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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