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Gama Bore - 62%

Film, June 24th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, AFM Records

I bought this cd on a discount in an online store while browsing for others. I only had a vague notion about what kind of band Gama Bomb was, one of those neo-thrash crossover outfits. Going after its positive reviews on this site, I bought "Speed Between the Lines", received it in the mail and spun it. In afterthought this purchase story seems fitting: You should rather be browsing for other records, but if you find this at a (significantly) discounted price it could just sit in your collection instead of a warehouse shelf.

The album title seems to allude to amphetamine and cocaine, i.e. speed and lines, whereas the band's Irish nationality would indicate a lyrical world revolving more around alcohol and leprechauns. None of these feature prominently; instead we have somewhat horror-themed, intentionally moronic lyrics. Now, evil Nazi leprechauns was indeed a menace outlined in an actual 1980s horror book. But not on "Speed Between the Lines". Just Nazis. (Cf. "Alt-Reich")

Why do I go on about horror books? The best part of "Speed Between the Lines" is actually the booklet. In it, every song title is illustrated in shape of a 1980s horror novel cover. The covers are well executed by the designer, replete with wear 'n tear, fold marks and even old price tags. The supposed book cover to the song "Kurt Russell" bears a supposed price tag from "Children's Palace".

My main issue with "Speed Between the Lines" is that it's so bland and unremarkable. The vocals lack conviction and presence; to me they don't convey energy, charisma, feeling or rawness. They are more heavy/power metal-ish than thrashy, so that particular metal demographic will certainly favor these vocals, but to me he is just a loud shanty singer. At the same time, nor he or anybody else in the band is an incompetent musician. The drummer is perhaps the tightest and pounds those tams and snares endlessly, the kick drum galloping equally vividly from start to finish. (When I turn up the bass volume, all I hear is the kick and not the bass guitar.) Alas, not a single one of the riffs stick out as interesting/ear-catching. The mind easily wanders elsewhere. It's simply a boring record from a supposedly fun band.

Say yes to Sauerkraut - 85%

Felix 1666, December 27th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, AFM Records

Gama Bomb, the more or less only band which is able to add successfully a funny note to the mostly very serious metal scene, have thrown a new album on the market and it goes without saying that loyal supporters like me have to buy this output. "Untouchable Glory" and in particular "The Terror Tapes" have been extremely strong predecessors and so the bar is set high. "Speed Between the Lines" stands to these formidable works like Priest's terrible "Turbo" stood to the mighty "Defenders of the Faith", only exactly the other way round. This means that the Irish quintet has absolutely nothing changed in terms of style. I understand the pun of "Speed Between the Lines" (hopefully!), but honestly speaking, the last three words of the title are actually superfluous. The musicians still focus on speed, speed and, finally, speed. And this is great. Nobody needs doom metal under the banner of Gama Bomb - and the same goes for "nu metal", "metalcore", rock ballads and further shit. So all of you who are familiar with the previous records of the protagonists do not need a further description of the here presented style.

An important fun factor is the voice of Philly Byrne. One can see his ironic twinkle in the eye while he is singing and interspersing the almost surreal high-pitched screams. In its best moments, his voice is nearly somersaulting. Fortunately, I have seen the band live on 28 November 2009 in Gießen / Germany (time flies...), otherwise I would doubt that Byrne is able to perform the lyrics on stage flawlessly. By the way, I regret that they did not print the lyrics in the booklet - I guess that a lot of non-native speakers like me miss a lot of fun. Instead, they have created film posters / book covers for every song and, of course, "Alt Reich" shows a sadistic Nazi who kicks a beautiful naked woman. Come on guys, it's getting boring. Isn't it time to use another German stereotype? What about Sauerkraut, Lederhose or - if you must have a link to the Third Reich - the Autobahn?

