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Almost like a ghetto Hear'n'Aid, or a precursor to European mash ups like Avantasia and Ayreon which seem to thrive on the guest talents they are able to acquire for each album, Thrasher was a project created in 1983 by drummer Carl Canedy of The Rods, and Andy 'Duck' MacDonald of the heavy old rockers Blue Cheer. The aim here was well-intentioned, to showcase a large host of lesser known metal personalities like James Rivera (Helstar), Dan Spitz (Anthrax), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, David Lee Roth), Jack Starr (Burning Starr, Virgin Steele), Rhett Forester (Riot, Masi, etc) and numerous others, many of whom were kicking about the Combat roster and related labels in the early to mid 80s.
Somehow, after a few years, the project came to fruition in Burning at the Speed of Light, but it does suffer from a number of problems that would hold it back from, well, anyone giving a damn. For one, the moniker 'Thrasher' was an unfortunate choice, surely a word in the English language already, but unfortunately timed as the thrash metal genre was already off and beginning to explode, leeching away some of the success from the more traditional power/heavy metal acts who sounded sort of like...Thrasher. So naturally, anyone picking this album up at the time (like yours truly) might have been misled by their own ignorance into thinking they were picking up something that would kick some ass, like all that fresh Slayer and Metallica they were so into at the time. Some of these people might have, well, done damage to their vinyls and cassettes when discovering what this really was. Another thing, the cover art sucks...I mean truly, truly possesses me with the inclination to hurl. You gather all this talent, put some honest effort into stitching together something like this, and then put no effort into the cover? The fuck?
Now, as for the material itself, it's not exactly terrible. This is average power/speed metal for the time, and if you shut down your expectations, you won't come away thinking you've been robbed blind. Vocalists like Brad Sinsel (TKO), Rick Caudle (a friend of Canedy) and even Dan Beehler (Exciter) do their best to rip it up while musicians are given chances to mix it up with solo segments (as in "Widowmaker", where Sheehan and MacDonald start noodling away). The title track even has like 5-6 guitarists shredding off, but unfortunately it seems like so much blind indulgence being forced over a stack of mediocre tracks. A few of the songs are simply beyond cheesy, like "She Likes it Rough" (with what sounds like an embarrassed Rivera?) and "Black Lace and Leather", which is pretty bad. Rhett Forester's vocals on "Bad Boys" are also truly cornball, and the fact that most of the rhythm section sound like they're jamming off at a bowling alley in 1982 doesn't really help matters.
Thrasher was all made in fun, but to think that something positive might have been borne from this if the songs were actually decent and the creators had taken it a little more seriously. They must have been so stretched trying to pull it all together and manage their full-time bands that they had little concern for what they were actually hashing out. The result is a harebrained collage of metal cliches that has nothing on Canedy's main band, who performed in the very same style but had the benefit of cohesive vision and more cautious songwriting. About the only things that keep Burning at the Speed of Light hovering over the edge of utter suck would be the occasional worthy performances and the dirty, street metal production which is so hard to find these days. So what I'm saying is this: skip Thrasher, unless you've accumulated the cattiest of curiosities. Pick up any album by The Rods instead, and thank me later.
Nowhere near the landmark I’m sure Carl Canedy and company had prophesized it would be when the concept started to congeal as far back as ’82-’83, this fairly valiant project probably shifted names about a fifty times before zeroing in on the woefully misappropriate Thrasher, though I’m sure it’s just an innocent slip of consciousness. Recording for this supposed all-star game started as early as June ’84, written by The Rods drummer Canedy and ex-Blue Cheer guitarist Andy “Duck” MacDonald.
Now you have to keep in mind where the brainpower for this whole thing is rooted. As mentioned above, you’ve got the timekeeper for the tough-imaged yet virtually harmless The Rods (I rue the day I bought Let Them Eat Metal – with that cover, what was I thinking?) and a post-important member of the venerable Blue Cheer who, at the time, was attempting a comeback with the toothless Megaforce-released The Beast is Back - this is the core, the nucleus, the center of creativity, and right there I have to shudder. My only comfort lies in that maybe some of Canedy’s production affiliation with Anthrax, Overkill, and Exciter has rubbed off like layers of snake skin, otherwise we’re in for a boring trolley ride that cost about $10 for a ticket.
Other dimly lit stars include leather-faced veterans like former Dust bassist Kenny “the A in HSAS” Aaronson, Dio-attached drummer Gary Driscol, and Blue Cheer oldster Dickie Peterson. Then there’s the newer stock - then semi-legendary Virgin Steele guitarist Jack Starr, bassist extraordinaire Billy Sheehan, and a myriad of singers including TKO’s Brad Sinsel, Helstar’s James Rivera, Exciter’s Dan Beehler, Blacklace’s Maryann Scandiffio, and Riot’s Rhett Forrester. Some known and unknown stragglers remain, playing one solo (Dan Spitz, Kim Simmonds) or laying pipes to a twenty-second vocal tract (Kerry Wittig), but are quite anonymous with their finite fillers.
Five or so minutes into this the incandescent bell of doom already hearkens. The first two runners off the block, “Hot and Heavy” and “Ride the Viper”, voyage at hard rock’s pace, Keel or Stone Fury metallic, and are, you guessed it, short of exhilarating, though the latter locates a bit of catchiness with its metered “Holy Diver”-ish simplicity and chugs along with a chorus that’s memorable only for its customary formula. With head held low, I admit that Dead End album I was looking at may have been a better choice.
But leaving skid marks in stall three is the vigorous and twin bass bullied “Widowmaker”. Brad Sinsel scratches lyrics raw while Duck parachutes in with one helluva fingertapped solo. Credibility solidifies with this track, but the smell of horse manure swells with the pseudo-blues meander of “Black Leather and Lace”, the dual vox of Rick Caudie and Maryann Scandiffio (actually very one-sided in the Rick direction, why she even bothered to show up I have one or two guesses on that may or may not involve her mouth) doing nothing to spice up the ordeal that is side one.
Side two is where more bombast lives, first with the title track led by Dan Beehler’s chaos-induced squall, and candid, Forrester-voxed “Bad Boys” doesn’t do any harm to the effort with its gust of driving party metal appeal that Crue and Hanoi Rocks could envy. Meanwhile, back-to-back rockers “She Likes It Rough” (Rivera on vocals) and “Slipping Away” are spirited AOR metal, not as overgrown as “Bad Boys” but definitely more tangible than three-quarters of side one.
Overall we have some busty traditional stuff that luckily crosses the finish line not as stuffy and stiff as its tired stride out of the gate. There’s really no showboating, no unwarranted solos or jam sessions, and though Canedy and Duck play in just about every tune (hell, they wrote it all, why not), there doesn’t seem to be any favoritism amongst participants. Fortunately, this isn't the crotchety conglomeration of worn-out ideas I feared, but despite the project not being all that bad, I’m glad they never bothered with a follow-up.