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Tell me three things that are wrong with thrash metal. Stuck? Let me help. Sometimes, thrash is no fun. All this ultra-serious stuff about nuclear apocalypse can get a bit heavy, as can the violence or the toughness or whatever. Next, thrash often revolves around the same small base of sounds and tricks, which we are very familiar with in the 21st century. Lastly, thrash is dead, remember? Name one original thrash band who is still putting out material of the same quality they did in the 80s. I might give you Overkill, but only if I'm being especially generous. Gama Bomb, whatever their personal defects might be, do make an attempt to solve those problems, perhaps having about a 50% success ratio. They are fun, though sometimes predictable, and are an important part of the thrash revival that has been raging on for the last 10 years or so.
Like many metalheads, I'm listening to this album because of Gama Bomb's generosity - I didn't buy this album, but downloaded it free from Earache's website (or the band's, I forget). In the first place, that's nice. Also, I'm glad that I did, since there's some darn good music on here. To explain Gama Bomb's style, let's imagine that you've just woken up. You live in a pretty swish house somewhere in the city and work at a decent job that you like, but must wake up early for. Usually, you roll out of bed and switch the coffee machine on, take a shower, eat a roll, drink your coffee and walk to the subway. However, today there's a problem. Your coffee machine is broken. How can you get from your bed to your desk without coffee? You know it's impossible, but that's when you spy a CD lying on your counter (I know, I just said I downloaded it, but cut me some slack). You pop it into the player and 'Tales from the Grave in Space' spurts out like the ejaculation of an ADHD afflicted castrati. This album is roughly the equivalent of a double espresso and half an ecstasy, such is the pace it whirls by. You run through the shower, grab your breakfast and dash outside, dodging through the crowds; you slide down the handrail past the other commuters and make it onto the subway as the doors close; you surf the subway car until your stop and climb the escalator at the station, arriving at work - 20 minutes early. I shit you not, that's the kind of day you'll have when you listen to this album.
These guys may not have the most original sound (not that that's the point), but they do possess an impressive degree of tightness and great chops. They generally play very fast, erring closer to the crossover sound than something pure like Slayer or Megadeth. For those who have soaked in the modern thrash movement, they bear some similarities to Municipal Waste, though I prefer Gama Bomb's more technical, purer sound. The riffs all sound sharp and have a distinct modern sound to them: most are great, even if some of them do tend to blur together. Have a listen to 'Return to Blood Castle' if you want a good idea of what they offer at their best. Solos emerge infrequently and are always frantic and classy with a dangerous ear for melody. The rhythm playing is the real treat though, and I'm a hard man to please when it comes to drum sound. Here, the drumming is simply fantastic, with quite a lot of snare playing that doesn't dominate the mix; everything else has a whole boatload of variety and keeps some of those samey riffs in check, plus adding a bit of ingenuity to an otherwise fairly standard formula. Bass doesn't intrude, but is solid, with a pleasant low grumble. The most defining factor must be the vocals, which come in all shapes and sizes, most often high-pitched and wailing. For some it sounds errant, for me it sounds vicious and deadly accurate, not to mention the skill it takes to fit a shit-ton of lyrics into these short songs. Nice job.
The songs are all quick and short, with only a few reaching above 3 minutes. For a band like Gama Bomb, it seems better to hit hard and fast, leaving the listener reeling after half an hour of relentless energy. This can mean that the lasting impression is a general one, since those songs do blur past a little, particularly earlier in the album, when I don't find so many distinctive elements to pick out. I would recommend all of the last four songs, as well as 'New Eliminators of Atlantis B.C.', which have a little more space to show standout riffs and benefit from fleshier solos. That said, you would be hard pressed to delete tracks (and now it's a download again) which have this much precision, though 'Last Ninjas Unite' and 'Apocalypse 1997' might be the weakest. Each song has a slightly different lyrical theme, often humorous and fantastical, which are a nice change for me and quite well written. Even the minute-long 'Mussolini Mosh' has something different to add, actually being a more serious take on the British National Party and their accusations of neo-Nazism. Some listeners could find the intensity and jokes a little wearing, but like I said, it's a short album. Should listen.
Taste Swap #2 - Bastardhead
Despite us having about as opposite tastes in metal as you can get, Bastardhead is easily one of my favourite reviewers on MA. His taste in music tends to gravitate to fun despite how silly it might be, and his reviews essentially fall under the same category. While remaining genuinely insightful, one of the main attractions when it comes to his writing is his outlandish humour. Even when I couldn’t care less about the music he is covering, his punch line-laden writing always gives me a good laugh and puts me in a good mood. His jerking the circle series is particularly great, even if I only find myself in agreement with about half of his final judgments.
