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Thrash metal is not a sound that will be new to most people. The world is filled with fans of '80s heavyweights such as Slayer, Exodus and Metallica, but since its heyday, thrash has been a dying breed. However, in recent years more and more bands have been popping up around the world laying down ass kicking thrash in the vein of their '80s heroes. Bonded By Blood are just one of them. Aside from the clear Exodus tribute in their name, what’s so special about these guys?
You don’t need to be special to thrash like a madman.
Bonded By Blood hail from Los Angeles, USA and like some of their fellow California residents, they play no-nonsense thrash metal, clearly in worship of those icons we should all be familiar with. The order of the day is, of course, fast paced riffs with drumming to match, excessive soloing and the frantic rambling of a madman on vocals. The vocals are very much in the ‘Peace Sells’ frame of mind, and much like Mustaine the voice of Jose "Aladdin" Barrales is a love-or-hate affair. If you love it, then the thick accent and very ‘hyuk’ inflection will simply raise the intensity that much more, but if you hate it I imagine it will annoy you to no end. I, thankfully, fit the former criteria but even if you hate Bonded By Blood’s vocals, there’s plenty more to enjoy.
The guitar work on ‘Feed The Beast’ is impressive, with guitar duo Alex Lee and Juan Juarez assembling several billion riffs and recording them all in the space of 40 minutes. The riff style has obviously been done before, but it’s not broken and we should all be glad that these guys aren’t trying to fix it. One thing which does stand out about these riffs though is the fact that they don’t rely on thrashing out on that low E string as much as quite a lot of these Earache-led ‘new wave of thrash metal’ bands do. In that way ‘Feed The Beast’ seems more like a crossover record, but I think the lead guitar work leaves that significant punk influence just short of making it a true crossover album. The leads on this album are fantastic, with solos that are blindingly fast and yet retain some quality melodic value. There are still those chromatic runs and solos that seem to be mostly comprised of the whammy bar for the Kerry King fans out there but even if Slayer-esque madness isn’t your thing, these solos are still very enjoyable parts of the songs.
The balance of instruments on this mix is near perfect for a modern thrash sound; there’s a fantastic bass presence supporting biting guitars and pounding drums. The one problem I find with the sound is with the snare which, while as tight as a thrash metal snare probably should be, just cuts through a little too much. This is no real complaint though, as the drums are performed to a high standard. In fact, most things about this album attain this standard with relative ease.
The lyrics are your standard fare gritty thrash affair, and while there’s no poetic genius going on here, you’d certainly be listening to the wrong genre if that’s what you’re expecting from this album. The one thing that does matter is the application of those very punk-tinged chants that will whip up a fury with a live crowd, which Bonded By Blood really exceed at. The subject matter involves monsters, insanity and... civil servants, apparently. The aforementioned civil service aside, the lyrics are cliche, yet serve their purpose excellently. With song titles like ‘Self Immolation’, ‘Mind Pollution’ and ‘Psychotic Pulse’, these are lyrics that can be nonsensical and brainless as they like, because they are in the end f--king metal.
Thrash has been done. Hell, it’s been done by bands that formed after 2000 and even they got in there faster than Bonded By Blood, but really time is irrelevant, as ‘Feed The Beast’ is a good thrash metal album, played like it’s 1986 but recorded as it should be in 2008. Of course, it’s been 20 years since the golden age of thrash, and if that period was all you ever needed then you’re not going to be missing much by not listening to this band or indeed any other band that’s part of this ‘thrash revival’ that label executives across the world have been salivating over. However, ‘Feed The Beast’ is still a good thrash album. It’s got quality riffs (‘Mind Pollution’), it’s got style (‘Immortal Life’) but most importantly of all, it closes with a crossover thrash cover of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme. Cowabunga, dude.
Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com review team.