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Who knew brains could thrash this fast? - 87%

hells_unicorn, April 22nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Earache Records

Some might deem it a hyperbolic sentiment, but for all of the lasting impact that the British Isles had on metal's early development, they all but missed the boat on thrash metal. Sure, there was a sizable number of respectable acts from Xentrix to Slammer putting out material during the high period of the late 80s and Onslaught hit it off early on in the game, but when compared against the booming scenes that erupted out of America, Germany and Brazil, it seemed like they were all but supplanted not long after being metal's chief proponent in the earlier part of the 80s via the NWOBHM. Since the recent upsurge of interest in the older ways of ruining vertebrae, this picture has changed a bit, and arguably one of the more over-the-top adherents to crop up of late is an act from Northern Ireland dubbed Gama Bomb, a veritable speed machine that resides somewhere between the concise, slightly crossover character of Municipal Waste and the comical sensibilities of Tankard.

For all their zany lyrical allusions to science fiction films and alcohol, not to mention the pulp comic demeanor of their album art, this band actually manages to take their work fairly seriously on their second studio outing in Citizen Brain, at least if the subject is riffs and sheer speed. Playing off an extremely concise formula where rarely break the three minute mark, they manage to make a fair amount of time to cram in some impressive feats, including a decent barrage of lead guitar gymnastics that is not quite as chaotic as a typical early Slayer love fest, but also a bit more wild and dangerous than an orthodox Hammett or Skolnick homage. Most of the riff work tends to focus on the chugging, stop and start goodness typical of Bay Area mainstays Exodus with an occasional nod to the eerie harmonic aesthetics of Slayer (see the intro of "Zombie Blood Nightmare" and the closing minute or so of "Bullet Belt"), but presented in a sort of flashy all fast, all the time character similar to Tankard's Zombie Attack.

Perhaps the most charming aspect of this album is that it doesn't shy away at any point from its clearly comical character, embracing a lot of the cartoon-like qualities of its subject matter in a musically unsubtle way. Vocalist Philly Byrne is the chief element at play in this album's fun loving demeanor, sporting a sort of versatile yet clearly punk-inspired vocal character that is somewhat reminiscent of Vio-Lence's Sean Killian and Nuclear Assault's John Connelly, but a bit more shriek-happy and exaggerated. Occasionally some sampled sounds like the coin jingle from Super Mario Brothers heard amid the lead break of "Final Fight" and the audio clip from Robocop heard on the Nuclear Assault inspired ditty "OCP" make their way into the mix, but the band doesn't get too slavish on gimmicks and generally just slays the ears repeatedly with their riffs. The standout moments tend to be few here musically as the songs largely play off the same formula, but the slightly longer than average cruiser "Hammer Slammer" and the speed metal cliche steeped "Hell Trucker" which all but sounds like a subtle nod to early Helloween.

Gama Bomb may never be up for a Grammy for their musical wackiness, but the fun factor is so viciously blatant on this album that it's pretty hard not to love every minute of it. The only thing that really works against Citizen Brain is that it's a one trick pony, though speedy thrash craving fanatics will recognize it as the only trick needed to pull off a great show. This is thrash metal removed from its progressive and modern elements, distilled to its more primitive state without quite morphing into the overtly hardcore character of Suicidal Tendencies and Stormtroopers Of Death, though it definitely gets pretty close. If anything from the likes of Municipal Waste or Lost Society has a prized place in one's collection, this album should too.

Retro-Thrash With Muscle - 95%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, January 14th, 2015

Wow... Where do I start talking about his fantastic album?... I've lost a lot of hope in today's metal scene. Too much about the look and not the music. Now it's all about censorship and shying away from the NSFW aspects of life unfortunately. But it's bands like Gama Bomb and albums like "Citizen Brain" that let me still keep faith in good music. The album cover is what draws your attention first. It's riddled with gore and some subtle political messages, but these messages didn't match the album's themes very well.

