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They Coulda Been Contenders... - 79%

Madman, August 15th, 2004

An unfortunately overlooked album from the mid-90's. For most people this is just the band that Dave Lombardo had after Slayer that they don't care about or some people even refer to them as "Slayer Jr."... which I never really understood as this isn't really like Slayer aside from the drumming, which is going to be obvious when you have someone who is instantly recognizable behind the kit. Slayer is fast, aggressive thrash (or used to be) and Grip Inc. Is a modern (for the time) metal band that uses thrash and a hefty dose of groove.

Power of Inner Strength is Grip Inc.'s first album and to me their best. It came together on this album and I don't think they ever really regained what happened here. The riffs are just heavy, monstrous, and groovy. They would later follow that groove a bit more and lose some of the thrashy feel of this album.

The album starts off with a little intro created by Dave Lombardo with some programmed and live drum bits. It's not too special and it's not much of a real build up especially when the next song, Savage Seas (Retribution), is like a build up in itself. Savage Seas has a very interesting drum/guitar interplay. The way the toms and bass drums play with the guitars while the snare keeps the beat sounds very interesting, not necessarily a revolutionary idea but the way they work together is just magic. Shortly after Gus Chambers roars in with his trademark shouts. Now originally I hated his vocals as I found them rather boring as for the most part he is just shouting but Gus grew on me with enough time.

Hostage to Heaven is a great thrasher, the way the riff is you could say it was possibly a precursor to a lot of the "swedish thrash". The main riff kind of has that bouncyness that has a way of downplaying the chugs of the riff, much like some of the swedish bands. When Dave kicks out the double bass on this one you better watch out! One thing I noticed on this album is Dave seems to ride the toms a lot more than he did in Slayer, maybe an evolution of his playing?

Guilty of Innocence is another favorite of mine from the album. From the beginning it plays with a softer piece going into a heavy double bass version of the same piece. A very basic idea that has been used many times over but it works. Ostracized has just this really heavy groove riff throughout the song that just makes me want to bang my head. Gus' vocals during the chorus ("He is the man under the bridge!!!") Are, as always, compelling.

The rest of the songs on the album are just as great as the ones I've mentioned, I'm not joking. Grip Inc. Had the potential to be a very important band in metal but I think that ended up squandered partially do to their lack of a great follow-up to this album as well as the inherent problems of being labelled "Slayer Jr." and the overall lack of interest in metal at the time.