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The lonely path of a principled stance. - 73%

hells_unicorn, March 14th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Divebomb Records (Reissue, Remastered)

To be a fly on the wall during the closing days of the first age of thrash metal in the recording industry's executive offices, would be a highly educational encounter for any naive newcomer to the style about 25 years after the fact. Even for the tail-end of Generation X who found themselves bystanders during the early to mid 1990s to this seemingly overnight change, the explanation of this turn of events is usually a mixture of cop-outs and half-truths that was ultimately believed and greeted with an indifferent shrug. The reality is likely a lot closer to a band of up and comers filing into the label president's office, and upon their demo being heard, being asked if they can tone it down a bit, don some dingy flannel attire and get their vocalist to put a bit more yarl in his pronunciation. Upon being asked why, most tycoons who inspired this hypothetical amalgam would have brazenly answered that music comes second after the almighty dollar, though a small handful may have been intellectually dishonest enough to suggest that what they were pushing was compelling and inspired art. Those who stuck to their guns were left out in the cold, and those who changed fared little better with maybe a few exceptions.

One of the forgotten casualties of this time of "change" was the Chicago-based thrash machine Cyclone Temple that had been toiling in the underground under the moniker Znöwhite and came into prominence just prior to the industry-orchestrated shift in trends, which subsequently found them relegated to the proverbial wilderness not long after their seminal debut I Hate Therefore I Am hit the market. In more ways than one, they were a creature of their time, playing into a number of early 1990s sensibilities from their image, a more soulful and smokey vocal character in keeping with the characteristic sound typified in Layne Staley and John Bush, and a more measured approach to the riff-based madness of the thrash style that was comparable to Anthrax's Persistence Of Time and Heathen's Victims Of Deception. Following the collapse of Combat Records and a short stint with Progressive International, a late holdout label that was still supporting metal bands on the west coast, a final defiant stride for relevance was put forth by this band independently that stands as a sort of mid-90s consolation prize for the American thrash scene, appropriately titled My Friend Lonely.

Though donning an album cover that goes heavy on the cringe (a photo of a ventriloquist dummy years before Jeff Dunham resurrected said dead art form) that would suggest a groove-infused bomb reminiscent of Sacred Reich's Independent or Machine Head's debut dud, the contents are of a notably higher caliber. Most of it is reworked material from the previous Building Errors In The Machine EP that exhibits a production quality more becoming of a group of songs that were quite well realized by early 90s Bay Area standards, but have also been stripped of some needed ancillary elements that amounts in a one step forward, one step back result. Many an old guard thrash purist has raked former vocalist and neophyte Marco Salinas over the coals for allegedly sounding like a cheap James Hetfield knockoff, but his gritty yells definitely worked far better on the older versions of "Hate Makes Hate" and "Down The Drain" than the over-exaggerated yarl groan and sloppy attempt at soulful vocals heard out of ex-Enchanter vocalist Sonny DeLuca. It's not a total train wreck, as these songs are far more riff-driven than vocally centered, but the overreaching hybrid of Rind and Anselmo on display here doesn't work as well, and is kind of a disappointment given the solid Chuck Billy emulation DeLuca brought to his former band's 1989 demo.

All that being said, the stylistic proclivities of the vocals are not the only pollutant to seep into the equation here, though mercifully the lackluster musical points are largely relegated to the newer material featured here. After leaving a fairly strong impression with two cookers from the previous recording, this lost album's title song "My Friend Lonely" throws the flow off considerably with a quirky reggae intro that segues into what can be best described as a groove/thrash ballad where the rhythm section has some jazzy fun but the guitar just sort of plods and the vocals lay on the yarls so thickly that even the Sound Of White Noise incarnation of John Bush would call it overkill. Things recover a bit with another dual helping of material from the '93 EP, with the only downside being that good old Reverend Cleophus doesn't make an appearance at the end of "Drug Of The Masses", and then a newer song actually manages to avoid the groove trap. "Comfortably Superficial" starts off in an oddball jazzy ballad rut that's somewhat comparable to something Forced Entry dabbled with in the early 90s, but then lays on some reasonably punchy mid-paced thrashing. Things close on a more lackluster note with "Time Heals All", which is essentially a less overtly Alice In Chains oriented take on the slower paced Sound Of White Noise half-thrash formula; not a terrible song, but pretty repetitive and about a minute longer than it needs to be.

The best way to look at this album is as something of a historical oddity, albeit one that is mostly listenable and not without a few bright spots that shine far brighter than anything that was hitting the shelves in 1994. When this album is on point, it basically functions as a finalized version relative to the demo-like quality of Building Errors In The Machine, but one can't help but see some glaring flaws in the overall presentation that could have been redressed with a few changes, though they would likely have made this album even less accessible to the masses of asses who were gobbling down Burn My Eyes and Far Beyond Driven like they were Cool Ranch Doritos. If they'd kept Salinas in the fold and given his voice the production treatment that DeLuca received here, if they had shaved about 70 seconds off of "Time Heals All" and dropped "My Friend Lonely" for a version of "The Law Of Relativity" that didn't have all the rapped rubbish on it, this could have been a worthy, albeit less powerful follow up to I Hate Therefore I Am. All the same, it is a listenable album, and a cut above the rest for the time within the bounds of the continental United States. Thanks to the renewed interest in thrash metal that has been kindled over the past 15 years, Divebomb Records reissued this album along with the previous LP in 2012, a worthy pickup for any old school thrash metal junkie wanting to hear a diamond in the mid-90s rough.