I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage many times with Assayer over the last 8 months or so, but I had never heard their album in its entirety until their singer/guitarist Jordan Bishop gave me a copy of their release, America the Beautiful. Having heard a song or two I knew the quality was top-notch, but I wasn't prepared for what hit my ears when I popped it in and gave the whole album a go.

What descended upon me was a near perfect amalgam of traditional and modern thrash metal accented here and there with some death metal elements. There are parts where it's technical, but not in a geeky math kind of way, in a seriously pissed off, furious kind of way. Almost as if Assayer is out to prove something with this collection of intense, powerful songs. Indeed, there are times listening to this where I am 17 years old, I still have my long hair, and I want to whip it around in circles while on the bus on the way to school. This tape would have been in rotation right along with South of Heaven, Master of Puppets, and The New Order, and later, Cowboys From Hell. It would have fit nicely in it's own little niche right alongside the thrash greats.

In fact, there are times when Jordan's vocals seem like too much of a nod to The Hetfield, but who are we kidding? The Hetfield lost his anger when he decided it needed to be healthy, in fact, long before that. Bishop may emulate Hetfields' barking clean vocal once in a while, but he sings with conviction that James hasn't had in 20 years. Additionally, there's enough variation between that and the Chuck Billy-like death bellows and howling screeches, there's no reason to dwell on one thing.

Everything else on this album, the drums, bass, and guitars, are just packed full of piss and shred. There are a few mellow moments, but for the most part, this album has a cinderblock on the accelerator. It doesn't let up. And the scary thing is, they're just as good and tight live. Gotta take my hat off for Assayer, they really raise the bar for local metal bands around here.