When I heard the first song "Zombie Blood Nightmare" from this record I was blown away. First by drummer Paul Gaffrey, whose rhythms were tight as hell and sweeping. Next by guitarists Domo Dixon and Luke Graham, and bassist Joe McGuian playing perfectly in-sync and at a speed that I had heard from few bands. My jaw dropped again when vocalist Philly Byrne started doing his thing. His vocals were perfect. I normally hear a band whose vocals are harsh enough but not audible, or a band whose vocalist's lyrics are clear but not abrasive enough. Byrne mixes aggression and audibility in a refreshing way that has a prowess all its own. His vocals do get a little more high pitched than I would like at times and he has uses a repetitive vocal pattern on most songs, but thus is music. For a five piece band, they match their sound with their numbers. There was never a moment when I found myself wanting more from these guys.

But let's talk about the music itself. The song writing of Citizen brain is wonderful and unique. Songs like "Space Invaders" and "Hell Trucker" absolutely obliterate everything in their path. They never let you up for air. "Bullet Belt," "Thrashaholic," and " Sentenced To Thrash" are all about getting down to and getting destroyed by thrash metal. I normally dislike songs about these sort of things because I feel like they make a mockery of thrashers and their affiliates. But Gama Bomb delivered so well with these tracks that I had to like them. Songs like “Zombi Brew,” “In The Court Of General Zod,” “Final Fight, ”Hammer Slammer” and “Time Crime” are all well written, and well rounded. The most solid songs on the album in my opinion were “Zombie Blood Nightmare” and “Space Invaders due to their speed and technicality.

The album's production was pretty normal at times. The drumming was made up to seem/sound nearly impossible to do however. "Zombie Blood Nightmare" will let you know that. I actually thought there was a drum machine playing the rhythms that the band was grooving to, but I guess I was wrong.

Citizen Brain was the first Gama Bomb alum I had heard, and I immediately assumed that it was their debut album do to its attitude, speed and difficulty. But I was wrong. My only problem with this album was its cheesy lyrics, but other than that it was amazing. As Gama Bomb progresses they get better each time. I can’t wait to see what is their future. Thrash is back for good.

Thrashing is insane! - 90%

Mortuus_Avarice, March 15th, 2011

Rennaisance? Hell no, this is a pure New rennaisance! Avalanche, hurricane, or call it how the heck you want to; lets take it short – thrash metal. Musical genre, which unbelievably rises again. From all around the world new bands are growing like mushrooms after the rain, quartets and quintets, trying to sound like all of those, who created the thrash history. What? Some bookworm piffling something about originality? Tell him to shut the fuck up and to go to the concert, we show him what we can do. And this was what I did in the cause of Nothern Irish band Gama Bomb, worshipping the good auld times of Slayer, Nuclear Assault and Kreator, when all of those were striking with hellish wrath, storming into the walls of death, and all have gone insane.

What about originality? I usually don´t care; if the guys can play and play from the heart, then why not, let´s go for it. Gama Bomb rocked the place at the Metalmania Fest in Zlin, CZE, and when I got to their album „Cizizen Brain“ (what a strange name, maybe a paraphrase of the famous Orson Welles movie „Citizen Kane“?), I belived in a similar experience home by the fire. But I´ve really not expected, that I´ll almost shit in my pants. How did the bastards make it? There is so much bands playing similar music and it´s spreading like the plague in the Middle ages. Does Gama Bomb have anything special, something what the others lack? Honestly, I don´t know. I can just describe, what they have.