In terms of music, "Alt Reich" marks a representative song. Conventional configuration, never chaotic yet ultra-fast verses, a catchy chorus with effective background shouts, a straight pattern without any frills and very strong riffs, leads and lines. In other words, this is almost a one-size-fits-all description. The songs are extremely homogeneous, even the minimalist caricatures of a metal song are missing this time, remember "epic" tunes such as "Mussolini Mosh" or "Shitting Yourself to Live". Highlights like "Give Me Leather", "Bring Out the Monster" or "Motorgeist" do not stand in the shadow of their previous killers, even though classics like "Beverly Hills Robocop" or "My Evil Eye" might be one step ahead. Guess it's just a matter of personal taste, because one thing is certain: absolutely no fan of the former songs will be disappointed. The most important features, the musicianship, the crispness and the momentum are still very present and no track falls by the wayside. In addition, the tightness of the dudes is remarkable. The stable line-up - there have been no changes since 2013 - seems to have a positive effect.

As said before, the group did not modify its restless style in any way and the production offers no unexpected facets as well. The album sounds clear, vigorous and direct. Everything is well-balanced and the music develops the necessary pressure. The only negative detail here is the absence of "Return of Easter Rising", the B side of the "Give me Leather" single. Once the band surprised us with a download of a complete album ("Tales from the Grave in Space"), now they want us to pay extra for less than three minutes of music? I admit, that's no drama, but I don't think that the album would have been overloaded by addition of this song. However that may be, the album is much too good to deserve a review with a critical last sentence. Thus, my final statement is that Gama Bomb can be described as the non-serious counterpart of Toxic Holocaust, but they write better tunes than the man with the bleached mop on his head. And inter alia due to this fact, they belong to the bands that give the thrash metal community what it needs: very good, fast and refreshing songs which come from the heart.

Mosh like you mean it, bitches! - 90%

hells_unicorn, December 20th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, AFM Records

Thrash metal has never been big on the concept of subtlety, and if Gama Bomb’s latest studio offering is anything, it’s a full blown kick to the head that announces the exact instant that its boot will connect with one’s skull. Speed Between The Lines carries its active ingredient right in the very title, offering a laundry list of typical song subjects in either a serious or overtly tongue-in-cheek fashion at break neck speed and going all in on impact-based riffing and over-the-top vocalizations. Some might rightly nickname microphone maestro Philly Byrne as 1988 Blitz Ellsworth’s long lost, Northern Irish twin brother, which is about as much of a mouthful as the rapid fire lyrical delivery and banshee shouts that paint over the ultra-concise riff monsters that round out the entirety of this opus.

Whether one wishes to dub this pizza thrash or a crossover friendly brand of thrash that could be likened to Municipal Waste with more guitar solos or Vio-Lence with a side order of D.R.I., the songwriting on here is an exercise in getting down to business and suspending with the drawn out instrumental passages or elaborate intros. No song on here breaks the four minute mark, and only two individual songs get remotely close, as an album such as this places the prime focus on full speed mayhem, yet also keeps in mind that the audience that will be slaughtering each other in the pit at live outings will be comprised primarily of mortal human beings. There are occasional moments where the ancillary role of the bassist gives way to a few moments in the sun, but overall it’s the riff work, crazed drumming and vocals that steal the show.

The overall character of everything is fairly streamlined, often consisting of simple structural patterns, short solo bursts reminiscent of Slayer but with more of a mainline character along the lines of Skolnick or Gustafson, and a uniform driving feel. Maddened thrashers like “R.I.P. U”, “Stay Rotten” and “World Gone To Hell” rest on the shorter end of the spectrum, leaning close to the Municipal Waste formula and getting right to the point in a mere two or three minutes, yet somehow manages to make some highly impressive technical references to Annihilator and Dark Angel during the few scant seconds when Byrne is catching his breath. Others such as “Kurt Russell” and “Alt-Reich” get a little bit fancier during their respective intros, throwing in a short pop/punk reference in the former while the latter hits the precision stops and starts with the best of them.