For more traditional metal, I tend to gravitate towards doom and the occasional USPM band. Bastardhead, being a huge fan of thrash and Europower, threw a modern thrash album my way for our swap. I’m not a complete stranger to thrash or anything, but it isn’t something I’m all that into – especially when it comes to the modern stuff. Kill ‘Em All is the first metal album I ever really fell in love with and I don’t think it will ever be something I outgrow. I’ve been a fan of Holy Terror and Toxik for a while now, and another reviewer here recently introduced me to some killer classics by bands such as Coroner, Artillery and Deathrow. However, I have to be honest, I kind of feel like it had a golden era that came and went and its biggest importance to me is being a stepping stone to extreme metal. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I think it’s a very dated style. For example, my favorite modern thrash band (and really, the only one I listen to) is Vektor, and they’re just as much about exploring other stuff than they are about thrash – which is honestly a rather restrictive genre that can be difficult to branch out in.
This Gama Bomb album certainly did nothing to spark an interest in the modern thrash scene. Frankly, this feels like it’s done by a bunch of aging heshers who still think it’s nineteen-eighty-whatever. That said, at least they’re very competent in what they do. Right from the opener "Slam Anthem" (which unfortunately features a grand total of zero slams), it becomes apparent that these guys have chops. The riffs are routinely good and occasionally flat out great, the drumming is full of energy and well executed and the blazing solos are consistently bitching. There’s a strong crossover leaning here (wouldn’t be surprised if these guys were big on NYHC) and a fair amount of nods to speed metal. However, this does not mean that the instrumentation is not as typical and obvious as you can get for a thrash band.
Going by all that I’ve mentioned so far, this should be an album that despite being decidedly unadventurous and ultimately insignificant, is an enjoyable example of the style they play. The vocalist does everything in his power to ruin this. Going for a mid-ranged style, his delivery is preposterously goofy and annoying. He basically drudges up all the negative stereotypes about party thrash. The only good thing he does is occasionally burst out into a Halfordesque falsetto at the end of the measure. His lyrics are so god awful that they make the vocals look like the high-water mark of human artistic achievement. Featuring the goofiest and most half-baked ramblings about mummies, ninjas and the like, they look like something a particularly dorky 12 year old shat out in five minutes. Look, I get that they’re supposed to be silly fun, but there is a breaking point where such things become downright tasteless and ridiculous and he goes so far over that line that they can't really be forgiven; especially seeing as the lyrics are clearly meant to be an integral part of the album.
One of the biggest gripes about this album seems to be that it sounds like a carbon copy of the album before it, but really this could be any thrash band. Just with a particularly awful frontman. If they took the vocalist out of the equation, this could be really decent, even if their sound does come across as a bit outdated and obvious. However, the singer makes them come across as a band for fourteen year olds. Sorry BH, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this one.
For the sake of convenience, I shall begin this review by taking you all the way back to September 2009; a time when the days were a little longer, a little less chilly, and our bank balances were a bit more healthy before the dreaded Xmas shopping (and boozing!) season came around. The birds were singing and all that rubbish, Mad Bess was on the hunt for cheese and of course the sophomore album from UK thrash dudes and G-Bomb label-mates Evile was just hitting the shelves. All this came a respectable two years after album number one and the one thing that was really clear from listening to this was how much the band had matured in this time, which is one reason why I think they will go far, despite the small army of purists giving it the old ‘Progression = BAD’ shtick.
On the contraire, I have my doubts as to where Gama Bomb are heading. Now, I heaped a ton of praise upon their 2008 album ‘Citizen Brain,’ which I still to this day think is an exceptional piece of thrash metal. What I liked about them, much more so than Evile, was their toxic sense of fun and humour; they were never taking themselves seriously, were just out to have a good time but (VERY importantly!!) they could actually play. Well. Their songs weren’t the result of a bunch of pissed-up Irish idiots with no talent and they had a kind of spark to them that I could really connect with.
Returning to my original spiel, to one detractor I recall rhetorically asking what exactly would be gained by Evile staying EXACTLY as they are? Do you want them to re-record Enter The Grave and bang a different cover on it ready to re-market, because the other likely option would be that they’d attempt to recapture past glories and create a watered down copy that will never quite match up to album number one. This description, rather sadly, is the truth with this third album from Gama Bomb.
