As the only right-wing thrash band on the Heavy Artillery label, Virginia's At War must work hard to convert anyone weaned on, say, Megadeth's Peace Sells ... But Who's Buying? Sure, metal is mostly about burning up guitar frets, but when your CD includes lyrics to a track called "Semper Fi," which begins with an un-ironic delivery of the Rifleman's Creed, you're going to be scrutinized.
With Infidel, the band's first release in two decades, At War takes advantage of the '80s metal resurgence and shames younger peers with nine tracks of the purest thrash, centered on the fierce riffs of guitarist Shawn Helsel.
It's said Infidel contains material written in the years following At War's second album, 1987's Retaliatory Strike, but as death metal eclipsed thrash, the band couldn't find a home for a third. Having never really broken up and sensing the moment was right, At War joined producer Alex Perialas (Anthrax) earlier this year to record an album that almost never was.
The pro-military message may stink, but it's tough to resist the comic-book fun of "R.A.F.," a tribute to British World War II pilots ("Steel bird warriors / rule European airways!," yelps vocalist/bassist Paul Arnold), or drummer Dave Stone's monstrous performance on "Vengeful Eyes." Even better: Brazilian artist Claudio Bergamin's painted cover depicting a naked, tattooed, Rambo-like messiah facing down terrorists.
Sarah Palin ... please hire these guys to write your campaign song!