DETRITUS - If But For One (Legends Remastered)


The Forgotten Masterpiece

If But For One is probably one of the best progressive thrash doom metal records ever recorded, but remains an obscure title because it was poorly distributed both in the secular and Christian markets (Hmm, I wonder if the timing of its release had any bearing on that?). Recorded in 1992, the album was originally released in 1993 in the US (R.E.X.) with the dull blue/gray cover (pictured below) and an anemic 4 panel fold out insert with somewhat hard-to-read lyrics. Marketing/promotional issues aside, this wasn’t, sadly, the kind of music that was taking the world by storm circa 1993. But I think it was also poorly understood. 1990’s Perpetual Defiance was the band’s straight-up thrash metal debut, and so fans were expecting more of the same. This talented UK foursome, lead by Mark Broomhead (vocals/bass), wasn’t content to repeat however, and instead moved in a more progressive metal direction, incorporating some elements of doom and even jazz, yet at the same time intensified the crushing Metallica-like rhythms. Furthermore, the lyrics to these songs went way above and beyond the average thrash metal output – the truths and sometimes brutal observations laid out with wisdom and integrity, firmly rooted in a humble, Spirit-guided hope for humanity.

Although this is a reissue, for all the above reasons and because I believe a lot of people have either never heard this before or had forgotten it existed, I am approaching this review like its new music. Honestly, it feels like new music this many years later, its that relevant and that good. I’ve included some excerpts from my original 1993 review (previously unpublished):

Wow! Here is some excellent thrash metal. Much more diverse and powerful than the debut, Detritus surprises the metal world with the high caliber of this release. This is not your typical thrash album. In addition to the usual powerful chords and speedy riffs, there are some cool driving acoustic guitars. For instance, the opening track, “Masquerade,” has an acoustic prelude and postlude. Can you say dynamics? This band uses them in nearly all the songs and that is part of what makes this so special…

…“So Far Away” has this very Pink Floydian mellow entrance, which is abruptly interrupted by a tremendously powerful riff ala Metallica midway through the piece…

…“Blindly Rejected,” with its duel metal and acoustic guitar lead and sax solo, is simply amazing. . Again, the dynamic changes here are phenomenal for a thrash metal band…

…“Father to Son” is my favorite with its powerful drumming, gut-wrenching riffs and inspiring lyrics. Overall, If But For One is an outstanding combination of progressive and thrash metal… nearly perfect.

There is so much more to these songs, but I wanted to capture in time some of those “virgin” listening experiences from the early days with this album. I mentioned Mark Broomhead previously, but Andy Neal and Earl Morris were the dual guitar force behind Detritus, Andy Bright handling the drums. From the opening track it is immediately evident this quartet created something unique, like who starts out a heavy metal album with an almost country/western guitar jangle? Well, maybe Galactic Cowboys … but this is heavy thrash metal. And then comes the incredibly progressive, complex and multi-faceted “So Far Away,” which starts out with acoustic guitar plucking accompanied by layered and echoing vocals asking, “Why when I’m feeling so down do you seem so far away?” At the 3:24 mark the strumming becomes more desperate and things accelerate into the aggression which follows – thrashy rhythms intermixed with lurching, monstrous riffs. This song describes the struggle which ensues from desiring to follow the Savior as “self” keeps impeding the progress. This battle comes to a concussive culmination with the following exhortation:

“Don’t follow me, follow the One I follow/Don’t look to me, look to the One I look to/Don’t turn away, because of the believers/The true one is the Christ and not the Christians” – “So Far Away”

“D.G.I.M.” features a nice mid-tempo romp – in Maiden fashion – with a doomy vibe and yet another reminder, in narrative, that man is not the master of his destiny. Brilliant how Andy Bright pulls the tempo back at the end of the song. The following track would best be described as obliterating, truth-filled metal crush. Akin to something from Master of Puppets, this monstrous track not only features guitar/drum rhythmic bliss – those choked cymbal/guitar power chords combined with twisting riffs scream metal.

“Lord, open my mind, open my soul, see the reality/come, take my emotions, turn into actions, remove the apathy/death, seen as solution, blind/aggression, insensitivity/let peace begin with me” – “Let Peace Begin With Me”

But just when the power and intensity is ramping up to fury level, “Feel” pulls things back a few notches with the acoustic interlude laced with hope in the face of failure and disillusion. That acoustic pattern follows over into the balladic and scathing “Blindly Rejected,” a song for the rejected, the “different” and the aborted and unwanted. Broomhead sings, “Maybe the world’s the one that’s mentally disabled,” and I can’t help but come to that conclusion as well looking at the thought patterns and actions of so many in our world today. But the sax solo is really a surprise, because who would add the core jazz instrument to metal? It’s different, but it works really well. The title track changes direction in a doomier direction. It starts out with thrash metal fury and speed and then shifts gears into a slow doom grind with throaty vocals, only to shift back to speed mode for the final course. The final sequence shifts back to doom with some incredibly creative drum fills by Bright followed by a shredding guitar solo which then paces the way back down to the piano-driven outro. It’s all so emotive, yet insanely well-thought out from a songwriting stance.

