as on previous tracks, almost as if the entire album’s vocals were tracked in one take, and he was just running out of gas. Still a decent tune…

The groove-heavy “No Mercy” has the vocals back on track. The vibe again shifts here towards more death metal, but it was the perfect place for it. There were several obvious openings here for a solo or two that were intentionally passed over, but it didn’t take anything away from the overall appeal of the song. The intent is much more direct here, and the album continues to build upon itself as we head to the finish line.

From a lyrical standpoint, the best was saved for (near) last here, as “Born of Contagion” has the deepest, most thought-provoking writing of the bunch. The track also lends itself close to a “hardcore” vibe, but it works. When you want the lyrics heard, dial back the drums and guitars a bit – which was the obvious intent here.

The closer “Life Negated” didn’t carry the punch I would have expected based on the strength of the rest of the album. It had nowhere near the depth or weight the previous tracks carried, and was frankly a bit of a disappointment. A shift in pace towards the end almost redeemed it for me, but ultimately missed its mark. The one thing it did make me do is go back and listen to the albums opener again – just to make sure I left the session with a good taste in my mouth.

Overall, I would grade this a decent major-label debut from a band that is obviously well-crafted at making great heavy metal. There were a few hiccups along the way, but if we need a band to pack the new-school kids’ sack lunch with the old-school sound – Jungle Rot is a better choice than most.

7.5/10

Tracklist:
01 – Their Finest Hour
02 – Blood Ties
03 – Rise Up & Revolt
04 – Kill On Command
05 – Demoralized
06 – Push Comes To Shove
07 – I Predict A Riot
08 – No Mercy (From The Merciless)
09 – Born Of Contagion
10 – Life Negated

http://www.amazon.com/Kill-Command-Jungle-Rot/dp/B004XD02ZI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308767244&sr=8-1

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

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