without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
One of the oft overlooked and forgotten bands from the ‘80s thrash metal scene is Whiplash. Drawing its origins from the same east coast scene that spawned Anthrax, Overkill and Nuclear Assault, Whiplash unfortunately has not become a metal household name as its former contemporaries have become. The last time we heard from these thrash veterans was via their best of/compilation album “Messages in Blood” way back in 1999.
The thrash renaissance of the recent years has not only infused the scene with fresh blood but has also resurrected the dormant thrash entities of yesteryears. Whiplash is the latest band to reawake from its dormancy to once again bestow upon us their vicious thrash attack. Longtime members Tony Portaro and Joey Cangelosi are joined by new member Rich Day who replaces Tony Bono who passed away back in ’02.
“Unborn Again” does not have the immediacy of impact as most thrash metal albums have. It took me several spins to finally ‘get’ what Whiplash was trying to do in their comeback album. The first stumbling block for me was Portaro’s vocals which are a bit of an acquired taste. He sounds strained on majority of the tracks and whiny on a few. After repeated spins, I was able to tolerate his vocals as I opted to concentrate on the guitar riffs. That latter statement is the key to appreciating “Unborn Again”. Whiplash has not lost its flair for writing great thrash metal songs anchored on great riffs. This album is full of such songs, from the opener “Swallow the Slaughter” to strong mid-album tracks “Float Face Down”, “Fight or Flight”, “Pitbulls in the Playground” to closer “Feeding Frenzy”. The entire album seems a bit underwhelming at first but grows on you after repeated spins. And based from my experience, it’s the ‘growers’ that end up having lots of repeated spins on my music player.
So what is Whiplash trying to do on “Unborn Again”? They’re certainly not staging a comeback to out-thrash the new generation of bands trying to carve a name in a crowded scene. Rather, Whiplash is merely re-establishing its name in the metal world after years of neglect and omission. “Unborn Again” is a positive step in the right direction for this veteran band.
Unborn Again is the first Whiplash album to be recorded after the unfortunately passing of bassist Tony Bono, who was with the band all through their 'Three Tony' years and beyond. I had lost much interest in this band after their third album Insult to Injury, but they plugged away in the 90s and produced a few more mediocre works with various lineups. Unborn Again is their 7th full-length, and though it does occasionally delve back into the band's earlier style from Ticket to Mayhem and Insult to Injury, a lot of that early energy is admittedly lost here.
This is not to say that the band are not still capable of producing some moments, as in the rocking if constrained opener "Swallow the Slaughter", the old school thrashing charms of "Float Face Down", or closing speed metal "Feeding Frenzy". But there are tracks here which feel rather half-assed and unnecessary. "Hook in Mouth" is a swaggering, bluesy bore which borders on goofy. "Firewater' tries to do big Sabbath riffs with an American Indian theme, but comes off like a bad stoner impersonation. And the cover of Montrose's "I've Got the Fire" may not feel entirely tacked on, since many of the songs bear a heavy rock'n'blues influence, but...well...it's hardly exemplary...especially when Portaro incants: I've got the mother fuckin' fire. Really?
Joe Cangelosi's drumming is par for the course, he gives it a lot of energy, but the riffs on this album are rarely worth it. Tony Portaro is still a competent axeslinger, but his vocals are all over the place...from lame, lurching blues melodies to the thrash that we want to hear from him. Nowhere near the level of his earlier performances, or Glenn Hansen's vocals on Insult to Injury. I'm happy to see Whiplash trekking on into the 21st century, but it would seem the band grows ever more distant from the triumvirate of early albums that set them up. Unborn Again is even less interesting than the mediocre albums they released in the previous decade. It's unfortunate.
Highlights: Swallow the Slaughter, Float Face Down, Feeding Frenzy
Whiplash is one of those cult thrash bands that probably receive more praise now in these days of thrash revival than they did back in their heyday. Which is a shame actually, because they produced some fine quality thrash metal back in the days. But then again, better late than never! Their sinister debut "Power and pain" from 1985 is quite an underrated thrash gem that certainly deserves to be mentioned alongside the early works of bands such as Kreator, Exodus and Destruction. The band peaked in 1990 with their more refined and polished "Insult to injury" album, but 1990 was perhaps a tad too late and the whole thrash metal scene was crumbling down giving place to death metal and grunge.
