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Who knew brains could thrash this fast? - 87%

hells_unicorn, April 22nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Earache Records

Some might deem it a hyperbolic sentiment, but for all of the lasting impact that the British Isles had on metal's early development, they all but missed the boat on thrash metal. Sure, there was a sizable number of respectable acts from Xentrix to Slammer putting out material during the high period of the late 80s and Onslaught hit it off early on in the game, but when compared against the booming scenes that erupted out of America, Germany and Brazil, it seemed like they were all but supplanted not long after being metal's chief proponent in the earlier part of the 80s via the NWOBHM. Since the recent upsurge of interest in the older ways of ruining vertebrae, this picture has changed a bit, and arguably one of the more over-the-top adherents to crop up of late is an act from Northern Ireland dubbed Gama Bomb, a veritable speed machine that resides somewhere between the concise, slightly crossover character of Municipal Waste and the comical sensibilities of Tankard.

For all their zany lyrical allusions to science fiction films and alcohol, not to mention the pulp comic demeanor of their album art, this band actually manages to take their work fairly seriously on their second studio outing in Citizen Brain, at least if the subject is riffs and sheer speed. Playing off an extremely concise formula where rarely break the three minute mark, they manage to make a fair amount of time to cram in some impressive feats, including a decent barrage of lead guitar gymnastics that is not quite as chaotic as a typical early Slayer love fest, but also a bit more wild and dangerous than an orthodox Hammett or Skolnick homage. Most of the riff work tends to focus on the chugging, stop and start goodness typical of Bay Area mainstays Exodus with an occasional nod to the eerie harmonic aesthetics of Slayer (see the intro of "Zombie Blood Nightmare" and the closing minute or so of "Bullet Belt"), but presented in a sort of flashy all fast, all the time character similar to Tankard's Zombie Attack.

Perhaps the most charming aspect of this album is that it doesn't shy away at any point from its clearly comical character, embracing a lot of the cartoon-like qualities of its subject matter in a musically unsubtle way. Vocalist Philly Byrne is the chief element at play in this album's fun loving demeanor, sporting a sort of versatile yet clearly punk-inspired vocal character that is somewhat reminiscent of Vio-Lence's Sean Killian and Nuclear Assault's John Connelly, but a bit more shriek-happy and exaggerated. Occasionally some sampled sounds like the coin jingle from Super Mario Brothers heard amid the lead break of "Final Fight" and the audio clip from Robocop heard on the Nuclear Assault inspired ditty "OCP" make their way into the mix, but the band doesn't get too slavish on gimmicks and generally just slays the ears repeatedly with their riffs. The standout moments tend to be few here musically as the songs largely play off the same formula, but the slightly longer than average cruiser "Hammer Slammer" and the speed metal cliche steeped "Hell Trucker" which all but sounds like a subtle nod to early Helloween.

Gama Bomb may never be up for a Grammy for their musical wackiness, but the fun factor is so viciously blatant on this album that it's pretty hard not to love every minute of it. The only thing that really works against Citizen Brain is that it's a one trick pony, though speedy thrash craving fanatics will recognize it as the only trick needed to pull off a great show. This is thrash metal removed from its progressive and modern elements, distilled to its more primitive state without quite morphing into the overtly hardcore character of Suicidal Tendencies and Stormtroopers Of Death, though it definitely gets pretty close. If anything from the likes of Municipal Waste or Lost Society has a prized place in one's collection, this album should too.