It’s hard to stand out in today’s metal scene. It’s even harder to stand out if you’re a thrash metal band. Many people just assume every modern day thrash metal band is an Exodus rip off or a wanna-be Kreator regardless of what a band is doing musically. “If it’s thrash it must be generic” is a pretty common assumption made by a lot of metal-heads in today’s scene. NEWS FLASH: just because a lot of people are saying this doesn’t mean it’s true. Enter Norwich thrashers, Shrapnel. Formed in 2009 this five piece has been turning heads and making a name for themselves since their inception five years ago. “It all came together pretty quickly through speaking to each other online and through friends” says Shrapnel guitarist Chris Martin regarding the band’s formation in a recent Global Thrash Assault interview. “Norwich is a small place so we had either been around each others previous band or known one another from school or through other people. We just got together to play some Kill ’em All style thrash for fun to begin with, nothing too serious.”
Listening to Shrapnel’s music it’s clear the band is influenced by more than just “Kill ’em All” style thrash or thrash metal in general. “Thrash is definitely where it all starts and stems from but our music tastes are pretty varied” explains Martin regarding Shrapnel’s sound. “Nathan (Sadd, lead guitarist) and Jae (Hadely, vocals) are very much into their death metal and Jae also has a lot of black metal in is collection. Different ideas pop up in the writing process and if it works it works.”
Clearly its been working for Shrapnel. Since releasing their debut EP, 2009’s No Saviours, the band has been on the rise. “No Saviours EP was purely for fun” explains Martin, “The reaction to it kind of took us by surprise to be honest. We got a show with Sepultura and into a competition to play Bloodstock which we won in 2010.” Shrapnel were on to something and in 2010 the band kept the ball rolling by entering the studio to record their follow up album, 2010’s The Devastation To Come. “We had to take a look at the second EP and decide how serious we were going to take it” explains Martin. “We’re not really into doing things by half measure, it’s either full on or not at all so when we decided to do the Devastation EP we went as high as we could go.” For most young unsigned bands “as high as we could go” wouldn’t be very high considering their circumstance, but for Shrapnel it was recruiting legendary metal producer Russ Russell (Evile, Napalm Death). “Luckily Russ Russell was on board to record it (The Devastation To Come) and with a bit of saving and taking a few risks we managed to swing the session and get it done.” says Martin. Get it done they did. The Devastation To Come wasn’t just a step up from No Saviours, it was five steps up. However it wasn’t all “smooth sailing” in the studio. “It was a big learning experience for us because we didn’t have a clue what we were doing before we went in with Russ” explains Martin. “We were disorganised, material wasn’t written properly and we had never done anything with that level of professionalism before. It was one of the most invaluable weeks/decisions we’ve made so far.”
|THE DEVASTATION TO COME|
Despite the studio learning curve, The Devastation To Come was a whopping success for Shrapnel. The album gained the band international attention in the thrash metal underground and catapulted Shrapnel to the fore front of the UK metal underground – a scene with more high quality thrash bands than one can count. Shrapnel’s new found popularity opened the door for a lot of new and exciting opportunities. “Playing with Sacred Reich and Death Angel within the space of a week was great. Being able to support Suicidal Tendencies at the Electric Ballroom was both amazing and terrifying” says Martin. Shrapnel were more popular than ever before and were becoming harder and harder to ignore.
In 2013, just four years after their formation, Shrapnel were signed by one of the best labels in extreme metal, Candlelight Records. “Dom Lawson helped us a lot with the deal, he passed the album on and they (Candlelight) jumped at it.” explains Martin regarding Shrapnel’s recent signing. “We wanted to play festivals and bigger shows and there’s a wall 99% of unsigned bands hit.” Martin continues “It’s difficult to be taken seriously or get that certain recognition without a label which is a shame. We were doing some amazing shows but it was the tour packages and festival dates that were eluding us and getting the deal with Candlelight instantly opened more doors for us.”
With a freshly signed recording deal, Shrapnel once again hit the studio with producer Russ Russell to track their debut full length album, The Virus Conspires. “We were in the studio recording the album for a month and it’s going to be a tough month to top” says Martin. “It was hard work getting everything done right but Russ is a machine, he works tirelessly from stupid o’clock in the morning until dickhead o’clock the next day. He knows what he’s after and we couldn’t be happier with the result.” Russell’s hard work is evident, The Virus Conspires is Shrapnel’s best sounding album to date, but Russell’s impact on the band extends to outside the studio. “We learn’t a lot from Russ in the EP session and we put it all into practice on this one” explains Martin. “When we went into the studio for the album 98% of it was finished and there were edits and changes we made as the recording went along. It was a lot easier than the EP in that respect.”
|THE VIRUS CONSPIRES|
The Virus Conspires is Shrapnel’s most powerful and blistering release to date. “We knew it had to be better than anything we had done before” says Martin. From the album’s opening track, “Kingdom Come” to the album’s last track “All That We Know” Shrapnel’s performance is jaw-droppingly good. The songs are heavier, the solos are faster, the drumming is relentless and front man Jae Hadely sounds ferocious belting out lyrics that deal with social and financial crisis. “It’s hard not to write songs about the financial crisis. It’s been one of the most prominent news stories of the last 5-10 years plus it makes sense” explains Martin regarding the album’s lyrical content. “We try to vary the topics as much as possible though” Martin continues. “Nathan is studying history and the Red Terror was something that he was studying at the time that song was written. A lot of the material starts off with an idea I will scribble out when I’m pissed off. Kingdom Come and Braindead for instance were pen to paper rants about Westboro Baptist Church and reality TV shows like ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ respectively.”
In February of 2014, The Virus Conspires was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The band even found themselves apart of Metal Hammer’s special Thrash Metal issue. “Being in the same list as some of those other new bands is insane for us. I’m a huge Vektor fan and to me they’re just miles ahead of us so yeah, to be in the same ‘ones to watch’ list is massive” says Martin regarding the band’s feature. Following the album’s release Shrapnel went on to support Overkill and Xentrix on a short tour of the UK and made an appearance at both Hammerfest and Thrashasaures 3, which took place in the band’s home town of Norwich.
So what’s next for Shrapnel? “We started working with Factory Music as a booking agent in April and have been working with them to book up as much as we can for the foreseeable future.” tells Martin “When we’re not playing we’re going to be working on the next album.”
It’s clear Shrapnel are poised for greatness. The band has a young and hungry attitude and their music not only stands out, it’s a cut above most. Only time will tell, but if Shrapnel stay on the path they’ve been on since their formation, we’re going to be hearing a lot more from this band for years to come.