True Witness - Conspiracy

True Witness Conspiracy cover
True Witness
Dark Star Records
Chicago’s True Witness has finally earned its place in the sun with its recent sophomore, “Conspiracy”, released last week under Dark Star Records (it also belatedly follows its 2012 debut, “The Human Condition”). Fans of old-school, pre-“Load” Metallica will surely dig the James Hetfield-like vocals – minus all the pompous and trite Yeah-ing! – as well as the cranky and expedient guitar riffs/solos backed by a swarthy, noggin joggin’ battery, which is well in its element as it relentlessly provides a no-nonsense, fast tempo’d and thrash-y momentum to the eight three to four minute tracks on display.
For all I know, the short and loose, police siren infused opener “1970” alludes to the Quebec Crisis a.k.a the FLQ kidnapping of Pierre Laporte whilst the title track transparently divulges its running theme, namely JFK’s 1963 assassination, as it closes with the much re-hashed sound bite “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. Normally, I’d balk at such a clichéd endeavor but this can be forgiven by the song’s crabby opening guitar riff, skulking progression and tumbling drum beats, which soon give way to a laid-back and slack boogie in the form of a sly tempo change and swaying, at times rampantly cascading guitar riff underscored by a vintage news reel of said presidential tragedy.
The production all-around is great, real girth-y and fat whilst the slick, bluesy and expressive guitar solos sit just right in the mix. Actually, they’re reminiscent of Kirk Hammett’s in his heyday, with perhaps a touch of Dave Mustaine’s snarky boxy-ness thrown in for good measure. “Living the Dream” and “Infanticide” also make quite an impression; the former, thanks to its ballsy, adrenaline fueled drum intro and revved-up, classic Metallica meets Exodus crunchy guitar gallop with the latter following in similar footsteps. The whole album is upended by freewheeling and rollicking bass lines which carve a path of destruction “wherever they may roam”, thus rudely poking the listener in the eye at every turn, especially in the middle of “When You Lie” thanks to an ominous stand-alone brooding rumble, and towards the end of “New Day”, stormy thunder cracks notwithstanding. Again, the unrestrained, pentatonic/minor keyed scorching leads constitute a veritable firestorm, while the drum fills shift this way and that by various pummeling means, be they blast beats or double bass drum kicks. To wit, “When You Lie” is spectacularly animated in these last departments.
Excuse the following random observation but worth noting is how much the freeing vocals on the first couple of verses on “1970” sound like an uncanny cross between Hetfield’s and Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling’s, but as soon as the chorus kicks in, it’s pure Metallica emulation from then on. However, I find the vocals on “Mercy” and “New Day” bring to mind a slowed-down and despairing albeit groovy mixture of Dave Mustaine circa “Hook in Mouth” and Prong’s Tommy Victor. Although the guitar riffs themselves take a repetitive turn on the later tracks, the vocals manage to keep the listener on their toes as he/she gleans various impressions and nuances. The same can be said about the enterprising leads and rhythm section.
I’m primarily enamored by “1970” and “Conspiracy” proper but “Visions” stands out as well thanks to its uncharacteristic alternative rock leanings i.e. a sliding, reverb-y Seattle 90s grunge bar intersecting the track at varying points while the fluidly clawing solo, cool liberating riff and maddening drum ride at 02:14 also make for a noteworthy highlight prior to a swell head-banging and blast beat infused denouement which ends things on a high note.
I’d never heard of True Witness before but I have to say, it readily sounds like the release Metallica should have turned out after its commercial – and tide turning – self-titled venture back in 1991. If anything, it’s a worthy selection for any old school or new school thrash/general metal fan.