Awesome feeling of the 80´s. Voice (a real VOICE), whose owner has an unstoppable gift of the gab and a great range, like Tom Araya in his younger days. Brutally catchy, or catchy brutal riffs. Solos, which are sometimes crossing the borders of speed/thrash metal. Pounding bassist, who also likes to make some „hey ho“ choir into the mic. Drummer-octopus overdosed with stimulants. And, finally, the lyrics, which are covering an entire genre themes. Metal, load of fun, booze, political machinations and shady dealings, some zombies to make much more fun, thirteen times „fuck.“ The most interesting song is, from this view, „Time Crime“, full of historical anomalies and twisted-off equivoques; „Napoleon Blownapart“, for example, is really weird...Take this together and you´ll get a steam roller with a gas turbine installed, so it has not just a damned heavy sound, it is fast as a shark and sharp like a buzz-saw. When listening to „Citizen Brain“, I sometimes consider myself a masochist. My ears are in pain from this airstrike assault, but I can´t stop listening to it and tear my ears again and again! This is not an epidemy, but pure addiction! I can´t remember an album, which could awake such a positive pissing-off feeling in me. Portraits of those I hate to death I see before my eyes, they are strictured in a stubborn grin and their own blood flows from their lacerated scars. Unconsciously I clench my fists and I´m touching their necks...If it was true, I´d smash them into dust. But the album is over now and I´m slowly taken back into a normal state of mind. Violence not needed, I just borrow a bullet belt from my friend and take a walk through the town, then. They all will be aware.

„Citizen Brain“ is a a machine gun fire without any equivalents. If we can talk about some relax, a bit of it you can find in the last song „Bullet Belt“. It is the longest song aon the album, I say, almost three and a half minute! Why to f..., er, why to bother, eh? All of those who know me, know my phlegmatic temper well ; anything I should keep as secret. But Gama Bomb smacks me once, smacks me twice, and before the third stroke I stand on my legs, prepared to smack someone myself. If you meet me on the street and I will look like that Gama Bomb is systematically destroying my ears, just slowly cross the street and I will pretend I didn´t see you. If not the case, I can´t give you any guarantee for my behaviour. And the opponents of me can stick their doubts where the monkeys stick their....Ah, right, all right, man, I´m turning it off already. I will listen it once again, when I´ll be alone and not dangerous to anybody.


So what? I went crazy. Maybe, who cares? Get this, you won´t regret.

Gama Bomb - Citizen Brain - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, September 3rd, 2009

Thrash is back! Some will say it never went away, but it did. Those people must clearly be thinking of Metal in general cos that never died but if one looks at the output of the old Thrash bands that even survived into the 90's, there was little to shout about. However in the early part of the 21st Century Patchjackets 'R' Us must have been having a clearing sale as a whole new generation of Thrashers have appeared from every nook and cranny that was once peaceful and respectable, to bring this glorious style of Metal to the forefront again. I am proud to call myself one of that generation, having gone absolutely bananas for Thrash Metal when I picked up "Reign In Blood" in 2002, and have never looked back since. Gama Bomb from Ireland tick every single box required on "Citizen Brain" to pass the mandatory 'Are you a real Thrasher?' test, which whilst certainly admirable could be their biggest downfall - more of which to come later.

Gama Bomb deal in pure thrashing 80's Thrash of the thrashiest Exodus and Anthrax nature, with gang vocals galore, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, riffs never slowing beyond a fast gallop and competent drumming holding the whole thing together. In their favour, at least the bass is audible unlike too much of the 80's Thrash catalogue. Picking stand-out tracks is difficult due to the rough similarity of the lot, where chorus follows verse, solos flay, vocalist Philly fights with the other members for dominance of the vocals, heads bang and feet tap. Exodus, already a huge influence to so many modern Thrash bands, are clearly a favourite of the GB boys, with a drumsound hugely reminiscent of their later material and riffs galore that remind this scribe of their classic "And Then There Were None" from 1986's "Bonded By Blood". Particular favourites include "Evil Voices" and "Hammer Slammer" where GB's OTT youthful exuberance spills over to create some blinding riffs that are guaranteed to get everyone involved in some good friendly violent fun down in the pit.

Despite the abundance of invariably flowing solos and Philly's propensity for screaming like only a drunken Irish Thrasher could, at this early stage in their career "Citizen Brain" just doesn't quite separate Gama Bomb from the pack that Municipal Waste's "Hazardous Mutation" did for them in 2005. The excellent production is of course the main separator between GB and theirs and mine 80's heroes but a greater variety in song tempo and structure would serve them no harm on future releases in the crowded field of Thrash circa 2008. It appears that in ticking every box required of them GB have in the process restricted themselves to minimising distinguishing features, a cure for which will no doubt be found out through growing maturity. Refinement is certainly required but there is time for Gama Bomb and with a record that is guaranteed to be a storm in the live arena their future is promising.