"Unborn again", the bands first effort since 1998, is of course an anticipated release among the thrash metal aficionado, but can it really stand up against the bands classic albums? After giving it quite a few spins I could say the answer is both yes and no! The album grows on you, that's for sure. They have proved their capabilities as song writers in the past, and they still got the magic touch. There are quite a few good songs, cool riffs and excellent melodies. The main problem for me is that they perhaps don't really thrash that much anymore, which is kind of a surprise considering the revival of the scene in recent years. The album has more in common with eighties speed metal in the vein of Liege Lord, Sanctuary and Exciter than pure thrash. Not to say that the album completely lacks thrashing riffs, there are a few, but perhaps too few to satisfy the most die hard fans of the scene. Tracks like "Swallow the slaughter", "Float face down", "Hook in mouth" and "Feeding frenzy" are still so good and accomplished that it would be a shame if you let this album slip through your filter without giving it a proper chance. "Unborn again" might not be regarded as a bonafide classic in twenty years or so, but it's still a damn good metal album that deserves your attention.
There are two ways you can look at this album. The first half of Unborn Again is very reminiscent of their glory days, in particular, Insult to Injury(’90). The second half, on the other hand, can be compared to their yesteryear's of Thrashback(’98)-in both deliverance and thrash-attack. The only thing the 2nd half of this album has over Thrashback is the clear production and that is saying a lot cause the production on Thrashback and Sit Stand Kneel Prey is awful-Which is kinda funny because their earlier albums especially the aforementioned Insult to Injury had a clear sound.
Whiplash is an interesting band. Tony Portaro, the bands vocalist and guitarist, has been with the band since its inception but listening to Whiplash's previous efforts during the weekend, I couldn't help but wonder whether it was the same vocalist for Power and Pain ‘85, Insult to Injury ‘90 and Thrashback ‘98. Yeah, the vocal approach did change from the rap-kinda technique in '85, to clear-semi-high pitched vocals used in '90 to the somewhat, angry death-ish snarls used in '98. After doing some extensive research, it became evident to me that vocal duties alternated between Glenn Hansen and Portaro. But even the playing approach changed from medium tempo, bluesy-thrashy metal to speed-thrash metal in the late '90s. Anyhow, since then, Glenn has left and hence Portaro has been left to shoulder both guitar and vocal duties. Just how does he fair in Unborn Again?!
Portaro delivers with a touch of class. His vocals not only have a melodic edge to them, but also a simultaneous, abrupt high-pitched sharp scream. Something that I found awesome and very fitting for this record which looks like was set in the early nineties when Pornography and Heavy metal were such a big deal; and parents at that time, were all up in arms screaming "Crucify Dee Schneider!"
'Swallow the Slaughter' and 'Snuf' are very reminiscent of 'Voice of Sanity' and 'Hirosima' off the Insult to Injury album. The tracks are mid-tempo but with lovely guitar chops and heavy sumptuous breakdowns. The drumming is simply impressive. Its not flashy or anything but its tasty with loads of double bass which is sync with the bass. Of course Whiplash have reminded true to their sound and while you can expect most of the advantages enjoyed with recent technology on this album(clear production) they have still maintained their bluesy-heavy bass driven ambiance on a most of their songs
Some of you might argue that this is too 'weak' for a thrash record! And quite frankly, yes, this lacks the aggregation of most thrash records but don't despair yet. This album picks up right about 'Float Face Down'. The song begins with a RIDICULOUS bass-line but then suddenly metamorphoses into power/thrashy fodder. Galloping heavy riffs, album-defining solos and head banging atmosphere while Portaro sings and shouts, "Gasping for Air, Spit out your last breath as you float..faccce...DOWNNNNNN!!". 'Fight or Flight' is no different. It’s a bit slower than the previous but goddamn! Does it have one heck of a mosher riff. Couple that with a superb solo!!
From this point onwards there isn't a dull moment on this album. The songs are more in the vein of 'Stab', 'Thrash til Death'(Thrashback) and 'Climb out of Hell'(Sit Stand Kneel Prey) including an over zealous riff instrumental in 'Parade of Two Legs' and a track-'I'v got the Fire', where Portaro sounds like hes singing from under water! That and the album ender 'Feeding Frenzy' will make you want to replay them over and over again. Prepare to Head bang till you drop!