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Life, acceptance and death. If Catalan thrash outfit Reaktion had a fourth album about taxes, we’d have a complete set about what we can expect from being alive. I mean, all credit to them, they’d likely make an album about taxes an all-time headbanging great, if their latest effort To Expect Nothing, is anything to go by. The third part of their trilogy representing the cycle of life, To Expect Nothing feels like far more than a conclusion – rather, it stands head and shoulders as their best album so far, a jumping-off point for far bigger things in the future.
But let’s focus on where we are. Contrary to their two previous releases, debut album Blackmailed Existence and 2019’s Learning to Die, the band have played around with some new styles, straying a little further from their pure thrash outlook. It shows, though it takes nothing away from what they do best. For a band who released their debut album only a few years ago, Reaktion have carved out their place in the annals of thrash metal history very quickly, and with that created their own distinct flavour. Showcased spectacularly on this album, the sound of their Catalan roots and their take on thrash is at its most pure and aggressive. Angry voices are being heard here, no doubt. There are influences present, of course; streaks of Sepultura throughout, a touch of Phil Anselmo here and there in more than one track. But for the most part, what we are hearing here is a group who are hitting their stride.
They’re doing it with very little loose skin, too - there is no wasted space here. At just under 36 minutes long, this is an album that is upfront about what it needs to say and up front with how it says it. The slow build-up of the first minute of the opening track Overreaktion is probably the only indulgence on show here; the rest is a tightly focused barrage of thematic lyrics and instruments polished to a blinding shine. This runs into the second track The Immortal Unreason at the same blistering pace, barely giving you a chance to catch your breath. The third track, Before Your Eyes, is a thumping anthem that is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser and given that it’s back-to-back with Bleeding of Memories, it creates a one-two punch that it was impossible to stop myself from nodding along to.
Obsessions starts slowly but gets up to the expected pace after very little time, the onslaught of Xavi F. Vidal’s drums blasting away lead singer Ivan Lara’s slightly more dream-like opening section. By the time we get to the title track To Expect Nothing, I was starting to get concerned that Vidal had been replaced by some sort of impeccable drumming robot they’d brought in; he’s relentless behind the kit, with every fill and roll like endless lightning strikes. There is a shift in the sound of Rainy Fridays City that took me by surprise on first listen – the thrash takes a backseat and plays undertone to a groovier, almost heavy-metal leaning that works remarkably well. Then, the band drops that as quickly as they started it and it’s back to the thrash for The Curse of the Wisdom which, while it feels a little like a blunt tool after the very stylish previous song, is a blunt tool that does exactly the job it needs to do. Primarily, beating us over the head with more great music.
With H.K.K (Human Kind Kills) providing an absolutely killer song I just know I’m going to accidentally catch an elbow to the side of the head in a pit at some point in the future, I finished up what was probably my third or fourth listen and remembered I actually had to write down something about the record, rather than just enjoying it. That’s the thing with this album, it’s so easy to just let it hit you and far too tempting to not want more of the same. It’s an album of such high quality, both in the theme and the musicianship. Lara showcases his range across the 10 tracks on display – his usual raspy yet melodic voice substituted for low growls and impressively high screams where needed. The guitar work is unashamedly in your face and aggressive; when “Gufy” Revoredo and Alvaro de Prado aren’t kicking down doors together, they’re trading blows over and over. It’s technically excellent from start to finish and nothing gets lost or overshadowed, which means the quality of the music is consistently fantastic throughout.
I think the notion of assurance that the band have in this album can be summed up by one thing – the first single release, Breathing Silence, is the last song on the album. That’s a decision that screams ‘we are equally proud of every single track on this album’ and, given the evidence, they deserve that level of assurance. The trilogy of life, acceptance and death – a story told in three parts. And while not many would say that the third part of that trilogy is the best when it comes to real life, Reaktion have told a story of life in three parts that ends with the strongest and best of their efforts. People, gather round - this is a must-listen.
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