A glorious return for Criminal occurs in the year of 2011. The once Chilean band may have become a multi-national force, as the only remaining member is Anton Reisenegger (who also serves as the guitar player of mighty Lock Up, replacing the long gone Jesse Pintado), but this didn’t hold them back in terms of creativity and inspiration. It is with joy that we see them returning two years after the previous very good album ”White Hell”, because twice has happened to be a gap of four years in their discography, first time from ”Cancer” to ”No Gods No Masters” (2000 to 2004) and second time from ”Sicario” to ”White Hell” (2005 to 2009). This time things got in order shorter and the new album is ready with the spanish-native title ”Akelarre”. “Akelarre” is a word from the Basque language (Euskara) which is also widely used in most Spanish-speaking countries and translates to “witches’ Sabbath”. So what is new to this new Criminal album compared to the previous ones?

Pretty much nothing, as they always tended to be simple and pointful to their albums. I remember when I first encountered them on their second album ”Dead Soul”, with the video clip of ”Slave/Master” back then driving me nuts. A lethal Sepultura-like dose of punching, aggressive and hyper-speedy and groovy thrash metal what what came from the speakers. Since then, Criminal held their thrash basis as the main element of their music, but never managed to become the typical sounding thrash metal band. The groove always accompanied them and even some death metal parts in certain songs would enrich their sound and make them sound even better (or renewed, depends on how anyone sees it from his side). ”Akelarre” is no exception to the familiar Criminal Recipe and continues from where ”White Hell” left, with the only change lying to the departure of Rodrigo Contreras (the only faithful partner of Reisenegger all these years) and the arrival of new guitarist Omar Cascallar who seems to be a great fit to Reiseneggers riffs with his powerful contribution on the leads also.

The rest line up is the same since 2006, where the old fellow of Reisenegger from the old Pentagram days (meaning Pentagram from Chile, not the legendary doom band) Dan Biggin joined the band. Biggin also does the production on ”Akelarre”, making everything sound clear and well-played and the help of drummer Zac O’Neill (the longest lasting Criminal member except Reisenegger) is proved valuable, as his playing gives an extra boost to the whole 41 minutes of the album, knowing where to create more groove and when to burst out with double bass fillings everywhere needed. The album’s consistency is also another strong card, as thrashing lightnings such as ”Order From Chaos” or ”Feel The Void” fit perfect with songs like ”Tyrannicide” which takes the band to another sonic level of mid-tempo thrashing rage (but without forgetting where to smash everything in its wake). An album that flows rather quick and makes you feel it lasted a little less than half an hour. This can’t be nothing but positive I guess.

The album’s songs are almost a little more than four minutes in duration, without tiring the listener, except two, the marvellous ”The Power Of The Dog” and of course, the title track which in two minutes only sums up almost two decades of Criminal’s existence and makes you wonder why this band didn’t become more widely known. It feels like Criminal don’t care that much for publicity after all, as they have taken the lonely road of being faithful to their musical roots, without needing to adapt to today’s theories of how a band should sound like. It is for granted that once again most people will ignore them, but it is also certain that the few people continuing being close to them, will never get disappointed by the four-piece. I should point out the excellent guitar riffs, always heavy and clean-sounding (but not cheesy), serving the old school way with their playing. This is no modern stuff, it is only traditional thrash metal as it should always be, fast, furious, with room for the songs to breathe, without sounding a constant beating all the time.

I don’t know if the seventh album of Criminal proves to be the lucky one for them. Also, I don’t know if they will be able to go on unrestricted by the presence of their leader in Lock Up also. All I know is that I can always count on them for making very good to great albums and that they will always remain true to theirseleves, with the good sense of the word (because the word ‘true’ tends to have a negative meaning to the metal scene from a point and on). Just listen to songs like ”Vows Of Silence” which contain an extra death metal aura, but without losing their initial thrash basis. This is who Criminal were, are and will always be. It is a pity they are not more famous and acknowledged as one of the best bands in the genre the last years, but it’s good that they continue without really giving a shit about all these. Hopefully they will return in two years from now with another very good album, just like ”Akelarre” is. Until then, enjoy this witches’ Sabbath without fear and regrets. Another great album for 2011. What a great metal year!

Track List Line Up
01. Order From Chaos
02. Resistance Is Futile
03. The Ghost We Summoned
04. Akelarre
05. State Of Siege
06. Tyrannicide
07. Feel The Void
08. The Power Of The Dog
09. Vows Of Silence
10. La Santa Muerte
Anton Reisenegger – Vocals, Guitars
Zac O’Neill – Drums
Dan Biggin – Bass
Omar Cascallar – Guitars