CD Review: Full Frontal Assault-Conquerer

Full Frontal Assault’s new record comes as a bit of a surprise, as the band hasn’t been active in a good number of years. Recorded shortly before the bands demise, Conqueror finds FFA at their creative peak, showing what could’ve been if band tensions hadn’t broken them apart.

Musically, FFA’s an epic, genre-blending melodic approach to thrash metal that most often recalls At The Gates (FFA’s sole cited influence on their website) and early In Flames, but is unafraid to pull from black metal (track 5), slow down and explore a single melodic theme (track 3). An extended violin and mandolin section closes track 6. Track 7 opens with a mournful piano dirge. The growled vocals are buried in the mix, and are mostly incomprehensible, mostly serving as texture and punctuation where needed. Much more prominent is are guitarists Jimmy Kastelic and Bobby Lind, whose dueling solos can be at times jaw-dropping in both skill and scope. There is rarely a point at which one of them is not doing something impressive.

FFA has a fierce urgency to their music that can be brutal but never loses sight of its focus: shredding. And shredding abounds on Conqueror. The disc is an overwhelming showcase of its members’ virtuosity, most of its songs stretch beyond 8 minutes. This is at least 70 minutes worth of music condensed into 9 songs. Despite its rampant melodicism, Conqueror is not a pop record. But it is a metal record, and what a metal record it is.