Tales From The Grave… holds no surprises whatsoever. Their sound is unmistakable, and in a way any one of these 12 tracks could have jumped off Citizen Brain. The tracks are served up with a liberal side order of FUN, with more topics that are delightfully retro that could well take you back to times more innocent of playing on your NES and watching cartoons long before you even knew what alcy-holl was. This stuff is high energy to the max, with ‘Escape From Scarecrow Mountain’ speeding ahead at far too quick a pace for them not to escape unscathed. High energy, high speed and not to mention high kicks as ‘Last Ninja’s Unite’ karate chops through faster than Chuck Norris. ‘Three Witches’ cooks up a wicked brew with it chorus and rather silly vocals of Philly Byrne which are as high pitched as ever.
To say, however, that this is of the same standard set by the last album would be a lie. It’s not that the musicianship is bad or anything, but there are no songs here that really leap out at me. Having listened a good dozen or so times, I can barely recall a single chorus like or riff which is the complete opposite to how I felt when listening to Citizen Brain. That spark is missing, the one that really brought so many tracks like ‘Bullet Belt,’ ‘Zombie Blood Nightmare,’ ‘Hammer Slammer,’ etc. to life. This really is like Return to Citizen Brain, except the minute I’m there I find I want to go back, because, like revisiting an old holiday destination, it’s never the same when you go that second time. I do kind of get the impression that this album was rushed, whether due to label pressures or just a kind of eagerness to get back in the studio. Either way, I have no intentions of giving up on this band, though I hope they come up with something with a bit more pizzazz next time. Still, given that this is free to download then you’d be a silly-billy not to!
Written by Luci Herbert for http://www.metalteamuk.net
Gama Bomb is an 80s style speed/thrash metal band out of Northern Ireland who focus on geeky lyrical concepts about horror, pulp and science fiction stories. They're also one of the faster artists out there, with a style that recalls early Exodus and Overkill on speed. The riffing is quite fantastic on this record, even better than their last album Citizen Brain. But perhaps the best thing about this is that Earache and Gama Bomb have decided to offer it as a free download over at the Earache Records site, thus you have really no excuse not to check it out. Simply fork over your email address, and begin the ritual neck breaking.
Tales from the Grave in Space is simply a riff monster, every track features thrusting, energetic guitar work that mirrors the very best of the wilder US thrash of two decades past. Clearly these two guys spent a great deal of time composing these rhythms, and the album is richer for it. I'm not a big fan of the leads, they're wild and sporadic but rarely leave an impression. The bass and drums keep the pace well, but I'm divided on the vocals. Philly Byrne's mid-range reminds me of older Bobby Ellsworth when he was doing his lower sneers, but he also incorporates these falsetto shrieks which I wasn't feeling. Gama Bomb is already a comical band, due to their delicious taste in cheesy concepts, and I just don't think the shrieks add anything here, since the majority of Byrne's lower range vocals are already pretty kickass.
Still, these quips aside, Tales from the Grave in Space is a good time, and for most of the album (excluding the hammy "Slam Anthem" and "Mussolini Mosh"), they focus the lyrics on robots, mummies, ninjas, and zombies. These issues are relevant to me. "New Eliminators of Atlantis B.C.", "Escape from Scarecrow Mountain", "Return to Blood Castle" and "Skeletron" are all quite awesome ways to kill a few dull moments while whipping your neck and arms around in a frenzy. The album sounds pretty damn good, probably an instant purchase (or download) for fans of Municipal Waste and other high speed, 80s thrash pranksters. The riffs and lyrical concepts stole the show for me; I could have lived without the higher vocals, but fortunately they don't rob the album of all its fun. Offering the digital album to check out for free was a great idea for the band and label, it is good to see that some folks in the metal industry are learning to adapt to reality.
Highlights: New Eliminators of Atlantis B.C., Escape from Scarecrow Mountain, Return to Blood Castle, Skeletron
Suddenly you awaken and go from a vegetative state to overdrive. Almost comically you feel like someone is watching you and decides to press the fast forward button. You didn’t choose this fate. It’s in your veins. You feign for the speed, the shredding, the vocal potency and massive atomic energy you get from thrash metal. Yes it may be a tough addiction to feed at times but with Gama Bomb’s newest release Tales from the Grave you won’t be going through withdraw anytime soon.
