Hailing from the Czech Republic, Debustrol are most likely more of an obscurity on these shores (though legends in their homeland) rather than an Oldie But Goldie. However upon listening to their debut, 1991’s raging thrasher Neuropatolog (Neuropathologist), you can understand why this album would be considered a golden oldie. With the lyrics all written in their mother tongue, the music itself may do more of the talking for those who have English as their first language however the vocals in Czech enhances the music in my opinion. So onwards to the review, and hopefully you can discover some great non-English metal – why should languages become barriers when the music is a language we can all understand!
The artwork for Neuropatolog is anything but subtle. Adorning the album cover is nothing other than a big picture of that famous Hollywood bogeyman, Freddie Kreuger (the antagonist from the Nightmare on Elm St franchise for those who don’t know). The significance of this I don’t know however it certainly makes the album stand out. Maybe it could suggest a link between the mind games and mental torment that Kreuger uses to terrify his victims before bringing them to their demise with his razor glove? In the end I don’t get why his image is the album cover (maybe he’s referenced in the title track’s lyrics? If that’s the case then obviously I don’t know since I don’t know much Czech) but I couldn’t imagine the album looking any other way and it certainly draws you to want a listen. The artwork certainly does the job at least!
Apart from the artwork itself, I can’t comment on any other aspects of the album presentation – it’s my understanding that it’s very difficult to get much Czech metal outside of the Czech Republic (at least in the UK) so I was pointed to a Czech download site where I managed to get all of the Debustrol albums (I will put the link at the end).
1. Krvavá Práce (Blood Work)
2. Příchod Zla (The Arrival of Evil)
3. Deziluze (Disillusionment)
4. Protest (Protest)
5. Pokrok (Progress)
6. Infarkt (Heart Attack)
7. Oběti Strachu A Beznaděje (Victims of Fear and Despair)
8. Údolí Hádu (Valley of Hades)
9. Neuropatolog (Neuropathologist)
10. Antikrist (Antichrist)
11. Vyznání Smrti (Confessions of Death)
So as stated before, all of the songs (throughout the band’s career, not just this album) are written and performed in Debustrol’s native Czech tongue. The song titles are roughly translated with a little help from the internet and one of my Czech colleagues (who introduced me to some of his homeland’s finest metal – shout to Marek!).
So to the vocals first. I am no stranger to some non-English metal (with some songs in German, Swedish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Finnish – no great surprises as to which bands they might be) in my collection and I personally think bands singing in their native tongue enhances the music greatly, as well as adding their own unique stamp to some otherwise standard stock sounding metal. Frontman Kolins brings an angry roaring shout to Debustrol’s sound in addition to his riffs. Again this is pretty standard stuff for thrash metal but his rasping Czech roars (with the odd dive into almost-growling territory) greatly compliment the relentless high-energy thrashfest.
In addition to this, Debustrol also makes use of the typically thrash shouting gang vocals in places to great effect. Next are the guitars. Neuropatolog is chock full of great catchy thrash metal riffs. Again using the tried and tested formula of mainly high speed low 4/4 pedal 16th note alternate picking coupled with a variety of power chords and the odd scale-based riff going on (or pre-death metal style 16th note riffing and ventures into 12/8 territory), this is pretty standard stuff. Same with the solos, pretty standard scale run-type stuff with bendy bluesy bits, and the occasional piece of whammy work. However there’s just something about the music that just make the head bang and the desire to mosh increase, and surely that’s one of the best things about heavy metal – the music is simply good fun!
As for the bass guitar there’s nothing exceptional here with Neuropatolog, with the bass mainly following the guitar lines like in most kinds of guitar based music.
Finally for the drums, they pound along with the relentless light speed 16th hat-snare-hat-snare over 16th double-kicks (with the occasional D-Beat-style kick flutter) moving each song along at super-fast mosh pit-inducing pace with little pausing for breath. In terms of fills, Neuropatolog mainly makes use of simple descending tom patterns though these are particularly effective in their simplicity and greatly compliment the music.
As for the production, I think Neuropatolog sounds awesome for the time. Every element is clear in the mix, especially aspects of the drums which I find sometimes sound buried in the mix and fight for attention. However the one element I feel which could do with a slight boost is surprisingly the crash cymbals which, although can clearly be heard, they sound a little buried and the increase of their prominence in the mix would allow for greater impact when they are used. The range of frequencies are balanced excellently allowing for both guitars, the bass, all aspects of the drums, the lead vocals and backing vocals to stand out and clearly be heard. The near-perfect balance of levels also contributes to this though again I feel the crash cymbals could do with a boost of a few dB and the level balance would sound perfect. The localization of each element of the mix is also achieved well to create a realistic sense of where they would be placed on a live stage. The subtle use of reverb also contributes to this, allowing for the mix to sound roomy enough to that of a fair sized venue in which the a band like Debustrol might play live. In addition to this another subtle use of delay also adds to the depth of the space to create reflections realistic to size of venue Debustrol would perform in – overall the time domain effects used in the mix for Neuropatolog allow for a very real sounding performance with no overall polish making the band sound bigger than what they are.
On top of this there are no other effects that I can hear except a slight chorus on the guitars which effectively adds a little thickness to the otherwise slightly thin fuzzy distortion which they boast.
Finally for mastering, the overall final levels sound almost on par with any record released within the past few years (at least the version I’m hearing) and the final EQs achieve well the desired effect of cutting out any mushiness and harshness, thus allowing for a fairly clean sounding record that in my opinion has aged very well in the past 22 years. The only problem I have with the production is the noise floor is a little higher than desired which contributes a little dirt which may otherwise be unwanted – however during the performance this is pretty inaudible to the unlearned ear and actually in my opinion compliments the guitars by adding a little more beef to their otherwise thin-ish sound. The only time the noise rears its head properly is in the fade outs at the end of each song but overall this doesn’t prove to be much of an issue, at least to the casual listener anyway.
Debustrol’s 1991 Czech thrash metal classic Neuropatolog boasts a collection of pretty standard sounding but fun high-energy thrash which any thrasher worldwide can enjoy despite the language barrier. With a great mix which doesn’t sound terribly aged like many a heavy metal record over 15 years old, the album is a hidden gem which I recommend any thrash metal fan check out and enjoy – link to the Czech download site where I found it (along with the remainder of Debustrol’s back catalogue – I recommend checking out the albums Svet Co Zatoci S Tebou and Pad Do Hrobu Mrtvol) is here:
Highlights: “Krvává Práce”, “Protest”, “Infarkt”, “Údolí Hádu”, “Antikrist” and “Vyznání Smrti”
Overall score: 7.5/10