March 4, 2024

Arizona’s Atrophy are another cult thrash band from the late Eighties which vanished in the grunge haze way too soon. Their debut Socialized Hate (1988) showcased some piercing riffs, varied song structure and was a bit more thrashy than the follow-up Violent By Nature (1990), which introduced a lot more groove and even mid-tempo hardcore influences. Atrophy disbanded in 1993 and reformed two decades later for a few festival appearances. Now, 35 years after their last album, the band is here with their long awaited third full-length Asylum, coming out on March 15th.

When I read the news last year that Atrophy will surprise us with a new album, I couldn’t help being more than a bit skeptical. The reason was their line up in 2024 features only one original member – vocalist Brian Zimmerman. There is some kind of a drama involved here with the other original members forming their own band called Scars Of Atrophy, with Brian obviously keeping the rights to the band name. Atrophy’s line-up is completed by Nathan Montalvo (lead guitar), Mark Coglan (rhythm guitar), Josh Gibbs (bass) and Jonas Shütz (drums), with Mark being the longest serving member, since 2021. Today I found out the band is looking for a new drummer, so there will be changes once more. So, let’s see if Brian and Co. have done justice to the Atrophy name.

The first positive sign is the killer album artwork, with the inclusion of the band’s evil clown mascot we know from Socialized Hate, which is a nice touch and adds credibility. Next thing that floored me from the first few minutes was the stellar production – very aggressive, fat and punchy, reminiscent of the production heard on the last Overkill album. Asylum was produced, mixed and mastered by Alex Parra (guitarist of Cauldron Born and Sadistic Ritual) in Second Sight Studio and I can bet this guy will be a famous and sought-after producer really soon. Punishment For All is everything we’ve loved Atrophy for in the first place – brutal, in-your-face guitars, varied but overall fast tempo, striking precision of the rhythm section and the amazing vocals of Brian, which are even better now that in the classic albums. High Anxiety follows in much the same vein, while Seeds Of Sorrow adds even more aggression and brutality to the picture with the speed rarely decreased. The trademark social commentary in Brian’s lyrics is present once again, focusing on societal ills, from the insurrection to the brainwashing performed by the major news networks, and then also the obvious results from these on the people just struggling to live their lives. Each of the songs in the album shows the amazing talent of Nathan Montalvo, who just plays a masterclass in guitar with some over-the-top, jaw-dropping solos. This 35-year-old musician, is relatively unknown, but steals the show here. The solos in Bleeding Out and Close My Eyes are maybe the best of the bunch but there is a not a weak spot in this guy’s playing. There are two guest appearances with Kragen Lum (Heathen) playing leads in American Dream and Justin Stear (Alphakill) playing bass in three songs. The Apostle dials down the tempo a little bit, sounding close to something off Violent By Nature, with another ripping solo from Montalvo, while the closing, six-minute Five Minutes ‘Til Suicide starts and ends with atmospheric acoustics, with the main part blowing your teeth off with groovy, heavy guitars, stop-start tempo and amazing lunatic vocals.

Atrophy have silenced all doubts with Asylum and have released a fantastic comeback album, which not only is up to par with their beloved old classics but could easily sit as their best yet. When I think of something similar that has happened, I can only point to Heathen and their amazing album The Evolution Of Chaos, which destroyed the competition in much the same way back in 2010. Asylum is a thrasher’s wet dream and everything you could wish for in this genre, with a guaranteed place in my end-of-year top ten.

10/10


Atrophy in Facebook

Asylum will be out on March 15th and you can order it from HERE