“Sardonic anthem, harmony of scorn/the crucifixion, cord of death torn/salvation unseen by naïve minds/separation, the darkness binds/for mankind his last breath/if but for one, suffering death.” – “If But For One”

And if all of that is not enough, the album is nowhere near finished. “Sailor’s Farewell” features the band’s humor. It is a thrash metal sea-faring jaunt, with just a tad of irreverence, alluding to the journey we will all one day take to our ultimate home. “Father to Son” is a fast and furious thrash, replete with incredibly honest confession and exhortation. The mid song guitar riff is killer, as is the galloping double bass drum shuffle. The pummeling riffs of “Painted Reality” follow, this song reminding us to remember the incredible gift of redemption granted to us by the Father. The somewhat psychedelic “As It Rains” similarly reminds us to see the Creator in the world around us. This song also features acoustic and electric dueling guitars propelled by a quick tempo in melodic fashion, but then slams into heavy rhythmic riffing mid-song. The song fades out to vocals only – “You feed me with the land/I see your beauty in the flowers/Your strength as it thunders/Your vastness in the sand.” The closer “Subtle Shades” is quite a departure. Instead of the edgy/throaty/harsh vocals which permeate just about every song here, this song showcases the softer, melancholic side of Broomhead’s voice as he reflects on the not so “black and white” nature of the world in which we live. “There is no black, only

subtle shades of pastels.”

The Bonus Tracks

Well, as if the original music isn’t impressive enough… Very few bonus tracks add much to the original release. Here, though, that is far from the case. In fact, they nicely complement the originals by displaying a different sound and, in some cases, arrangements. For instance, with “Let Peace…” you can really hear drummer Andy Bright pushing the tempo, his snare sound punchier compared to the studio version. On many of these demo versions, Broomhead sounds a bit more laid-back and less abrasive. And most of the demo versions are a bit shorter, but they all sound great quality-wise. Musically, the demo of “Masquerade” is even more obnoxious than the studio version, the opening guitars just a bit more twang-y, but there are no vocals on this track. Finally, Detritus goes punk on the final two tracks covering the Beatles and the Ramones.

The Vinyl

I tried to post a good picture of the black disc, but it kept either reflecting my camera or collecting lint so didn’t want to post a picture of a dirty record. The back of the lyric insert is pictured, however. Suffice to say, my copy had very few blemishes, by this I mean discolorations on the surface, not anything that would adversely effect playback. In fact, this disc is incredibly free of surface noise, the more open acoustic sections and quieter songs like “Subtle Shades” sound great. The cover artwork, with the psychedelic pastels, really jump out on the vinyl. The image of the album jacket (not the CD) is pictured at the top of the review. The record is flat and plays perfectly … and man, does it sound powerful. The original mix was very good, but these reworked versions on CD and vinyl have massive sound, Broomhead’s bass guitar just exploding out of the low end on the vinyl master. Thanks to Rob Colwell for getting this right. This album is well-suited to vinyl listening because it contains such musical diversity and dynamic contrast. Don’t miss out, pick this up today, because this is one of the best vinyl releases to date from Retroactive Records and only 300 copies exist.

Finally, it would be a huge understatement to say that we blew it by not including this album on the Heaven’s Metal Top 100 list (should be in the top 50), so thanks to Matt Hunt and Detritus for bringing this beautiful monster of an album back into the light of day, and in glorious fashion no less! Essential art, essential metal.

Retroactive Records

Release Date: Out Now

CD Track List:

1. Masquerade (3:55)

2. So Far Away (6:11)

3. DIGM (5:37)

4. Let Peace Begin With Me (3:38)

5. Feel (2:17)

6. Blindly Rejected (4:43)

7. If But For One (6:46)

8. Sailors Farewell (2:55)

9. Father To Son (2:40)

10. Painted Reality (4:09)

11. As It Rains (4:04)

12. Subtle Shades (4:00)

Bonus Tracks

13. Let Peace Begin With Me (3:34)

14. Blindly Rejected (3:45)

15. Sailor’s Farewell (2:29)

16. As It Rains (3:40)

17. Painted Reality (3:49)

18. Feel (2:04)

19. Masquerade (3:05)

20. Help (2:34)

21. Rockaway Beach (1:55)

Vinyl (Limited)

Side A

1. Masquerade (3:55)

2. So Far Away (6:11)

3. DIGM (5:37)

4. Let Peace Begin With Me (3:38)

5. Feel (2:17)

6. Blindly Rejected (4:43)

Side B

7. If But For One (6:46)

8. Sailors Farewell (2:55)

9. Father To Son (2:40)

10. Painted Reality (4:09)

11. As It Rains (4:04)

12. Subtle Shades (4:00)

#thrashmetal #progressivemetal #Detritus #MarkBroomhead #RetroactiveRecords

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