Originally written for Rockfreaks.net

Fucking Epic! - 95%

AtTheHeartOfWinter12, May 27th, 2009

This album is so fun. I was completely blown away but the fact that this somewhat unknown band can come along, and take the dying genre of thrash metal, and completely revamp it! This album takes classic fundamentals of thrash, and amplifies them to the umpteenth degree. The guitars are fast, crunchy, and most of all TIGHT. The solos are very fluent, and fun. The band really keeps it original. The bass is fast and keeps up with the guitar well, adding a heavier tone to the album. The drums are fast and complex as fuck. I honestly don't get how this guy does it. he as great endurance. The vocals are crazy and mesh well with the other instruments. i've never heard a singer do the crazy shit this guy does with his vocals at points in various songs in this album. It provides a lot of entertainment to say the least.

The best part about this band is that they don't take themselves too seriously. They aren't trying to make evil, or dark songs. All they set out to do with this album is create fun songs that you can bang your head to and feel fucking good listening to. In fact, I'm pretty sure every song has some reference to zombies, or video games, or just getting completely trashed. It creates a great vibe for the album, and it makes the band appear to have a great time.

If you are just looking for a few songs off this album, I'd highly recommend Zombie Blood Nightmare, Zombie Brew, Sentenced To Thrash, or Bullet Belt. They are all quality tracks, but just a little better than all the other songs on the album.

If you like your metal fast, thrashy, crunchy, and fun, pick this album up. You won't be disappointed, and you will find yourself jamming to it on numerous occasions.

The Most Underrated Metal Band - 97%

Savi, January 19th, 2009

Gama Bomb may not be the most original of bands. They play a style that has been around for a long time, and they certainly don’t really push any boundaries. They’re happy playing a simple old style that works for them. And yet they do it so well on Citizen Brain that it ends up sounding like a revolutionary thrash album. Their slogan is, “Faster is gooder.” After the first few seconds of the album, it’s clear they’re not joking around.

Gama Bomb is often labeled as a crossover band, but I think that’s an unfair label, as they are primarily thrash metal. The aggressive riffs, the frantic drumming, the wild solos, the spastic wailing vocals… all thrash. They do however have the overall attitude of an old school hardcore punk band. Still though, it’s clear that this album was aimed at the classic thrash audience. These guys play an old school style of “party thrash” as I call it. It makes you want to crack open a brew and piss off the neighbors. Within the spectrum of thrash, I consider this to be the opposite of the “dark thrash” albums that have a more evil and demonic sound.

Nearly all the songs on the album are under three minutes, yet they manage to squeeze so many riffs and solos into them. Occasionally the singer will part from his traditional thrash voice and show us a high pitched power metal scream. This makes them stand out from most other thrash metal bands in the vocal department. The backup vocals are probably the part that will appeal most to punk or crossover fans. They occasionally top off the measure with a few vicious syllables, just as an extra statement of aggression.

I must also mention that the production is flawless. Had this album been a raw and sloppy affair, it would lose a ton of appeal. Not only can all the instruments be heard clearly, but the instrumentation is extremely impressive. These guys know how to play.

Judging by the style of music they play, you can pretty much assume that they have goofy lyrics. And they most certainly do. Most of their lyrics revolve around beer, zombies, thrash, classic video games, and cheesy 1980s action movies. Sure, they don’t have anything enlightening to say, but I think lyrics like theirs actually fit well with the music. If they wrote lyrics about the nature of reality and sang them over this kind of music, something just wouldn’t feel right. I usually don’t care much about lyrical content, but when I hear the words, “Back in the day when the beer fueled thrash, the tempo of the metal was HIGH!!” I can’t help but sing along. It makes me happy to hear them speaking of their dedication to all that is fast. It’s a fun subject to sing about, especially with this type of music playing. They go hand in hand.

