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Riffer Madness - 92%

Pyrus, June 23rd, 2003

I can understand that with all the bands taking part in the Bay Area thrash scene, some of them would have to have gotten lost in the shuffle. I mean, you had Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Vio-Lence, Heathen, Sadus, Forbidden, Possessed, and many many more – to say nothing of the popular out-of-towners Slayer and Megadeth. It was inevitable that some of the bands would drift into the fog.

But WHY THE FUCK did it have to be THIS band?! These guys are great!

Yeah, so Ulysses Siren are awesome, neckbreaking Bay Area Thrash, more technical than most. Above the Ashes is a compilation of tracks from their first couple demos, remastered to 21st century standards and released by Relentless Records because you can never have too much Bay Area Thrash on the market. And it kicks ass – Heathen's neckbreaking slightly melodic awesomeness meets Vio-Lence "schizoid thrash on crack" stylings. Oh yes, how it kicks ass.

"Terrorist Attack" kicks things off with a riff reminiscent of Satan's "Trial By Fire," and shreds right through from the start. The vocalist sounds vaguely like Paul Baloff, but with more melody and more shrieks. The first of fucked-up, unnatural time signatures that will pop up throughout the album appears at 1:25 for the chorus, and at 3:15 or so, a great supercharged gallop riff kicks in.

"The Reich" is a riff-fest with some nice dual lead work scattered throughout, and "Lake of Fire" shreds throughout without a thought of slowing the frenetic pace for more than, oh, two seconds of stacatto single notes. The second half is all solos and riffs, and what fucking solos and riffs they are. "Leviathan" is a very well-done two-minute instrumental track, which shows that you can build atmosphere and suspense without resorting to keyboards, pussy studio effects, or indeed anything other than the Power of the Riff.

"Leviathan" kicks right into "Above the Ashes," which opens with a high-pitched shriek that puts "Angel of Death" to shame. A fast-paced thrasher spotlighting some fine screams and an epic-sounding thirty-second ending sequence. "The Resurrection" is a solid track, notable for the BAD ASS drumming and some great dual lead work three and a half minutes through. Oh yeah, and a fucking shitload of riffs, but that applies to everything on here.

And now comes the closer, "No Trace of Shame." Recently, while listening to this song, it occured to me that this is one of the best songs ever, and thus I have edited this review to describe, in great detail, the next five minutes and eleven seconds of ungodly metal glory. "Shame" has a really weirdly constructed opening that is damn near impossible to calculate how to headbang to right, but then another of those crazy shrieks announces a main verse riff that is, by contrast, impossible NOT to headbang to. The drumming is absurdly complicated, and that goes along nicely until about the two-minute mark...

...and then at that point, prepare to shit your pants and the pants of everybody within fifty yards–even those who are not wearing pants, as this part of the song will cause pants to sprout for the express purpose of being shat on. Awesome fucking riffage over a fist-pounding riff, best shrieks on the album, and yet more crazy Robocop drumming. This is one of the top moments of thrash metal, and thus by association this is one of the top songs of thrash metal.

AND IT'S NOT OVER! Cool mid tempo bit with great vocal lines "But who will point the fingers for the maimed?" and then yes, more riff breaks from the bowels of lunacy! It has no solo–IT NEEDS NO SOLO. In fact, if this song had a solo it would probably defy federal anti-awesome statutes and Ulysses Siren would be hunted down and shot for being too goddamn awesome. Instead, we thrash merrily along to the end of the song on the power of rhythm guitar and drumming and the ludicrously complicated basswork which I seem to have neglected to mention. You get the point.

So basically, if you dig heavy metal, you will like this. If you dig thrash metal, you will LOVE this. If you dig Heathen and Vio-Lence, you will bow down and worship this. It's a shame these guys never really got anywhere, because this album is fucking AWESOME. You can order it from Relentless Records, and I highly suggest you do so. I mean, NOW, motherfucker.