Breaking through earth’s atmosphere with unstoppable force, Tales from the Grave is the archetype of the thrash metal proving that the members of Gama Bomb know how to exceed your expectations. The proof is in the construction of every one of the twelve songs, not just a favorite few, and begins with the enormous vocals from Philly’s Byrne. Few vocalists in the thrash metal world boast the same strength as Byrne but for comparison purposes Bruce Dickinson lead vocalist of Iron Maiden may come to mind. Byne fluctuates between harmonic speaking and high pitched screams while displaying his powerful talent to reach the highest of high notes without a fight. If you’re accustomed to the common growls and groans of typical heavy metal be prepared for a totally different experience as you’ll never hear anything along those lines in Tales from the Grave (then again it is thrash metal). Enter in Domo Dixon (lead guitar), Luke Graham (guitar), and Joe McGuigan (bass) and you’ve got the ingredients for pure metal destruction. The rhythms, riffs and shredding are enough to cause smoke to pour from you speakers and make your ears bleed. How fast you ask? How about Kerry King (Slayer guitarist) fast. Equally as important is Dixon, Graham and McGuigan’s ability to ensure that each song is as catchy as it is technical. And, what would thrash metal be without some kick ass speed drumming (a major deal breaker). Drummer Paul Caffrey tears through each song with a vengeance adding in as much ferocious double bass, perfectly executed fills and cymbal accents as you can handle.
What’s even more exciting about filling your craving for the best thrash metal on the planet? Doing it for free! Tales from the Grave is currently free to download through the band’s record label earachrecords.com. Click on Gama Bomb’s label link below then click on Gama Bomb on the website and follow the instructions to get your free copy (and don’t worry you won’t have to jump through hoops or sell your soul to get it).
Actually I could just repost my review from Citizen Brain. Only this time I couldn’t say Hell Trucker is the best song. Right? Anyway. Biggest difference between their previous album Citizen Brain and this one is…. Uhm.. Nothing? Well, they've gotten worse really. More of the same but actually even less entertaining. What is good about GamaBomb however is Domo Dixon. This lead guitarist is simply too good for this band and wouldn’t feel out of place duelling with Bonded By Blood’s Juan Juarez.
Well, I saw them live in the meantime. And I know in my previous review I said GamaBomb were probably more entertaining in the live environment than on album but unfortunately I have to take that back. It turned out GamaBomb are pretty much a one-trick pony, especially live. Fast drums, interchangeable riffs and a vocalist who contrives his vocal lines around strategically placed screams which sound even more comical live than on album. Yes, it’s becoming rather dull and even more predictable. No wonder people started shouting for Slayer. Ah well, Philly Byrne saying ‘No sorry, No Slayer’ with that funny accent was pretty entertaining at least.
GamaBomb are not a band that care much about ‘The Riff’. It’s mostly chord progressions, tremolo picking, palm muting. There are less standout songs than on Citizen Brain and the song titles are actually worse. But since I really like old school crossover like Wehrmacht, MOD and such, I’m always in for a joke. GamaBomb however never get a smile on my face. For that they’re too monotone, lightweight and a song title such as ‘Last Ninjas Unite’ is just too pre-teen to be even remotely funny compared to the pubescent humour of the eighties. And ‘Skeletron’ is an amazingly depressing title. So is the song itself with its borrowed-from-NoReturn vocal effects. Nor are GamaBomb a band that care much about changes in pace and thrashbreaks. Once again a reason they become so monotone after a few songs.
Still, if vocal lines are great and catchy, the riffs memorable, a band could still be great even if they only play at one pace and have a mediocre vocalist. Municipal Waste proved that on Hazardous Mutation. However, comparing GamaBomb to the impact and catchiness of Municipal Waste, would be like comparing Acrophet with SOD in the eighties. Simply a different league.
The music here is entertaining when you’re fed up hearing modern brutal death metal all day long filled with blasturbation, new school breakdowns and that shoegazing windmill atmosphere. Gama Bomb is entertaining when you haven’t heard any thrash or crossover in a long while. Are there no songs here worth getting if you already have a huge thrash metal collection? Well maybe ‘We Respect You’ since this song at least has a few real riffs. And ‘Polterghost’ is quite catchy if you can live with the vocals.
Vocalist Philly Byrne is getting annoying by now. He has a recognisable voice, sure. But he sounds like a parody more than ever. And apart from the vocal comedy performance there still is not much true character and diversity here to speak of a memorable album. So next time a new vocalist, a more diverse drummer and a different songwriter? Hell, Domo Dixon just start a new band will ya!
