Not much info circulates on the Internet about Patchwork. This long album is the only trace left by the band so far as no demos seem to have surfaced in its seven-year-activity, and it's a record that hits musical territories that almost nobody visits anymore nowadays. Did Thrash Metal die in 1991? Most likely, and even if some detractors claim that what has come out later is only derivative, when you have an exquisite vocalist such as this quintet supported by solid music patterns, all of that fades into the background.
As to the lyrics, the Northern Illinoisans' debut talks Lazarus' resurrection, a trauma-induced loss of emotions, grief for an untimely death, human family tragedies, man's impossibility to change the cycle of life and death, a murder for revenge before dying, fate out of control, letting go of rage and hatred to be free and reach a higher state.
In the instrumental intro "In the Shadow of Death" the guitars play boss and a guitar solo preparing for "Lazarus", a song of original enough Thrash Metal both vocalwise and musicwise, although a few passages might act as reminders of Overkill, Anacrusis, Kinetic Dissent and the likes. The vocals are pretty adrenalinic, gifted with scratching tones when kept long and enjoy an ample extension. There are also precise guitarwork, obsessive bass lines and explosive drumming added to the frantic riffing to complete the almighty picture.
"Dead to Me" is more modern, contains diverse powerful riffs, even a Kataklysm-like in the middle of the track. The vocals remain clean but are able to take over and alternatively be epic, while the unforgettable refrain is perfect in every aspect, and there's also room for a few Helloweenian axe solos.
The long title track is hammering and elaborate, displays a torrent of multifarious Thrash riffs, some in the vein of the tightest Judas Priest, others reminding something of Nuclear Assault. The tireless and accurate guitar plot from beginning to end is definitely a plus, and the first guitar solo is more controlled than the second, very Bay Area-oriented, and therefore it sounds more special. This is one of the album's highlights and I am not saying it only because it is a composition plunged in the magic 80s.
An arpeggio opens "Lessons in Tragedy", to grow gradually with guitars alà Testament/early Pantera and vocals similar to John Bush in the Anthrax era. A great surprise comes from the entry of Speed Metal guitars and the following riffs of crushing Thrash Metal. I dare say the vocals are so heartfelt that they strike some chord in my soul every time I listen to them, and as if it weren't enough the axe solos are connected to the Death Angel of the good old times, the vigorous drums and Thrash Metal structures bring back Violator, Nuclear Assault again or the more recent Municipal Waste to the mind. A masterpiece without ifs and buts!
"Life and Death" starts almost immediately with a stunning six-string solo, to then turn intense thanks to the sturdiest drums of the platter. A flood of guitar solos fills the central section of this relatively brief tune which is vocalless most of the time.
The ultraprofessional recording enhances the manifest Bay Area Thrash Metal sounds of "Full Circle", displaying Pantera structures, mid-tempos and sharp riffs afterwards. The axe solo is close to Kirk Hammett's repertoire, and it's not a coincidence that the brutal riffs linked to "Master of Puppets" matched with lively bass lines appear later before the conclusive growling, the only one in these nine compositions.
Kicked off by a riff layered by a second with a Middle-East feel, "Blind to Fate" soon recurs to a bulldozer main riff; I do appreciate the way the guitars are refined in an original manner sometimes Progressive, sometimes sounding like Flotsam And Jetsam on steroids, while the vocals are a blend of Disturbed's and Metal Church's. The singer did achieve in conveying his soul to the listener in this song and a plause goes to the producer's ability as well, as he understood what was necessary to make this song stand out as the second peak of the album. Moreover, if you listen carefully, you'll hear an unexpected Death's riff ("Spiritual Healing"-time) and a distinct Black Metal riff encarved among the Thrash Metal framework.
"The Destroyer" is an instrumental, first soft then fast and dynamic next to the early Iron Maiden; later the aura of Pantera looms up, then Bay Area parts appear, and finally a short and harmless guitar solo precedes the Traditional Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal arrangements.
The closer "Let Go" contains a heap of riffs, speed and rhythm variations, effected vocals, notably rapid drumwork, and also a chorus taken from the early times of Bay Area Thrash Metal or an old D.R.I. record embellishing the song in an inestimable manner. There is an additional Hardcore episode preceding the solos of the two axemen, and in the end the main heavy architecture returns.
If this is what Illinois begets in terms of Thrash Metal in this period so hostile and sparing of good albums of this genre as 2016 is, I want to start a petition for the State to invest more in those who start or are already running a small label, musicians who are forced to self-produce their CDs, as well as folks owning rehearsal rooms, recording studios and people whose line of business consists in promoting Metal music. The risk that such gems may go unnoticed and bands split up in consequence of the stagnant unsatisfactory situation is too high.
Tip of the hat to Turkey Vulture Records!