A dark shadow hangs over Warbeast’s third full-length album. In the spring of 2017, vocalist Bruce Corbitt, also of the legendary Rigor Mortis, announced that he would be stepping down from his position and retiring from singing altogether due to a severe medical condition. The band also appears to have understandably split in the wake of this tragedy. Fortunately, thrash metal isn’t known for its pity parties and if Warbeast is going down, then Enter the Arena proves that they’re gonna try taking a few lives with them.
Like Krush the Enemy and Destroy before it, Enter the Arena offers more of Warbeast’s particular blend of hardcore-tinged thrash. However the Pantera/Exhorder influence may be more prominent than it was on past efforts. Most of the songs still operate on a mix of fast-paced blasts and violently squealing solos. but the more unsettling Slayer-esque leads aren’t as common. Songs like “Maze of the Minotaur” show a greater emphasis on breakdowns than there had been before. A couple tracks like “Punishment for Gluttony” also see Corbitt throw in brief, hostile spoken word segments, leading one to wonder if he may have spent a little too much time with his old buddy Phil Anselmo.
The musicianship still manages to sound pretty tight. The production comes close to feeling a little too dry but there’s thankfully no Loudness War at work and it strengthens the sandpaper guitars, clicking drums, and the harsh rasps. The songwriting also has a craftsman quality; there aren’t too many tracks that explicitly stand out but each track accomplishes what it sets out to do in a remorselessly brutal fashion.
But while Warbeast hasn’t suddenly become some dead serious band contemplating the implications of mortality in a world outside of old slasher films and war movies, they may still be a little more straight-faced than intended. The lyrics’ over the top depictions of psychotic butchery lend themselves to the hamminess that Corbitt excelled in with Rigor Mortis, but his adherence to a middle of the road snarl results in a diminished character. It isn’t a deal breaker but when combined with the pedestrian songwriting, it does sell his legacy somewhat short.
In the face of impending tragedy, Enter the Arena sees Warbeast dying as they lived: kicking everyone’s asses with Texas thrash. While the songwriting isn’t quite as memorable as it could be, the performances can make up for it and there is enough power behind it for diehard thrash fans to savor every beating. Bruce Corbett’s two albums with Rigor Mortis are always what I will remember him by, but I wish him god-speed all the same. Or satan-speed. You know, whatever works. Keep a stiff upper lip, Mr. Corbitt.
“Maze of the Minotaur”