Novo Oružje Protiv Bola
Review by Greg on November 22, 2023.
From the Serbian capital comes one of the most overlooked entities in the modern thrash scene, especially of the more technical, visionary variety. Born out of another absurdly promising band (Space Eater), Quasarborn promised serious business already from their 'official' debut, The Odyssey To Room 101 (2018), a whirlwind of frenzied thrash riffing and ever so slight prog sensibilities, sometimes perhaps ambitious to a fault, but nevertheless refreshing. After a more streamlined, when not to say metalcore-inspired, sophomore (A Pill Hard To Swallow), which still managed to deliver a number of highlights, a small part of me couldn't help but be worried, if to a certain extent, about the path they chose. In this context enters, three years later, the always decisive third effort Novo Oružje Protiv Bola (transl. 'New Weapon Against Pain'), heralded by another brave, if unexpected, choice in the switch to the native tongue, especially considering the sometimes amazing lyrics already penned in English by frontman/guitarist Luka Matković in the past.
Now, at first sight, the four guys, now including newcomer and fellow axeman Dimitrije Čuturilo, don't seem to have repudiated those 'easier-listening' detours heard in the last full-length. It goes without saying that it would be easy peasy for me to just say that they're no longer interested in writing another 'Escape Into Reality', 'Château d'If' or 'No Mustapha Mond', slap a 40% to it and call it a day. But I like to think I'm a bit more professional than that – not to mention that they already managed to keep things extremely interesting in whichever incarnation they went through (Pill included), so the bare minimum I can do now is to dedicate this work the attention it deserves. Although, about putting my thoughts into words, that's a whole different story.
I'll start with the obvious: regardless of the end result, it's always an immense pleasure to hear Marko Danilović, whom I consider one of the most creative and all-around absolute best drummers in the modern scene, performing on a new LP. And if on their last effort he had to tone down a bit of his flair (a crime, truly), the first seconds of the album are already a nice 'welcome back' sign, and I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy listening only to his drum tracks almost as much ('Prostor-vreme' instantly comes to my mind). Another thing we can be sure of, by now, is a powerful and basically flawless production along the lines of what frontman Luka Matković and his Citadela Studios have accustomed us to. That guitar crunch is gratifying on all fronts, and Miloš Tomasović's busy bass is treated with equal rights compared to the rest of the band. Even on a mere sound quality level, they've pretty much perfected the game.
But enough beating around the bush (even though the rating on top of this page has already betrayed my intentions): Novo Oružje Protiv Bola is another great offering that easily cements Quasarborn's position as one of my favourite bands around.
It's not even a matter of returning to a mostly thrash sound – they didn't: the only proper thrashers to be found are 'Ne Možeš Imati Sve', which still contains its fair share of melody I've been humming nonstop in the last few days, and the rabid 'Od Kolevke Do Rova' featuring a particularly pissed off guest appearance of Надимач's Danilo Trbojević, none of which falling among the true highlights in my opinion, despite being great tracks on their own. (Not to mention the latter's anti-war message, conveyed via a macabre spoken section exposing the same 'old lie' that unfortunately still seems to lure too many people nowadays – but I digress.) It's just that the rest of the tracklist doesn't stop at that simple concept, frequently slowing down tempos and sporadically including those 'commercial' (term used very loosely) leanings mentioned earlier, basically striking gold in this delicate balance. The guitarists still deliver enjoyable riffs, though maybe slightly short on 'wow' moments like before, and the grooves and occasional chugs hit much, much harder than a whole album featuring them, precisely for the fact that they appear so tastefully. I also looked back and admit I'd been unjustly harsh, or indifferent at best, about Matković's vocals in the past, whereas his half-clean delivery works absolute wonders with such material, to the surprise of, well, no one.
It definitely helps that the band drops some extremely cool touches here and there in the process, like the downright infectious refrain of 'Voz', amongst many sing-along moments, the regrettably brief blast-beat bridge in 'U Plamenu', or the exotic-sounding solo in closer 'Prostor-vreme', to name a few. Hell, I'm brutally honest when I say that I should be allergic to the pick scrapes that appear in 'Urobor', but the whole track is just so flat-out brilliant and memorable that I'll gladly turn a blind eye to them. Even the language choice proved crucial in giving the whole thing its definite character. Ultimately, only 'Menja Se', building upon the tranquil instrumental interlude 'Ogledalo', fails to justify its role of longest song on the album, sounding like two distinct halves united by the same less-than-stellar chorus (played at pretty much every speed conceivable) that ends up being rather tiresome, and lacking any form of lead section to redeem its mistakes. Such a pity.