Gama Bomb is one heck of a thrash band. They play fast, loud and heavy as fuck music. The very first thing I’ve noticed in this album is that they have used their tried and tested formula for this album like their previous work, “Citizen Brain”, although the atmosphere is quite different. The production is still clean, with the bass slightly discrete.
I find the vocals unique and somewhat hilarious. Its speed adds edge to the songs. Another thing about the vocals is that it is sometimes high-pitched, which is bound to annoy some thrash fans, but I find it okay, though. The music is fast and energetic, and that makes the riffs and solos such. The drums are usually basic, but yeah, fast. The songs have an average length of around 2 and half minutes or so, which is somehow a bummer.
“Slam Anthem” is a good choice for a first song and it also has a catchy thrash chorus, which is followed by “New Eliminators of Atlantis BC”, which is nevertheless awesome with the high-pitched shrieks. “Escape from Scarecrow Mountain”, has a catchy chorus and real fast vocal lines. Another song with an awesome, catchy chorus is “Return to Blood Castle”. “Skeletron” amazed me, despite of having vocal effects. The addition of the robotic voice made a lasting statement to the song. Lastly, “Mummy Invasion” is one great way to end an album; very energetic and very lively. “Three Withes” is a good song ruined by its ending. The last riffs strayed away from the song itself. “Mussolini Mosh” is too short for a nice song like that. “Apocalypse 1997” sounds like pure speed with too much shrieking, which sounds like a true filler, although is has a good solo. The ghastly voice recorded on “Polterghost” doesn’t appeal me at all. I think a better ghastly voice is needed.
Overall, this is an album good on moderate doses only. It’s quite obvious, actually, that too much speed creates boredom, but somehow they have made it sound fun. I hope these guys make better music and continue the growth of the new wave of thrash metal.
Originally made for http://mystifymyserie.blogspot.com
I tend to have mixed feelings when it comes to the retro-thrash movement. On one hand, the scene has produced some really great new bands like Vektor, Lazarus A.D. and Skeletonwitch. On the other hand, most practitioners tend to rely on nostalgia factor (Though that’s something I myself totally appreciate, I wish I could have been in San Fran in ’86 thrashing at Exodus and Slayer shows) and re-hashed riffs to draw in an audience. That’s why upon first approaching Gama Bomb’s “Tales from the Grave in Space”, I was a little skeptical. With such colorful titles as “Escape from Scarecrow Mountain”, “Mussolini Mosh”, and “Mummy Invasion” I had my reservations, but then again, I suppose that’s rather in line with the spirit of thrash.
Don’t let the zany cover art, comical lyrics, and overall goofy feel of the album cloud your judgment though, this record will kick your ass up and down the room. Indulging lyrically in every comic book, cheesy sci-fi movie, and alcohol driven cliché out there, these Irish thrashers pummel the listener with a razor sharp speed metal assault. The instrumentation on this album is a vast improvement compared to earlier records, with major props going to the drummer, who utilizes every inch of his kit for maximum battery, rather than just relying on the tried and true blast beats of modern metal. Guitar-wise, the band delivers plenty of shred-tastic moments. Standout tracks including opener “Slam Anthem”, crossover worship “Mussolini Mosh” and the furious “We Respect You” deliver Gama Bomb’s assault at rapid fire pacing, leaving the listener struggling to keep up.
But through all the positive qualities of the album, one star shines most brightly, the marvelous performance of the esteemed, the masterful, the godly Phil Byrne. This man is a machine, pure and simple. Along with straightforward thrash shouts, Mr. Byrne pushes the album to the breaking point, delivering an astounding range of vocal techniques, including blood curdling falsettos (Rob Halford style), ultra fast psuedo-operatic barks, hypnotic, slurred rambling, and utterly massive screams. From what I can tell from clips that I’ve seen on the Internet, he’s more than capable of pulling off these vocal acrobatics live, along with his rather entertaining stage performance. While his esoteric delivery may be a turn off to some, he’s what really makes this album, that extra bit of spice that just completes the dish, or in this case, that extra dash of nitro glycerin on the gas fire.
With this album, Gama Bomb serves only to widen their claim to the new metal frontier. It’s a fun, intense thrill-ride, an enjoyable release, and a worthy addition to their discography. As an added bonus, these guys seem to be one of the few wise to the workings of the music industry and decided to release this sucker free of charge available to all of those on the internet. You can download it from their official earache page hereà http://www.earache.com/gamabomb/. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.