-- Basement Critters --
Review written by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels.
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
Back in 2015 I attended the charity festival Metal Against Child Cancer in Deerlijk, which kicked off with a very solid performance by the local metal band Basement Critters. Despite their opening slot, they gave the crowd a good time and even evoked a mosh pit! After that gig I kept in touch with frontman Thomas and eventually saw the band perform again at the Zingem Beeft festival in late 2019. Not only that, but the band were putting on the final touches of their long-awaited debut album, which I’m shredding right now.
“God Save Us As .JPEG” is the debut album from the Belgian crossover metal band Basement Critters, who formed in 2011 and who had earlier brought out an EP called “Hurt Me With The Truth” in 2016. “God Save Us As .JPEG” is released through Italian record label Wormholedeath who had personally sent me the album. Grazie mille!
The album begins with the deliciously anarchic “Profile” that directly shows several key ingredients of Basement Critters’ sound including clean, commanding vocals, melodic multi-layered guitars and groovy, hardcore inspired supporting beats. Next up is “Lucifer,” a faster tune that’s a typically thrash metal FU towards organized religion but this song’s melodic finale is especially epic. “FAQ” is a furious track with crossover thrash & hardcore influences, crispy bass lines and raging vocals. “Back From The Old Days” is another great track with sections of melodic riffs, marching rhythms, frequent tempo changes and anthemic lyrics. “Liar” takes things a bit slower, otherwise it’s a similar tune compared to the album’s earlier tracks.
"Hero_Dad” is one of the most unique tracks on “God Save Us As .JPEG,” the song mainly features an intimate, grieving atmosphere with occasional guitar explosions that gradually increase in number and intensity as the track progresses. Next up is “Track And Trace,” a track featuring powerful riffs and pounding drums, a sweet all kills, no frills tune with a hardcore twist near the song’s finale. “Point” is another fast & furious track with a dual barrage of harsh & melodic guitars and a catchy chorus. The album’s penultimate track, “Nobody From Nowhere” puts the pedal to the thrash metal with aggressive drums and sharp guitars and finally “Gadget Generation” features a moody guitar-heavy intro and one final but brutal rage against the social media machine.
One great element that I instantly noticed about Basement Critters’ style is Thomas’s vocal delivery. He has a consistently commanding tone in his voice that’s attention-grabbing and angry without overdoing it and while he mostly signs cleanly he sometimes ventures into desperate shouting or raw growling, both to good effect.
Another major positive about the band’s sound is their flexibility, they successfully incorporate elements from melodic, thrash & death metal along with a lot of 90s hardcore influences, the latter obviously inspired by the classic H8000 scene which the band members grew up with. Sometimes the band switches gears in the middle or end of the song, but often they incorporate many of those aforementioned elements together, such as the frequent parts wherein a harsh guitar riff is played alongside a more melodic one. And this seemingly random mixture of styles is still surprisingly balanced and effective.
The album’s cover art features a hangman wearing a shooting range targeting shirt while a random hand is aiming a .45 handgun to his head. On the background is a large crosshairs that’s probably from some fighter plane and a robotic eye that reminds me of the Terminator. But what I like the most about the artwork is the bright orange color scheme. It’s very unusual for a metal release to feature such flashy colors but I do like it a lot because it really stands out.
When it comes to themes, Basement Critters’ debut album features typically anti-establishment topics. The band rages against the crookedness of the government, the hypocrisy of organized religion, the increasing gap between rich & poor and the rise of social media & smartphones amongst other things. Nothing new of course, but it all fits very well within the band’s style and attitude.
[SHARPEST SHREDS & BLUNTEST BLADES]
I’ve got several favorites here, songs like “Profile,” “Lucifer” and “Point,” but the true standout track for me was “Hero_Dad,” especially thanks to Thomas’s vocal performance in In this song. Thomas mourns the sudden death of his beloved father as he desperately yells towards the heavens, wondering if his dad is up there, watching over and listening to him. And Thomas’s excruciating grief is further emphasized by the heavy & moody guitars. It’s a true gem of a track with a theme that, sadly, a lot of people can relate to.
Any weak tracks, well, “Liar” felt a bit like a filler tune to me since it didn’t have the same punch as most of the other tracks on “God Save Us As .JPEG.” Other than that, I’ve got not much else to say, except for giving this long-awaited album a well-deserved…
8 JPEGs out of 10. It took a while for Basement Critters to get this album out of the door, but the end result is well worth the wait. With a meticulous blend of melodic, thrash, groove & death metal spiced up by classic hardcore influences this is one great release for lovers of both old & new school heaviness. Here’s “Lucifer!”