Born in the early nineties in Chile, CRIMINAL has marched forward through trends and adversity with the act's sole original member, vocalist and guitarist Anton Reisenegger. The South American metal pioneer had already made his mark as a young teenager in the mid-eighties with legendary Chilean blackened death metal band PENTAGRAM, now known as PENTAGRAM CHILE, not to be confused with the classic American doom metal band. The ubiquitous metal maniac has his hands in many pots — including LOCK UP, BRUJERIA and UNITED FORCES — but his main project seems to be the mighty CRIMINAL. "Sacrificio", album number nine from the band, is an effort that sounds true to the act's roots, contemporary in appeal, accessible, roaring and robust all at once.
One of the band's core elements, thrash metal, has been conducive for socio-political artistic expression for years, and the format goes hand-in-hand with "Sacrificio"'s lyrical backdrop considering the tie-ins to Chile's current state of affairs. Chile's citizenry has in recent times stormed the streets to protest corruption, inequality, human rights abuse and more, and there's an undeniable sense of urgency when Reisenegger belts out the lyrics that are told from the creative vantage point of a spectator of the real-life madness. These meaningful words drive the album on fiery tracks like "Live on your Knees", "Caged", "Dark Horse" and "Zealots". The lyrics and sentiment are heartfelt for the frontman and two other members of the quartet who are also of Chilean descent. (CRIMINAL's current lineup is rounded out by guitarist Sergio Klein, bassist Danny Biggin and drummer Danilo Estrella.)
"Sacrificio"'s writing and recording took place in Chile, the first time Reisenegger and company had done so since the nineties, and the songwriting came together right in the jam room, not unlike teenagers jamming in a garage. Mirroring the nineties era progression of their continental counterparts in none other than SEPULTURA, CRIMINAL rekindles what they too have done for years in their bridging of old-school death metal (stemming from Reisenegger's work with PENTAGRAM) with a more groove-laden, contemporary death thrash approach. "Caged" most definitely strikes similarities to the mighty SEPULTURA, but only loosely.
CRIMINAL has an incredibly singular approach toward death thrash for the most part, and as this song demonstrates, the melodies, ripping solo and frenzied blast beats prove that the band is far from one-dimensional. But in terms of reference points, the album does at times strike the chord of late nineties era NAPALM DEATH during that band's pseudo-industrial extreme metal era, most especially on songs like "The Whale" and "Dark Horse".
But to reiterate, there really is only one CRIMINAL, a revered band for many but one that is worthy of much more wide-spread recognition in the metal world. The act's tasteful amalgam of thrash, death, groove and hardcore with a pinch of grind isn't overbearing, and it's catchy as hell. A song like "Zona de Sacrificio" can stick to one's grey matter in the same way that an infectious pop song can do so. CRIMINAL delivers for fans of bands like PANTERA, FEAR FACTORY and other heavy hitters who paved the way in the nineties. There has been a void in aggressive metal that is hook-laden and not overly obsessed with speed. That void can be filled by new blood, but for the time being, a veteran band like CRIMINAL is doing a fine job with a release like "Sacrificio".