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One of the latest underground hopefuls is Recon By Fire, who formed in Warsaw in 2014, and released a two-track digital demo a year later. Recon by fire, sometimes referred to as speculative fire, is a warfare tactic in which military forces fire on possible enemy positions to prompt a reaction, thus confirming the presence and position of enemy forces. The girls play a contemporary thrash/groove metal variant that is influenced by the archetypical European and American institutions of the genre – while also drawing from other non-metallic sources such as classic rock. “Into the Fire” is short demonstration of what direction the girls intend to aim at.

The biggest asset of Recon By Fire as a band is its more varied riff set and better lead – and bass guitar playing in comparison to its most visibile South American competitor Nervosa. Magda Piędzia’s tight rhythm playing and Alexandra Musielewicz’ explosive soloing are what elevate Recon By Fire from the average retro thrash metal act. Anna Lewandowska isn’t on the same technical level as the late Roger Patterson (Atheist), Cliff Burton (Metallica) or Steve DiGiorgio (Autopsy, Death, Testament, et al) as of yet but her funky, burly licks and adamant refusal to simply double the guitar riffs is one of her strongest traits, and should be further deepened out in future material. Lena Dubravska’s drumming is fairly basic and only serves to keep the time. In due course she’ll hopefully embrace a more varied playing style with different techniques and more interesting fills and rolls.

10480060_1635551956690102_698371107336106451_oAnna Lewandowska’s thick and thunderous bass guitar is integral to the sound of the two tracks. This is especially true for opening cut ‘Traitors’ wherein it gets very prominent towards its conclusion. The highlight of the track is the extended solo by Alexandra Musielewicz, who seems to draw inspiration from early Metallica, and “Show No Mercy” Slayer for the most part. ‘Sudden Death’ opens with a funky bass guitar lick and Mila Sobol opts for a death grunt and thrash bark as main vocal cadence. Sobol’s harsher vocals are better than her cleans, but they fit the style. She hasn’t too thick of an accent or inflection. As before Musielewicz’ solo is one of the best parts of the song. There isn’t a lot of character to the drumming as Dubravska merely lays down the beat. The inclusion of a faster tempo would probably allow her show what she’s truly capable of in regards to single – and double foot blasts. A careful study of the collected works from Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski (Vader), Marcin Gołębiewski (Yattering) and Adam Sierżęga (Armagedon, ex-Lost Soul) would certainly help in improving her playing.

It would be interesting to hear Recon By Fire attempt an epic instrumental in vein of ‘Inquisition Symphony’ (Sepultura), ‘Call Of Ktulu’ and ‘(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth’ (Metallica) especially in the light of how audible Lewandowska, Dubravska and Musielewicz are in these two tracks. Through out said cuts the trio comes off as the most confident of the quintet’s membership. Much like its populist Brazilian contemporaries Nervosa, Recon By Fire right now is having too much of a good time to be bothered with writing actual engrossing songs. The quintet’s true power will be revealed once they settle on what direction they want to take their music. “Into the Fire” has something of a party thrash and alternative rock vibe in various instances, but when and if these girls decide to write darker, faster and generally heavier material they might just surprise the world with its musicality and proclivity towards memorable hooks and arrangements.

The handdrawn artwork by Karina Wilczek is befitting of the band’s war-themed lyrics and the canvas is either a positive female empowerment vista, or a clear-cut case of a female warrior in highly impractical battle armor. The artwork is problematic in the sense that its cover figurine stands in stark contrast to the band’s non-sexualized imagery. Whether it suffers from the male gaze is up for debate but it gets the intended message (self-empowerment, overcoming adversity and tribulation) across at the very least. A canvas by Raúl González, Jean Pascal Fournier, or Jowita Kamińska could potentially make its future product more marketable. It certainly is much better than what other, and lesser bands adorn their demos with. Obviously Recon By Fire understands the importance of visuals as both the cover drawing and promotional photos that come with it possess a level of maturity often lost on these kind of bands.

“Into the Fire” was recorded at HZ Studio in Warsaw, Poland with Mariusz Konik and Robert Wawro producing. For a band with no mentionworthy prior experience within its ranks “Into the Fire” sounds incredibly smooth, crunchy and bass-heavy but never overproduced. There’s a sense of airiness and openness that modern productions usually miss. The rhythm section is the primary focus of the production job while the guitars have the sort of grit and bite one has come to expect of the better known Hertz facility. From the production to its promo shots and its general social media presence Recon By Fire is one of the more accomplished bands in the underground. Whether or not this will eventually translate in a record deal and business/touring opportunities is an entirely different discussion altogether. It wouldn’t be for the lack of trying at least.

The biggest strike against the demo is that Recon By Fire is undecided and uncommitted to exactly which direction they intend to take their music. As such the demo sounds exactly as you’d expect of five people coming from different genres to write music together in a mutually agreed upon direction. Neither of the two tracks sound particularly threatening or harnesses the velocity of prime era Sepultura, nor the technicality and controlled chaos of a Death, Atheist or a Dead Head. There’s a sense of musicality and looming potential just below the surface that might hint at greater things in the future. However, beneath the vanilla song formatting and productional gloss lies the sort of dormant musicality that holds a promise for greater things to come. Whether or not Recon By Fire will be able to tap into that musicality and potential is another discussion entirely, but it is definitely present in the two tracks of this digital demo.

