“Extermination Plan” is album number two for New Jersey thrashers Condition Critical. This release shows a slight lineup change, with the rhythm section remaining the same, but two new guitarists (including one who does vocals) joining the fold. For this reason, it is perhaps no surprise that the underlying foundation of “Extermination Plan” is not dissimilar from the band’s debut, “Operational Hazard”. The actual execution, however, is far superior. Condition Critical still thrives on beating the listener over the head with as many riffs as they can fit into a four-minute song. Their approach to death/thrash is extremely reminiscent of the great Demolition Hammer. In particular, Condition Critical also excels at spitting out as many words as possible. Tracks like “Fatal Incision” and “Genocidal Void” have sections that seem to just unleash pure vocal rage, courtesy of new frontman Ryan Taylor.
One area where “Extermination Plan” does differ slightly from its predecessor is the fact that the band shows a melodic edge that was not overly prevalent in the past. This comes in the form of harmonized lead guitars that occasionally show up on songs like “Interminable Surgery” and “Intravenous Mutilation”. The guitar playing as a whole has really been stepped up. Some of the soloing has a slight bluesy feel to it. The title track, for example, has a solo near the end that makes use of a wah pedal and some licks that sound like they come from the blues scale. Aside from the shredding, where Condition Critical shines is in their riffwork. It is astounding how they consistently offer riff after riff of bludgeoning thrash metal in a way that is unmatched by any of their peers.
The best song on this album is “Voluntary Disfigurement”, featuring John Kevill (Warbringer) and Tom Martin (Lich King). Both guests trade off verses with Condition Critical’s frontman. This approach is more effective for Kevill, as he has undoubtedly the best voice in modern thrash. While Martin’s performance is good, he isn’t quite as distinctive on this record. Nevertheless, the end result is quite satisfying, and takes an already brutal song to the next level. This is because “Voluntary Disfigurement” has a lot of high-speed chugging, making it the perfect background to highlight the guest singers.
From a production standpoint, “Extermination Plan” absolutely nails it. The sound on this record is massive. You could predict how the guitars and drums sound by comparing them to any of the heavier records of all time, but what truly pushes Condition Critical’s sound to the next level is the bass tone. Like Alex Webster or Steve DiGiorgio, Mike Dreher, the band’s bassist, never gets lost in the mix. He is insanely skilled in terms of technical ability, but more importantly, he has some truly fantastic bass lines (“Vindictive Hostility” having one such example). He gets a few chances to shine on this record, including on the groovy opening of the title track.
If I had to criticize Condition Critical for something, it would be their use of blast beats. They don’t abuse them by any means, but the band doesn’t need them to sound heavy. Blast beats can work effectively in thrash, but I’ve always preferred it without them. Regardless, this is a minor complaint for a stellar record. “Extermination Plan” is a much more mature version of the band’s debut album. The overall product sounds incredibly professional, and is the result of a band who knows exactly what they’re going for. Fans of bands like Demolition Hammer, Incubus (“Beyond The Unknown” era), and Gammacide will absolutely worship this record, as it is one of the best realizations of modern death/thrash!
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4.75/5 or 95%.