It’s safe to say that if you’re not already a fan of frantic old school thrash with a bit of a punk vibe, Gama Bomb is not likely to win you over. But if you live for this style, then they’ll probably blow you away. There is so much raw attitude on this album. It will surely satisfy even the biggest appetites for mean riffs and fast tempos.

Toss Another Crossover Album On The Growing Pile - 60%

Shirt_Guy, July 23rd, 2008

This is a classic case of the mantra of underground elitists who talk about the way music should be done versus the opposition of those who complain about popular music being written by the book.

This goes right along with bands right behind Municipal Waste with the whole retro-80’s thrash/crossover throwback bands. You know, yelped vocals, gang shouts and tempos that would be off-the-hooks by 80’s standards. Gama Bomb prefers to have a lot of higher-then-the lowest string pedal tones in their guitars and key changing riffs, a skirmish taken right from the Slayer playbook.

To some, this could be yet another perfect old-school thrash album, especially with that spot-on production that makes all the instruments come off powerful and clear, as well as keeping the playing tight without coming off as guitar and drum automatons. They even nail the horror movie and video game references right from the 80’s too!

For those of you who can’t get enough of this stuff, Gama Bomb could very well top your year-end list. Perfect execution? Sure is, but if there was a book written on how to play this form of thrash, Gama Bomb have stuck to every convention possible. For those of you who are really interested in thrash collection of poignant bands, I’m sure many would easily point to Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, old Metallica, Exodus, Destruction, Voivod, Keator, Sodom, Suicidal Tendencies and Testament, with best newest bands to represent likely being The Haunted and Municipal Waste. I’m of course probably missing a few bands which many would cite as being incredibly important. I’d personally suggest Blood Tsunami as well, who went into sock-blowing territory with “Thrash Metal” in 2007, an album that pushed forward while at the same time learning the lessons of their old-school peers by actually listening to the bands that inspired their peers.

Certainly if “Citizen Brain” made it’s way into your album collection, you wouldn’t be disappointed at all, but you also won’t get anywhere near having your mind blown away.

Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com

Songs for the live-environment - 60%

morbert, June 20th, 2008

Well, old school thrash really is back on the map. Young bands forming everywhere around the globe. Some better than others, almost none of them original. But originality has never been a problem with thrash. It’s all about the intensity!

And that is something Gama bomb have done right. This album is intense. The album is fast and furious. But… unfortunately that’s the only real positive aspect here. The overall sound of the group is balancing between D.R.I. (musically) and Evile (vocally and productionally)

The guitars are fairly simple. This is not a problem obviously since Sodom’s and Kreator’s earliest album also had the simplest riffs ever. However the riffs here tend more toward crossover than real thrash. The thrashy element is the palm muted playing but a lot of ‘riffs’ here are in fact simple chord progressions which are more punk and just played in a thrash metal way. They are not as catchy as S.O.D. or D.R.I. could pull it off though and therefor they are not convincing.

The few real riffs that are here are either very generic or blatantly stolen. Yes, you’ve heard me: stolen. On opener “Zombie Blood Nightmare” there is that Kirk Hammett riff. That riff he wrote for Exodus (Impaler) and was later used by Metallica on Trapped Under Ice. Now this sort of plagiarism could happen to anyone playing thrash metal. But if you decide to steal, please take a riff from a band no one remembers anymore. But don’t do it like this. It’s stupid.

Furthermore the vocals are indeed powerfull but they aren’t always used in the right way. It is rather difficult to explain but you will know the saying “less is more”. Well, there you have it, the vocals are too prominent on some songs. Secondly at times a high pitched scream is used, but in such a way that it sounds like a parody instead of the real thing. The are in key, but they just sound ‘too funny’ to be taken seriously.

