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No one throws a party like Power Trip. In the years since their 2008 inception, the Dallas crossover quintet has come to embody the platonic ideal of heavy metal escapism, in person and on record. Genre boundaries get blown to smithereens during their rambunctious, pretension-free concerts; they’ll play with anyone who’s willing to get noisy, be it New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia, moody post-punk outfit Merchandise, or black metal darlings Deafheaven. Power Trip’s excellent debut album, 2013’s Manifest Decimation, further solidified this reputation by translating their live ferocity to wax. One album on, nine years in, Power Trip have mastered the rager. They now turn their focus to widespread revelry with Nightmare Logic—a mission that goes off with a big, beautiful bang.
Nightmare Logic doesn’t find Power Trip making any significant shifts to the no-holds-barred approach they showcased so powerfully on their debut. It’s an LP crafted in its predecessor’s literal spitting image, from the proliferative gang vocals and thrash beatdowns right down to the eight-track runtime and gory old-school artwork. Frontman Riley Gale still huffs, puffs, and howls like a rabid wolf, a feral intermediary through which the band issues blistering, occasionally loony indictments of corrupt politicians (“Ruination”) and greedy, polluting CEOs (“If Not Us Then Who”). Gale’s bandmates match these screeds with litanies of their own: particularly guitarist Blake Ibanez, a hardcore titan (and occasional shoegazer) whose slithering riffs incessantly run amok. Even the audience can’t escape Power Trip’s leaden censure. On “Waiting Around to Die,” Gale delivers this sputtering, incendiary pep talk with a rage so palpable you can almost feel it shaking you by the shoulders: “You’re waiting around to die, how can you live with it?/Just waiting around to die, AND I CAN’T FUCKING STAND IT!!!”
Thrash has always been a goofy genre with a morbid sense of humor: a direct consequence of the genre’s primordial days in the Reagan era, when trolling the silent majority doubled as a pre-eminent past-time and a form of protest. Like their peers Iron Reagan and Skeletonwitch, Power Trip view the impending apocalypse as a cause for celebration, powered by schadenfreude. Evangelical Christians are treated to particularly hilarious roastings. “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe),” the album’s best song, sees Gale calling the bluff of all those Bible-Belters who’d so passionately pleaded for the arrival of the man upstairs, only to come face-to-face with the titular killer-for-hire when the End of Days finally arrives. “You’ve prayed for so long, and now you have your chance/The executioner’s here, and he’s sharpening his axe!”
Power Trip’s new attention to detail pushes Nightmare Logic over the edge. It’s abundantly clear that they’ve spent hours at the dissection table with Manifest Decimation, amplifying—but not recycling—its best hooks and theatrics, trimming off the static scar tissue. They’ve chopped a few seconds of extraneous riffing here, a repeated breakdown there; it’s an impressive operation, considering their debut was plenty lean and mean. The nit-picking pays off, as Nightmare Logic outmatches the preceding LP across all verticals, from cohesion and catchiness to impact and atmosphere.
The band’s secret weapon remains producer and Sumerlands guitarist Arthur Rizk, or as I like to call him, the Ariel Rechtshaid of heavy music; Code Orange’s Forever and Prurient’s Frozen Niagara Falls are just two of the bevy of ambitious records he’s worked on. A master of dynamic contrast and sonic feints, Rizk’s the textbook definition of a board-wizard. Under his command, Ibanez’s already-huge tremolo riffs on “Executioner’s Tax”, “Firing Squad,” and the title track become hulking, like a stampede of hellish racehorses against the thundering backbeat. Meanwhile, in the back of the mix, the rhythm section ebbs and flows to accommodate the axework, ensuring sustained impact and easy passage from one ripper to the next. Rizk again runs Gale’s yelps through a heap of effects, rendering every syllable an echo-laden boom from on high. And in spite of its sheer heft, Rizk makes Nightmare Logic a crisp, nuanced listen; like the band themselves, he strikes a rare balance between modern intricacy and old-school aggression, nodding to tradition without over-relying on tropes.
You don’t need to be a metalhead to have a blast with Nightmare Logic. Screamed sardonics, persistent chug, and apocalyptic melodrama are all acquired tastes, sure. But Power Trip’s fist-pumping choruses, ricocheting grooves, and ample charm are so animated that they leave us with something addictive and, well, fun. Just like Metallica, the Texans pitch a big tent, where the only prerequisite for entry is a willingness to splash around in the bloodbath for half an hour. With Nightmare Logic, there’s a good chance you’ll stick around for a good, long soak.Share