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Thrust - Fist Held High


by Matt Hensch

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Excavating the dusty and urine-stained mausoleum of 80s metal often uncovers jewels of unfathomable worth, forgotten items rendered obscure by factors too exhaustive to list. Thanks to the internet and the growing interest in heavy metal, some of these gems may now reach new listeners and find the glory they so rightfully deserved many years ago. It turns out, as it always does, a number of these artifacts were probably swept under the rug for good reasons. Thrust, a heavy metal group from Chicago, captures without fault the more tedious and uninspiring edge of 80s metal throughout "Fist Held High," released way back in 1984. The nuance and grace of heavy metal legends at the time is something "Fist Held High" can't grasp, as though its hands were coated in grease as the chunk of rousing songwriting and captivating instrumental performances caught by some simply rolled off its fingers and thudded on the turf.

What Thrust does on "Fist Held High" sounds awesome in theory: the style and structure of Judas Priest driven marginally by the tenacity of speed/thrash metal bands in the vein of Exciter. Fascinatingly, the album completely lacks riffs with any bite, though the flairs of Priest and the slight speed metal influence color up the forgettable sequences to an extent. Another huge thing bogging down on this is the songwriting, which is utterly abysmal. Thrust mastered early on the art of repeating choruses over and over and over and over again-choruses that are pretty lame to begin with, mind you-without a sense of poise. These tracks manage to drone on for a few minutes, throwing out powerless Priest-driven riffs that are straightforward and harmless, while Thrust goes through the motions. Despite its appearance, this is not exciting stuff.

The vocals are what deserve a rotten tomato to the face more than anything else. You know, as a heavy metal fan, you sort of get used to singers who suck but make sense in context-take Dave Mustaine's work in classic Megadeth. These vocals, though, are absolutely insufferable. The dude here does this pseudo-falsetto thing that sounds like a speed metal vocalist gargling razor blades. His lower vocals remind me vaguely of King Diamond's, and they actually sound all right, but he mostly sticks to his Muppet mating call. Things get a little adventurous on "Freedom Fighters," but the eight-minute running time is wasted on repetition and the sheer lack of quality riffs and structures causing "Fist Held High" to sink. A valiant effort to branch out, but still no cigar.

Pointing out what "Fist Held High" gets right is much simpler than listing the far-reaching list of what it doesn't. The energy manages to brush up the general triteness surrounding these tunes, obviously enriched by care and the spirit of steel. The essence and jubilance of the metallic spirit help make the release a bit more tolerable, but energy itself has a hard time defending the utter banality of Thrust and their cult debut. The best song here is "Torture Chamber," a bit of a thrash-inspired number that rocks like an Exciter track always on the verge of exploding, and it works pretty well when it hits its peak. "Thrasher" lives up to its name, finally kicking the lackluster riffing attack into gear. There are six other cuts here that miss the mark in various degrees, only providing brief moments of heavy metal ecstasy. If we could cut the crap from "Fist Held High," there wouldn't be much left.

Thrust - Fist Held High
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