Now the feeling this album gives me is that Gama Bomb is an enjoyable band which will do nicely in the live environment and they will surely crush your average midpaced modern metal act on a festivals or something similar in terms of aggression and intensity. On CD however the band is lacking too much character, dynamics and quality riffs on most of the songs to stay interesting for more than 15 minutes.

Inconsistent. - 68%

duncang, June 11th, 2008

The thrash metal coming out of the United Kingdom recently has been thicker in both quality and quantity. Just looking through the rosters of any of the labels quick enough to snatch them up, you’ll find countless names of bands releasing albums that perhaps would have been more fitting 20 years earlier. While most of these artists are very much worshippers of the old greats, the music to be found in the UK thrash scene is most definitely not a ‘rip-off’ affair, nor is it a lacklustre attempt at writing ‘Reign In Blood’ or ‘Rust In Peace’ over and over. It’s it's own music, packed with energy, intensity and attitude. An example is Northern Ireland’s Gama Bomb. Their 2005 debut ‘Survival Of The Fastest’, while independently released, gathered a small cult following.

Fast forward to 2008, and they are releasing ‘Citizen Brain’, their debut for Earache records. Fast and heavy is the order of the day here. The riff work on the album is fairly good, though of course each and every riff has been done before by countless different bands. This is hardly an issue as the punk method of songwriting is obviously applied more than the heavy metal style, and there are certainly no blatant rip-offs, just riff after riff after generic riff. Really, ‘generic’ is a good word to describe Gama Bomb’s music. It’s all been done before, and what is really required to stand out from the crowd is a real passion behind it. While that fun factor is definitely present, there’s only so much ‘bass snare bass snare’ drumming and galloped rhythm parts that can be fitted into almost 40 minutes of music. There are some pretty good solos and lead guitar parts that break apart the linear ‘riff-riff-riff’ structures of the tracks, with Domo Dixon putting some life into songs like ‘Zombi Brew’ which would otherwise be examples of thrash-by-numbers, but there is not enough of it to save all 15 of the tracks on ‘Citizen Brain’.

The vocals of Philly Byrne are not exactly the perfect thrash vocals, with a high pitched shout and falsetto wail oddly enough being thrown around in near-equal measure. When you combine these with a fairly prominent Northern Irish accent and put them all together in a hap-hazard way, you end up with what is not the most convincing performance. It’s obvious that Byrne is more about fun than nailing that perfect sound, and while that can work, the sound of his voice grates on you after a while and where the voice should be providing the songs with their own distinct identity, he falls short and the songs start to blend into each other. For a band that’s trying to stand out over bands such as Evile and Municipal Waste, that’s not promising.

The themes in the words yelped by Byrne are not the most complex to be found, with monsters and humour taking precedence. However, there are some quality fun thrash lyrics to be found, oozing with horror stories of zombies, aliens and equally creepy local thrashers. The worst of these lyrics are in fact very poor (namely ‘Global Warming’) but there are some lines to be found in this album that were made for live havoc and drunken shouting down your local pub. There’s no ‘Justice For All’ moments where Gama Bomb decide to go overtly political, just lots and lots of fun lyrics designed to accent the ‘party-thrash’ feel of the album. It’s good, too.

‘Citizen Brain’ certainly has some good moments and listening to any one of these songs on their own will be a good short dose of pounding thrash, but listening to this band for an entire album is not recommended. For an album made of pretty similar thrash songs in terms of structure and speed, ‘Citizen Brain’ is fairly long, and I think by the end there’s no hunger for any more, at least not from this band. There are of course some top quality thrash riff-fests in highlights such as ‘Bullet Belt’ and ‘Evil Voices’, the supposed ‘thrash mayhem’ promised by Gama Bomb slowly turns into one indistinguishable racket. With throwaway songs like ‘In The Court Of General Zod’ and ‘Sentenced To Thrash’ taken out it could have been a right kick up the arse, rather than 3 or 4 excellent thrash songs and 11 songs that I’m sure we’ve all heard before. If you’re a real thrash fiend, then perhaps this is worth a try, but for the more selective listeners there are better UK thrash bands to be listening to than Gama Bomb.