Ultimately this band proves to be at their best when they stick a little closer to a full-on thrash metal formula and stretch things out a little bit longer. The comical anthem to all things metal and S&M “Give Me Leather” cuts up the unfettered fury with a few more mid-paced segments that give the listener a bit more to chew on both structurally and melodically. Alongside the similarly comical and drawn out fun of “Bring Out The Monster”, this side of Gama Bomb represents their serious side, at least from a musical standpoint. However, while the fancy fill work of the rhythm section and the fun-loving shred solos are at their best on these songs, the ultimate show stealer is Byrne’s vocal work, displaying an ability to shatter glass, power up the middle range and have an extended conversation with himself about whatever random subject pops into his head.

Like a fine wine with a decrepit aftertaste, Gama Bomb just seems to be getting better with age, and this action packed collection of songs dedicated to some knockoff of The Running Man is among the best stuff they’ve ever put out. It’s tailor-made for any junkie of the genre who craves both the simplistic crossover character of Municipal Waste and Lich King, but also works equally well for the old guard who particularly enjoyed the punk-infused New York sound of albums like Nuclear Assault’s Game Over and Overkill’s Under The Influence. There’s been a fair bit of talk over the past six or seven years that the 80s thrash metal revival is dead and on its way to the funeral parlor, but evidently these mad Irishmen didn’t get the memo and would probably take turns lighting farts over top of it if they ever did.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (www.sonicperspectives.com)

Fast and Fun - 88%

StainedClass95, December 20th, 2018

I must admit I’m a little surprised to see no other reviews for this album on the Archives. Gama Bomb has a fair reputation among newer thrash acts, and what reviews of this release have come out were full of praise, if not exactly worship. For those who are not aware, Gama Bomb is an Irish band whose most similar artist according to the feature here is Municipal Waste. There are several similarities that will be discussed below, but there is one major overarching distinction that makes all the difference when listening to the two of them.

Gama Bomb shares several features with Municipal Waste that I assume they both inherited from the New York thrash scene. There is plenty of hardcore punk influence in the shorter song-lengths, gang shouts now and again, and the vocal inflections. Looking at the vocals a bit more, Byrne employs a quasi-snarl and occasional falsetto that reminds me of Overkill’s Bobby Blitz. I actually like his vocals a bit more than Blitz’, but it’s in the same vein. The constant speed of Speed Between the Lines is obvious and one of its stronger points. The fastest songs from, say, Overkill are pretty much the norm here which is to my liking. Mid-paced thrash can be very good, but speed is an easy way to keep up the excitement and quality of a thrash release. Another kinship with Municipal Waste and the New York scene is the lyrics. These lines do not take themselves seriously and employ a great deal of humor though often about serious topics. Track 7, Alt-Reich, has gotten some attention for just that, as a humorous trashing of right-wing populism.

One major difference between Gama Bomb’s newest and the latest Municipal Waste is in Speed Between the Lines’ smoothness. The higher-pitched vocals and more melodic sound of the assault impart upon Gama Bomb’s sound a smoothness that compliments the high-speeds whereas to these ears Municipal Waste often devolves into an overly-blunt or sometimes jagged mess. As a side-effect of this smoothness, another band that occurs to me for a comparison is Helloween. The cheeky lyrics, gang shouts, falsettos, and high-speeds are all trademarks of early Helloween and coalesce into a noticeable though arguably superficial sonic semblance.

Practically everything so far has been a positive and indeed, I do rank this album somewhat highly, but there is a limit to the praise that can be bestowed upon this release. For a start, there is little here that has not already been done. There is no outright mimicry, but some Overkill, a little added hardcore, and perhaps a little Helloween or something similarly melodic will get close to the sound. Other than the vocals, the players can perform the music enjoyably, but their performances far from transcend the songs. Lastly, as fun as the speed is, the brief bursts that make up most of the songs can start to run together. Bring Out the Monster and a few others are catchy enough to stand out nicely, but the rest sometimes blur into a (still enjoyable) barrage. None of these are crippling issues by any means, but in totality, they do limit just how far the album can go and keep it away from true greatness. An 88 is nothing to sneeze at however and is where Speed Between the Lines runs.