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The peak of American thrash - 98%

Hellish_Torture, August 3rd, 2014

Let’s be honest, I’m not a huge fan of U.S. thrash. Obviously I’m a fan of bands such as Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Vio-lence, Forbidden, Sadus, Dark Angel, Toxik, Whiplash, Carnivore and so on, but I always found Teutonic and Brazilian thrash to be usually superior. The USA is full of great bands, but most of them are pretty well-known names, and when I cross the threshold of the “Holy Realm of U.S. Underground Thrash”, I often find myself yawning a bit, and this doesn’t happen so often when I discover German or Brazilian underground. Obviously there are several exceptions regarding my last sentence, and without doubt the Texan act Gammacide is the biggest of all. They’re not just the best thrash metal band you can ever find in the USA, but even the best American thrash act ever, overcoming even Brazilian bands like Sepultura or Attomica. In my personal list of favourite thrash bands, Gammacide is second only to Sodom and Destruction.

Gammacide’s only full-length, “Victims of Science”, released in 1989, is a total overkill of toxic and corrosive thrash metal that's intense as hell. It’s like Demolition Hammer under a mega-overdose of methamphetamine (or maybe, deathamphetamine?) and in a cosmic LSD trip that gives them more inspiration than usual. Yeah, remember that I’m not just talking about “how brutal this album is”. This album is totally unexpected not just because of its absurd level of violence and intensity, but also for its level of inspiration that just helps to make it even more violent and intense.

What’s the first thing you think about when someone talks about thrash metal? Obviously, the riffs! “Victims of Science” is one of the most riff-creative thrash albums that ever existed. The intensity of these riffs is just mindblowing, even competing with classics such as “Agent Orange” or “Beneath the Remains”, and the best word I can use to describe the riffage of this album is “corrosive”. Each riff is fucking asphyxiating and you will feel like it penetrates in the pores of your skin, giving you the sensation of being chemically-altered by some weird toxic gas. The production helps in this sense, giving justice to the guitar sound and to the concept of this album: scientific and chemical disaster. The guitar tone is a perfect transposition of those scenarios, but listen to believe. From the fast and anxious assaults of “Walking Plague” and “Observations”, the schizophrenic, surgical, and penetrating technical riffing of “Chemical Imbalance”, “Shock Treatment”, and “Victims of Science”, the steamroller fast grooves of “Fossilized”, and the catastrophic display of Earth’s degrade embodied by the “semi-melodic” (take this term highly skeptically) riffs of “Gutter Rats” and “Endangered Species”, every song will annihilate you before you can even have the time to bang your head on it.

I have also to mention the high quantity of tempo changes, making the whole thing even more insane. On “Fossilized”, after the already mentioned semi-groovy moment there is a surprising tempo change and one of the most ripping and creative thrash riffs ever made comes in. And let’s not talk about the total madness of “Chemical Imbalance”. You’ll go insane when you hear the sudden acceleration at 02:37 where a schizophrenic riff comes in accompanied by a mindblowing solo. Even the sudden accelerations of Slayer’s “Necrophobic” are less shocking, in comparison. These tempo changes are perfectly handled and managed by one of the most polyhedral thrash drummers, James Milford. On some tracks, like “Gutter Rats”, you will also notice that he does something that few thrash bands were doing at that time, especially in the USA (where death metal was the new thing and thrash was losing its intensity) - BLAST BEATS! And let’s not talk about his drumwork on “Chemical Imbalance” where his fills are fucking insane. Combine it with the riff/solo overkill I mentioned before and you have a complete holocaust.

Thanks to highly-skilled musicianship (except the vocalist, who’s pretty “hardcore-rooted” and doesn’t use a proper technique) and an out-of-common inspiration for the standards of the local scene (including better known local names like Rigor Mortis, Exhorder, and Devastation - just avoiding to mention Pantera), Gammacide manage to create the greatest thrashterpiece ever made by an American band. The band cited Slayer and AC/DC as their hugest influences and I can figure how. Slayer gave them the lesson about how to be fast, brutal, and outstanding while AC/DC gave them the ability to make “high voltage” music (surely in a different and more brutal way, but at a merely theoretical level, it’s undoubtedly the same kind of stuff), and in both cases the disciples overcame the masters.

If you want to learn how to make brutal, inspired, and outstanding thrash, this album is an obligatory listen for you, no question.