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Straight from somewhere, but it ain't hell. - 61%

Gutterscream, August 6th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Aftershock Music

“…iron gates guard holy saints from heroic rescue…”

Not to be confused with all the other Aftermath out there or ones whose stuff I’ve reviewed already (confusion is a cinch…hell, I’m properly acquainted with some of these and half the time I can’t get ‘em straight), this particular Aftermath originated from Arizona and enjoyed a somewhat inglorious career centerpunched by a mostly forgotten, future full-lengther, a few aftermath demos, and a nearly ten year old compilation consisting of lp and demo material somebody was nice enough to bother collecting.

Getting to the point in the spirit of its title, Straight From Hell’s best tunes are its bookends, ‘cos waking the dead with an overexcited, over-echoed chorus is the curse of “You’re Never Gonna Wake Up” and “Pandemonium”, except for another not-so-hot chorus, refuses to stay in my head longer than it takes to make toast.

A confident, hurried gallop grabs the silver medal at the ep’s opening with “Mask of Deception”. While catchy and fairly simple within its cool n’ constant momentum, it’s Cliff Finney’s often nearly formless starburst solos which seem to capture more attention and are quite electric when he’s given the chance to construct something beyond the limited importance of glancing blow guitar work.

The gold is snagged by the title and final track. While its stark, almost unfinished chorus offers little, the rest zigzags impressively as it plays, commanding a slew of radical rhythm and tempo changes, nifty timing shifts and even an unanticipated, nearly chaotic surge or two in power and intensity that rises seemingly from roundabout nowhere, however with this zany cornucopia comes a sense that its blueprints were drawn, well, not quite haphazardly, but rather off the hip by a mildly unsure architect, quite innocent of self-indulgent grandeur, and by luck these guys bring it home with strong execution.

While Finney and his often flaming guitar set a fair portion of this four-banger on fire, Richard Shayka, like so many others, owns a voice and style compliant to the Vince Neil Youthful, High Tenor/Fleeting Falsetto Corps, and as an integral ingredient to this thing is hard to be impressed by or cared about much, though I can’t say he doesn’t have potential.

So it’s a half n’ half deal for the traditional, fairly power metal-ish Straight From Hell. Its favorable title cut is taken by slave ship and chained to their ’88 Don’t Cheer Me Up lp, and for the love of Pete, it seems after its seaborne ordeal the only part that’s kept its shape is its title. As its own entity, however, the lp’s “Straight From Hell” isn’t too shabby.

Always thought the shirtless, trident-toting Mr. Hooper of Sesame Street jacket was strange. He gets the bronze, I guess.

Not exactly a stellar debut - 50%

Jophelerx, October 9th, 2012

1985 wasn't a particular popular year for power/thrash, as most performers of the genre were just getting started, with only a small handful of full-lengths (the debut albums of Agent Steel, Piledriver, and Iron Angel, to name the most prominent ones) being released. It was, however, a big year for the guys behind Aftermath, as they would both release their debut EP as well as prepare for two albums which would be released the following year - Grudge's Barbarians of the New Earth and (assumedly) The Lords of the Crimson Alliance's self-titled album. That being said, this was the first ever official release from all members of the band, and if it was to be used as any sort of indicator, I would say there was very little collective talent to be had.

That would, however, be misleading, as both of the aforementioned 1986 albums are quite interesting and fairly decent - even great, some would say, although I find it hard to get into the former and don't like the vocals on the latter. Still, I can recognize that both have good riffs and song structures, which is something I can't say for this strange little release. In 1988, Aftermath would go on to release their first full-length, which is an improvement in pretty much every field - I prefer it to both Grudge and LotCA. So what the fuck happened here? By almost every indication, these guys were quality songwriters and performers - but not here. Definitely not here. It makes me wonder whether this was just a fluke, or whether the primary songwriter(s) underwent some fundamental change between this and the following releases. Either way, there it stands.

Well, I suppose it's time to get down to the music. The production isn't terrible, although the drum sound is sort of tinny - I don't really have any other complaints in that respect, though. It's decent enough for an obscure EP from the mid '80s. My main problem is with everything else. The flat, poppy riffs plod along and go nowhere, simplistic and slow to change, with very little power behind them, while vocalist Richard Shayka is clearly trying, just not succeeding to a very large extent. He's got a clear, flat, although decent voice that goes into falsetto occasionally; think maybe a second-rate version of the guy from Mephisto (Ger). A little bit nasal, but not much, he would've been okay if the riffs were absolutely fantastic but either way, he doesn't really stand out, and here he just detracts, if anything.

Also, this isn't really power thrash. It's more like heavy/power, except there's very little actual power throughout any of it. It's just shitty, boring, straightforward metal that borders at times on hard rock. The one redeeming song is "Mask of Deception" which is decent rather than completely shitty, with some above par vocals from Shayka and some marginally catchy, if shallow and unspectacular, riffs. But don't let that, the album cover, or the band members' track record fool you: this is an extremely mediocre release, and one that I would not recommend to anyone, unless they're masochistic.