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Thrashing Chicago Style - 100%

Pratl1971, April 9th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, 2CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

Heavy metal purists (or “elitists” to the younger, less impressed milieu) will speak of the vast underground metal movement as if it were something momentous like the Ice Age or the various pillaging forays of Alexander the Great. It's a revered, sacred entity that breathes and spawns underlings every few years to keep the cycle fresh. Chicago's underground, circa 1983 to the present day, has oft been overlook and criminally undervalued, despite our rich and legendary names that have emerged over the last 35-years such as Master, Trouble, Zoetrope, Cardiac Arrest and Sindrome. Sindrome played no small role in that history, offering up two well-produced demos and a bevy of live shows around the area that catapulted them into legendary status seemingly overnight. Opening slots for Death on Scream Bloody Gore and Whiplash followed, all but assuring these guys instant and well-deserved success...

...and then they were gone.

Like an extinguished light on a distant shoreline that just goes out in the blink of an eye, Sindrome was no more, despite being courted by every underground metal-friendly label of the era. It was one of the greatest triumphs and tragedies in the metal world, almost Shakespearean in its borrowed catastrophe. As with most wonderful entities, momentary glimpses into what might have been loomed ever large over the last 25-years since the band's second demo tape, Vault of Inner Conscience, made its way around the local scene. Eventually the tapes migrated overseas to an equally rabid audience vying for additional music from these five guys, whose only crime was missing the minimalistic thrash window about two to three years too late. Rumors about Sindrome's sudden disappearance circulated among the metal underground, ranging from the band only wanting to secure a deal with a major label to a massive car accident that took all of band members' lives (as a tape trader in the 80's, I had to dispel the latter for my overseas trading partners more times than I can remember). Again, it was an Elizabethan poem destined to end in metaphoric death and a sorrowed longing for something more.

Fast forward to 2016, and you have this 44-year old writer choking back youthful emotion upon hearing the news that Sindrome's two demos were finally being legally reissued by Century Media after years of subpar, albeit lovingly-crafted bootlegs on everything from CD's to picture discs. News of this once-thought-impossible release hit social media like a salivating dog, showcasing middle-aged men giggling and 'high-fiving' each other in absolute servitude to the powers that be at CM that managed to seal this deal. When thrash was a dying breed in the late 80's with Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Megadeth and Anthrax all signed to major labels in the wake of a looming Seattle rock scene that MTV was already focused on, these two demos were still out there making a proper noise. This is where the aforementioned window of opportunity sadly eluded the guys, leaving too many metalheads with two cassette tapes (a then-dying media format) and a lot of unanswered questions. Thankfully, the wait is finally over.

So, here we have a double CD set (and a coveted vinyl release to assuage the vinyl hounds among us) aptly titled Resurrection: The Complete Collection, and it hasn't left my player since its release. I was so glad to finally retire my cassette tapes, which have more than served their master for the better part of 25-years. Admittedly, while nearing snob status about remastering, I do admit to shying away from the so-called “loudness wars” of the early 90's and the 'brick-walling' of modern classics for the sake of amplified supremacy. At any given point I try to steer clear of certain remaster jobs whenever possible (and financially viable), but I will admit that the demos, while considerably louder, retain all of the power of the original analog gems and then some, and that is a major selling point and breath of relief for me. Sindrome is a thrash band in every sense of the word. You won't find the overt speed and tempestuousness of early Slayer, Kreator or Sodom or the inane “happy thrash” of late 80's Exodus and Anthrax with these songs, but you will never once doubt the authenticity or passion that Sindrome delivered with every well-crafted note. Disc one contains the Into the Halls of Extermination demo from 1987 and the aforementioned Vault of Inner Consciousness from 1991, which is nearly 50-minutes of Windy City brilliance that lay dormant for far too long. Also included is a lost track called “Brought to the End” that was discovered when the tapes were brought in to be “baked” for mastering. It was like finding a hidden treasure among a sunken ship already strewn with gold bullion.

Vocalist Troy Dixler (Devastation-IL) delivered his well-enunciated volatility in such a distinct, if simple fashion that I hasten to find a comparative peer with which to align him. As for the rest of the musicians, some of Chicago's finest names have been attached to Sindrome, such as Chris Mittleburn (Master, Death Strike), Shaun Glass (Broken Hope, Soil) and Tony Ochoa (Jungle Rot), and if you know anything about these individuals and / or their respective bands you may then ascertain just how amazing Sindrome was and still is today. There are modern bands today mulling around in mundane mediocrity that will never hit this level of integral resonance. This is intelligent, 'sharp' thrash without the thin production of similar bands of the time; what Sindrome took pride in was providing the masses with thrash metal music that was both indicative of the metal tag and savvy enough to tap into the mental recesses of the inquisitive metalhead(s). In a time where Beavis and Butthead were grunting at their TV's and setting the metal movement back at least a decade, Sindrome was proving that there is always a beacon even in the thickest of fogs.

The second disc in the set is the band's opening set from the Iron Rail in Chicago from January of 1988 (a gig this wayward writer was fortunate enough to witness). It is stated in the packaging that it's a pretty “as-is” offering, and the quality is a couple of light steps above bootleg quality. Now, seeing as I am very versed in bootlegs and the varying quality one gets when sneaking recorders into venues back in the mid and late-80's and hitting record (as I often did – shhhh), I find it to be relatively enjoyable as I've certainly heard worse in my day. That said, the average fan that isn't as versed in such recordings and the charm therein will most likely find the live set a bit underwhelming at best and muddled noise at worst, but the essence of what some of us lucky bastards witnessed back in the day is presented here, warts and all. It's worth your time to ingest it in its subtle inferiority, trust me.

As a fanboy, this set is one of the finest additions to my expansive, almost sickening CD arsenal. It has local pride attached to it, sure, but the thrash metal presented here is something that was sadly passed over in the wake of commercial labels looking for the next big thing to pimp out to an uninspired contingent that traded in its leather jackets and denim vests for flannel shirts and army boots. I suppose I've wrestled with this topic more than I should have over the years. I usually meander back and forth between elation that our music was once more ours and not up for public consumption and melancholy at the prospect of one too many bands being left for dead by a fickle, uninformed boardroom of suits sadistically ambivalent to what makes real music so important. Either way you see it, Sindrome was a band that was vastly ahead of its time and dismissively passed over, much to the loss of one too many a person that had never had the pleasure of hearing true thrash metal in its barest, most unapologetic form. That can now be rectified by picking up this set, which I implore you to do.

I live much of my musical life in the past... join me and see how we do it, Chicago style.

(Originally written for