Album Review: Shredder 1984 – Undead Thrasher

Hot on the heels of his masterful Dystopian Future album, Shredder 1984 is back with a brand new darksynth EP created with the artist’s remarkable musical style and praiseworthy songwriting approach. Fans of Dystopian Future should be more than happy with Undead Thrasher, as it maintains the basic framework for Shredder 1984’s signature style while advancing it into notably faster, more detailed compositions. Machine-gun-like percussion and haunting melodic hooks fill the soundscape while a brutal synth bass crunches out the rhythm like a cybernetic warmachine grinding up the bones of its enemies. The spirit of old school thrash and death metal is prevalent throughout, brilliantly converted into electronic form and infused with industrial and synthwave for a captivating and original creation that should please anyone who loves the dark and heavy evolution of synthwave.

It’s clear from the beginning of Undead Thrasher that Shredder 1984 has adopted a more aggressive approach, distancing himself even further from synthwave and the ’80s-era video game soundtracks that could be heard clearly on Dystopian Future. Notably, there’s also less emphasis on melody. The rhythm section is pushed to the forefront in the mix, and the songwriting similarly prioritizes the machine-like drums and bass over all other elements. Those looking for strong melodic hooks should look elsewhere, but listeners who have embraced darksynth’s path into brutal, rhythmic songwriting will find plenty to enjoy. Every track on the recording delivers scorching-hot slabs of metal-infused darksynth with few close comparisons. It’s one of the heaviest and most aggressive creations in the genre to date, smartly and intuitively crafted without ever touching an electric guitar or drum kit. Every piece on Undead Thrasher eclipses the artist’s past efforts in terms of tempo and vigor, and the new approach is established immediately on the fittingly titled “Unleash Chaos.”

Opening with an air raid siren screaming over the synchronized sounds of mechanical snare beats and bone-crushing synth bass, “Unleash Chaos” delivers exactly what the name promises. Haunting melodies drift in over the top to accent the pounding rhythm section and provide a touch of atmospheric horror, a songwriting style that remains consistent throughout the album. “Unleash Chaos” is also notably progressive in its song structure, shifting into new sections and combinations that emphasize the constant forward momentum of the music. Rising and falling throughout its duration without ever compromising intensity, the song’s ability to subtly recede at times gives greater strength and power to the barrage that inevitably follows. It’s a massively impressive track that requires repeat listens to unpack its many subtle and inspired touches.

“Undead Thrasher” follows next, immediately pushing listeners back into the fray with a driving melody and quick rhythm that propels itself through three and half minutes of audial savagery. The high level of detail in the music and its rapid pace make the song feel like a runaway freight train, and at times it almost seems as though the ten-ton song might come off its wheels. However, Shredder 1984’s ultra tight execution manages to keep everything on track, maintaining a raucous piece packed with irresistible headbanging opportunities.

“Zombie Revenge” and “Doomed Necropolis” maintain the audio assault with rhythmic blasts and Draculean melodic elements, and they often feel like Shredder 1984 emptying the magazine on a synth-metal machine gun. However, if there’s one complaint to be made about the EP, it’s that the songs tend to be overly similar in pace, length, and structure, and this is particularly true with “Zombie Revenge” and “Doomed Necropolis.” Despite their worthwhile content, it’s easy to mistake one for the other on the first few playthroughs.

The final track, “Immortal Nemesis” is arguably the biggest standout on the EP, and it offers something close to a breather from the intensity of the other four songs. The slower pace allows Shredder 1984’s gritty rhythms to expand, filling the audioscape with the deep, coarse tones of the synth bass while the atmospheric melodies cloak the music in cybernetic darkness. Subtle bell tolls and chimes ring out in the background for a track that feels every bit as menacing as the title suggests. “Immortal Nemesis” maintains the high level of craftsmanship and inspiration of the rest of the EP and closes out the recording without ever letting Undead Thrasher dip into mediocrity.

In touch with its thrash metal heart, the excellent songwriting restricts itself to commendably short track lengths. Overly long creations are something of an epidemic within sythwave and darksynth, and Shredder 1984 smartly and consistently wraps up his tracks after just three or four minutes. The short lengths preserve the intensity of the music, allowing them to remain meaningful and exciting for their duration while also encouraging listeners to come back and enjoy them multiple times. Each time a song ends, it’s tempting to start it over from the beginning and soak up its many masterful compositional shifts and sublime eardrum attacks.

Shredder 1984 has achieved a rare feat with Undead Thrasher, as the album is immediately accessible yet worthy of deep exploration, and it improves in quality across repeat listens. The songs’ consistently high level of intensity can cause them to blur together on the first trip or two through the recording, though by the fourth or fifth listen each entry develops its own unique personality. Knowing when a particularly exciting shift in the music is coming creates anticipation for that moment — as well as a significant emotional payoff when it arrives — effectively enhancing the enjoyment of the entire song. The more familiar each track becomes, the more rewarding it is to hear.

Shredder 1984 is making music that is darker, heavier, and more exciting than nearly anyone else within modern darksynth, spearheading the fast-developing genre into more violent and aggressive territory. Undead Thrasher is exactly what it’s meant to be, and it’s difficult to find anything worth criticizing within its succinct and brutal five-track offering. The album is the masterwork of a creator who is fully inspired by what he’s making and has allowed the music to take on its own shape and form instead of overworking or overthinking it. The crisp and crunchy sound production, ultra-tight instrumentation, and effortlessly compelling compositions give strength and meaning to the percussive barrage and relentless rhythmic firestorm for a creation that puts most of its contemporaries to shame. It sets a new bar for darksynth producers looking to incorporate metal into their music, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone but Shredder 1984 surpassing it anytime soon.

Rating: 98 / 100 (Outstanding) 

Songwriting: 10
Execution: 10
Production: 10
Song Variety: 9
Consistency: 10
Memorability: 10

Click here for a full explanation of the grading scale.

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