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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.