TENET – Sovereign (Century Media – 2009)

tenetHaving spent well over a decade as a member of Strapping Young Lad’s indestructible line-up, the fans are justified in expecting guitarist Jed Simon’s first solo outing to be a continuation of the SYL legacy. And that would be a big fat “nope.” Sure, there are moments on Sovereign that recall Simon’s days of sonic devastation circa the City record (‘Take A Long Line’, ‘Hail Hail’), particularly with drummer Gene Hoglan behind the kit and Byron Stroud ripping up the bass, but this is flat-out mean rather than trademark SYL aggressive. Tenet is about old school so-raw-it’s-bleeding thrash, and minus the big Devin Townsend production values the band has still turned in an unexpectedly brutal debut. A mere nine songs, Sovereign is a frantic beating within the realms of Death Angel’s heaviest Bay Area thrash punk moments and old, old, old Metallica; all shred and no brakes save for the half-speed rest during ‘Going Down’. Simon plays his guts out, keeping the grooves and melodies simple and clean (see ‘Crown Of Thorns’, ‘Watching You Burn’ and ‘Hail Hail’), while ex-Forbidden axe Glen Alvelais handles the big leads. Hoglan and Stroud, meanwhile, are in full freight train mode, topping their work on the last Zimmers Hole record with ease. Capping things off is former Exodus lunatic throat Steve “Zetro” Souza, seemingly on the verge of blowing out a blood vessel in his head with his Udo Dirkschneider meets Dani Filth sneer (think Breaker-era Accept meets Cradle Of Filth’s Thornography). His is the ultimate love-it-or-hate-it performance, but always as entertaining as he is intense. Tenet isn’t nor was it ever meant to be Strapping Young Lad Mark II, but it certainly makes the loss of Townsend’s pissed off hell machine easier to swallow.