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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.