Even so, I have no doubts when announcing that Novo Oružje Protiv Bola is a step ahead for Quasarborn. Whereas A Pill Hard to Swallow felt sometimes disjointed and inconsistent, jumping from Testament-meets-Metallica midtempo stompers ('Nothing', 'Atlas') to straight thrash ('Mamula') and -core passages ('Identity Catharsis', title-track) with no forewarning, this one appears to pick up where 'Bastion' or 'The Humbling' left off – that is, presenting a mixture of all these styles and going more or less effortlessly back and forth between them, to the point that, when stretched out to a whole album, none of these elements ever feel out of place (the above mentioned chorus on 'Voz' is basically one of the least metal things ever recorded, yet I dare you to say it doesn't make perfect sense within the song). The fact that it's also their most collective effort to date, with every member contributing to the songwriting, arguably had something to do with it.
With the due premises that I'm too much of a thrasher to ever see this dethroning The Odyssey To Room 101 as my favourite Quasarborn record, and that a couple of partial misfires are still present, I'd say that Novo Oružje Protiv Bola is the guys' most interesting release to date nonetheless, and most importantly one that opens endless possibilities for their future. Definitely recommended for a different experience.
Rating: 8.5 out of 101.22k
Review by Ves on July 8, 2023.
As the tidal forces intensify, the dust that was once Space Eater heats up, friction heating it up to white hot temperatures before radiating all the pent-up energy in a violent burst of electromagnetic radiation. This is Quasarborn. A band near and dear to my heart, I have been a fan of many iterations of this line-up across different projects. From school days spent shouting Zodom lyrics (no, I didn't misspell Sodom), to the tremendous legacy left behind by Space Eater, it's been a good 10+ years since my first taste of this pocket of the Serbian thrash metal scene. Formed by former Space Eater members in 2016, Quasarborn wasted no time and made immediate waves with the single Danse Macabre. This was followed by their debut full-length concept album The Odyssey To Room 101 in 2018. The album was an immediate hit. Their sophomore album, A Pill Hard To Swallow, had its reception dampened by the pandemic in 2020, as most of the promo tour had to be postponed.
With their third album, the lads from Quasarborn have hit us with their catchiest material yet. Titled Novo Oružje Protiv Bola, or (A new weapon against pain) in case your Serbian is a bit rusty, the 40-minute album is their first one written in their mother-tongue. This change is a very welcome one as far as I'm concerned, as I always enjoyed the way Luka structured his rhymes (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwm_0y0mciw). The lyrics continue the mostly introspective exploration, with a sprinkle of societal commentary, that the band had established since their inception. The vocals were a significant highlight of the album for me, with interesting layering in the choruses of songs such as 'Prostor-vreme', i.e. "Space-time", and 'Voz', or "Train". Additionally, the borderline melodramatic delivery of some lines on 'Menja Se', or "It's Changing", sells the song's theme and atmosphere perfectly.
As a progressive thrash metal band, Quasarborn have had moments in the past where I thought that some of the riffs were over-written. I don't find that to be the case on this album. In fact, the technicality of the riffs is still there but maybe slightly toned down in favour of excellent musical flow, some elements of traditional Serbian music, and catchiness, which I cannot overstate. From the groove of 'U Plamenu', or "In Flames", through the Iron Maiden meets post-rock vibes of 'Ogledalo', or "Mirror", to the crushing screams of guest vocalist Danilo Trbojević from Nadimač, there is little on this album I can fault the band for writing. My only gripe is that I would have liked to see some ideas explored a bit more deeply. For example, the last chorus of 'Ne Možeš Imati Sve', or "You Can't Have It All", has an amazing energy, but is quite brief (yes, I get the irony, ha ha).
Production-wise, the tone of the guitars is crunchy and old-school thrash sounding, all the intstruments and vocals sit in the mix perfectly, and the sound is as clean as you would expect and want from a modern prog-thrash album. Luka's experience and skill is on full display, and it's clear that Citadela studio is easily one of the most important establishments in the Serbian metal scenes.
Two months after its release, I still can't stop listening to this album at least once every other day, and it's become one of my go-tos in the gym. Even if you're not into thrash, I would recommend Novo Oružje Protiv Bola, as it combines enough influences to keep the pickiest of listeners satisfied.
Rating: 8.5 out of 101.22k