By Samuel Stevens
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Genre: Thrash Metal
Label: Spinefarm Records
The Norwich, England based thrash metal group, Shrapnel, have returned with their third full length album, Palace for the Insane. This album relentlessly bombards you with blistering riffs, shredding leads, hammering rhythms and above all, ferocious vocals throughout it’s entirety. Shrapnel’s extreme aggression, which is an absolute trademark of their sound, remains a cardinal part of their newest record. The band showcase more dynamism, versatility, and a different take on songwriting this time around on this twelve track effort. Palace for the Insane marks the first record for Shrapnel to be produced by Samuel Turbitt of Ritual Sound Studios.
After a stint that led the band to take go on hiatus following the release of what was a critically praised -but briefly toured- album, Raised on Decay, the band regrouped last year and returned for the first time as a four-piece after many line up changes. Also last year, Shrapnel began to get back on the road stronger than ever before alongside bands such as Gama Bomb, Wolf, and Acid Reign. Notably, with the recent line up changes of bassists and vocalist within Shrapnel for the last little while, the band is now joined by one man to fill both duties, Aarran Tucker (ex-Terebos, ex-Sathamel).
Palace for the Insane opens with the near seven minute long track, “Might of Cygnus,” which divulges Shrapnel’s striking new direction right out of the gate. “Might of Cygnus” starts with an intro inspired by Kreator and leads up to it’s explosion into a fast and riff filled blast. The track covers themes of space exploration and human mortality that are intertwined by their dramatic riffs and intricate arrangements, until the tracks builds to it’s ruinous climax.
The album’s lead single, “Salt The Earth,” detonates immediately with a chuggy riff before Aarran Tucker hits you with some devilishly haunting vocals. “Salt The Earth” has one of the arguably strongest and catchiest choruses on Palace for the Insane. While Shrapnel tackles complex subject matter in the lyrics of their songs, the band still manages to honour their old-school thrash metal roots. The album’s title track, “Palace for the Insane,” preserves the band’s fury and leaves a taste of old, while showcasing Shrapnel’s maturity.
The melancholic six minute track “Begin Again” exhibits Shrapnel’s slower side, but still gives you an intensely groovy riff throughout. “Begin Again” is dedicated to the band’s friend Dave, who was a beloved character in the UK thrash scene. Shrapnel wanted to celebrate his life while probing some of the issues of mental health, depression, and suicide. These themes also tie into the album artwork of Palace of the Insane, which were handled by graphic designer and illustrator, Costin Chioreanu (Opeth, Exumer, Arch Enemy, Ghost). His eye catching artwork examines the experience of mental health issues, and manifests them in a hellish backdrop of towering spires and daemonic voices.
Comparing Palace of the Insane to the Shrapnel’s previous album, Raised on Decay reveals yet another stylistic evolutionary leap for the band. The most extreme elements of Shrapnel’s sound on Palace for the Insane clearly remain the addition of Aarran Tucker to the roll of both vocalist and bass guitarist which opens the band up to more experimentation with their songwriting as a group on this effort. Some of the speediest and technical songs on Palace for the Insane are the three tracks, “Bury Me Alive,” “Infernal Choir,” and “The Mace.”