(Metalagen/Soyuz records)

MARK: 88/100



Bringers of new lymph to the stale world of Thrash metal, the 5-piece from Russia has been very active in 2003, which also saw the production and release of their second CD "Dive to Nowhere". This one might technically be a MCD if we look at the number of songs (6), yet I've always reputed CDs lasting over 25 minutes like real CDs. Here we go over 31 minutes so there's no doubt Stalwart are living a quite prolific period.

Just allow me one premise before analysing the songs one by one: I found most of their compositions hard to define and most of all arranged in a personal way, which is a good signal concerning the state of the members' inspiration.
As for the songlist, don't look at the one in the back cover as it's completely messed up (one of the few faults of the CD). The first track is "Dictator", an example of technical modern Power-Thrash, rife with distorted parts and other undistorted, in which the vocals are whispered or suffered; an acceleration and an arpeggio followed by a guitar solo following Spanish fashion are placed so as to prepare us for the final blow. This song is really heavy and original, way of ending included.
"Still Alive" starts with the keyboards and the bass, then monophonic alternated guitar stopped riffs anticipate the drum attack, the latter resulting furious and rapid. The refrain is unexpectedly symphonic and elegant, the instrumental break pompous. Skillful guitar solos now kick ass to soon make way for interesting riffs, among which one a là Konkhra; the refrain is repeated and the final riff pays a homage to the NWOBHM. If you guys are reading, know that you do own an excellent and brisk songwriting!
The long "Mantrap" begins with an Arabianesque arpeggio accompanied by Jakk's vocals, always different and enriching this song - like all the remaining ones - in several manners (whispered, threatening or angry, often overdubbed), while the bass bursts, the drums shatter and go on odd times on the hi-hats; unforgettable is the smashing hook in view of the refrain; the initial arpeggio appears again with the manifold vocals, some even like a muezzin's! Certainly the best of all songs.
A neoclassic riff opens the original "Brainless Beholders", but the vocal are close to the early James Hetfield, even if rawer and less adrenalinic; after a good entwining between a soft riff and the bass, the keyboards lead us to a couple of nice axe solos (as keyboardist Leonid also plays the guitar); you don't even realize the song has come to an end that "Dark Domain" has already begun, a strange blend of as brutal as possible Bay area Thrash with a wonderful bridge with one distorted guitar and the other undistorted (Anacrusis's spectre looms out); the refrain reminds of the Texan band again yet the vocals are closer to the best Prong and the crudest Skinlab; Jakk exceeds himself here by using his whole vocal range and styles. This song is a masterpiece and shows this band is far above the average thanks to a peculiar clever singer and 2 guitarists gifted with enough fantasy.
The closing composition, "Gorge of War", starts with an arpeggio as well and then adds 2 twisted riffs that will make Forbidden's freaks jump one metre from the ground. All of a sudden enters a break with angelic keys broken by crushing guitars and a disruptive tom tom percussion work in the vein of Slayer. An alternated monophonic structure with nu-metal vocals (Biohazard, Downset...) precedes a pair of brilliant 6-string solos; the final assault is given by Megadeathian riffs and Violenceian angry throat modulations.

Their songwriting, which ranges from Thrash/Power to Prog/symphonic and Death metal, is already plainly mature, nevertheless should these 5 musicians from Roman Abramovich's motherland ameliorate it just a pinch more and obtain a more polished up recording (let's get things straight, this one is not bad at all, but there're too many boomy low sounds and the charleston is not defined enough), Celtic Frost and Voivod would have found deign heirs who to pass the baton to.