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With “Revelations” Polish death metal institution Vader reached a comfortable state of familiarity with its new style and procured a stable working relationship with Metal Blade Records. The album follows the template from “Litany” to a fault, but is more groovy and less overbearing in terms of percussion. It is the first album to feature bass guitarist Konrad ‘Simon’ Karchut, while also having more keyboard flourishes on one track with ‘Revelation Of Black Moses’. The album was promoted with a video for the track ‘Epitaph’, which coincidentally was the working title for the album when it was cut. “Revelations” is Vader’s most popular album, and unfortunately the last full length to feature long-time drummer and co-songwriter Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski who would bow out due to a serious injury after laying down sessions for this album’s follow-up EP.

19186“Revelations” is a lot more straightforward, and thrashy compared to the releases directly preceding it. Nobody can deny the level of energy and enthusiasm that Vader put into each of its releases. There are minor instances of Wiwczarek’s continuing his spoken and narrative bits, but these are surrounded by his usual hoarse bark. There are several solos in each of the tracks. Generally speaking there are about two, sometimes three solo breaks per song with a recognizable hook for each. ‘When Darkness Calls’ is the only song to be more complex than the other cuts. In all it is more reminiscent of something of “The Ultimate Incantation” but written within the band’s current creative paradigm. For that reason it stands out compared to the other tracks which are more straightforward and don’t have nearly as much of a buildup. For the most part “Revelations” is an album all about Raczkowski’s incredible finesse behind the kit as he truly delivers one of his best performances here. Whether he’s belting out fast thrash beats, crushing death metal blasts or grinding slow patterns – he truly was one of a kind.

The album is generally on the fast side, although there’s a greater emphasis on midtempo parts. Each track is cut up in several of these sections, and within each cut these slow sections are usually bookended by a blistering blast segment. ‘Revelation Of Black Moses’ is different in the sense that it is a slow crawling song from beginning to end. This was a curious experiment for Vader who had always had slower songs, but never truly midpaced or even slow ones. More than anything the greater focus and reliance on guitar leads/solos to carry the songs becomes clear here. Around this time bands all over the death metal scene were pledging to play more demanding and technical material. Vader does both things simultaneously, playing structurally simpler songs overall but each of these tracks is loaded with impressive technical playing. The band has lost none of its dynamic sensibilities, and a number of songs truly excel at this. Above all Vader is consistent, more than anyone else probably. No matter what is popular at the time, this band will always play some variation of its established Slayer-meets-Morbid Angel brand of thrashing death metal. “Revelations” is no different.

All lyrics were written by Łukasz Szurmińsk, except ‘The Nomad’, ‘Lukewarm Race’ and ‘Revelation Of Black Moses’ by Pawel Frelik. There are guest vocals by Nergal (from then-emerging black/death metal hopefuls Behemoth) on the track ‘Whisper’.  Liner notes this time around are rather sparse, and rather succinct compared to earlier releases. The tradition of mentioning the band’s mantra ‘stay powerful, creative, joyous and free’ in the booklet is started here. Loosely conceptual, the “Revelations” album brought together lyrical observations on the 9/11 twin towers disaster. The band doesn’t go out of its way to push this particular concept to any degree. The lyrics do pay a greater focus to mob mentality, group-think and put a greater emphasis on religious references and iconography. Even without the lyrical baggage the record is a highly enjoyable barrage of populist thrashing death metal by one of the best in the genre.

The biggest strike against the record is that it is bland. There’s no real change in Vader’s formula in essence, but the writing comes off as tired and uninteresting. Even for Vader, whose very existence is based upon rabid intensity and punch, this record doesn’t do anything to forward the band’s profile. Each track is cut from the same format, and none of them sticks very long with the listener after they are over. This was something that earlier Vader releases had no problem achieving. The only real stand out tracks for this session appear to be ‘Whisper’ (most because of the sampled women moaning, and Nergal’s fiery guest vocals) and ‘Revelation Of Black Moses’ for being what amounts to Vader trying its hand at a very rudimentary form of doom metal. On the other hand, Vader in a creative rut is still better than a great deal of other bands in this genre at their supposed height. “Revelations” is no revelation for the genre, nor the band that produced it. It is a solid, but unremarkable album from a band that usually is better. Among the likes of populist death metal acts such as Bloodbath, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary or Six Feet Under – it is a breath of fresh air in a genre tired with its own sound.

It is one of the more vocal-oriented offerings of Vader’s brief tenure with Metal Blade Records. The duo of Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek and Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski  returned to record at Red Studio in Gdańsk, Poland with producer Piotr Łukaszewski. As always Wiwczarek’s handled vocals and all string instruments, with Doc providing the drums. “Revelations” is about as bass-heavy as “Litany” and it is blessed with a more refined drum production. Even though this is the most bass-centric of Vader’s early catalog, the bass guitar lines are anything but interesting. Like so many of their contemporaries the duo insists on just doubling the guitar riffs to get that extra punch and heaviness. The album is paced a lot better than “Litany”, even though this would be the second album in a row where Vader simplified its sound for more immediate accessibility. “Revelations” despite its enhancements in production and presentation is the least impressive of the early Vader catalogue. It would take the band one more album to regain its composure.