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Not a hell of a lot of metal bands got to sign with huge labels like Atlantic in the 80s, and surely it was a testament (pun intended) to the trajectory of your career to count yourself among them. Or was it? Well, in the case of Maryland's Wrathchild America, who added the national suffix so they wouldn't dare be confused with a crappy UK band, it certainly seemed like they were going to be huge. Back in the close of that great decade, this was one of those bands that even your normal high school friends had heard about, you know, the cliquey types who liked Metallica, Ozzy, Megadeth and Anthrax but couldn't be bothered to ever delve further into the underground or even consider themselves 'metal heads' publicly for fear of losing job prospects or not getting laid by the good girls.
Yes, Wrathchild America had a lot going for them, but I'm not it had truly manifest in the debut Climbin' the Walls, with its iconic hesher in a maze cover artwork. Though the band would later develop into a more interesting hybrid of progressive thrash with a few jazz aesthetics, this is more like a mixture of Metallica's 1984-86 period with some traditional British heavy metal, not terribly unlike another hopeful band, Powermad. You've got some decent enough songs here like "Climbin' the Walls" itself which has a few decent, ripping guitar riffs and stupid but fun lyrics; the driving, melodic "Day of the Thunder"; the goofy but endearing vampire epic "London After Midnight"; or "Silent Darkness (Smothered Life)", a hymn to being buried alive with a nice melodic guitar line in the chorus. But then you've got garbage like the bluesy hard rock & roll of "No Deposit, No Return" which might have fit better with their UK counterpart, or "Candy from a Madman", which is hard not to laugh at despite an acceptable riff or two.
Then there's the cover of Pink Floyd's "Time", which you might not expect on an album like this, and well, it's "Time". While a band like Voivod would manage to convert an experience like "Astronomy Domine" into something relevant and even poignant on the mesmeric Nothingface this very same year, it just doesn't seem that it belongs with Wrathchild America. Granted, it's not the worst cover out there, but it's not doing Climbin' the Walls any favors. Otherwise, this is just not all that great of an effort. Catchy enough perhaps to get a few people to notice, with decent guitars and drumming. The production was sufficient enough to match label mates like the comparable Savatage, but in the end, this album would be greatly outclassed by its follow up, and I very rarely find any compulsion to go back and listen aside from maybe two songs.
This debut by Maryland's Wrathchild America, while borrowing heavily from Master of Puppets/Justice-era Metallica, also has quite a bit going for it on its own, including a great production job by Alex Perialias, a number of strong riffs and a reverent and competent cover of Pink Floyd's "Time." Some of the lyrics are silly ("Candy From A Madman") but sometimes work well, such as the raunchy, bluesy stomp of "No Deposit, No Return". The raw aggression of "Climbing the Walls" and especially the masterful riffing of the menacing "Silent Darkness" distinguish this release and stand up very well to the thrash of its era. It has more naked aggression than the refined follow-up _3-D_ but I believe it to be an overall lesser album, and the otherwise entertaining dry run for the unfairly-neglected masterpiece they were about to drop on the metal world.
Since Climbing the Walls is the only Wrathchild America album I have found, I can not compare and contrast this album to the others. A little note about Wrathchild America: Wrathchild America was previously named Wrathchild, but had to change there name to avoid legal issuses with a band already named Wrathchild. This cd is pretty fun! An A+ goes out to riffs and solo's, thrashy sounding with lots of headbanging delite! What makes Wratchild America so fun is there sound. They are sometimes labeled as thrash, but not always do they have this thrash sound. A definite A+ goes out to lyrics! The lyrics are well constructed to go with the riffs and drumming, which I have rarely seen. Like on the opening song Climbing the Walls, the riff goes than stops with vocals and continues this process! The drumming on this album is just beyond amazing. Double bass like you wouldn't fucking believe, not even Lars Ulrich can do some of the shit Larkin does on this album!
The only thing I didn't like (or rather particulary care for) is the vocals! Yes, the lyrics kick ass, but there is something about the vocals that doesn't move me to a 100%. It is in key, but it is straight, that is the tone of his voice (not the pitch mind you). Other than that, this album kicks ass, and it is a must, if you can find it! Great songs to check out are Climbing the walls, Hell's Gate, No Deposite, No Return, London After Midnight, Candy From a Madman and Time (which is a most excellent cover of the Pink Floyd classic)!!!