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Join the Army on a Psychotic Suicidal Mission - 98%

bayern, June 17th, 2017

Although my journey around Suicidal Tendencies’ skate possessed hardcore/crossover/thrash/alternative psycho world began with “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…”, a much more thrash-fixated affair, the album reviewed here remains my favourite from their discography. It’s embalmed by this inimitable carefree, uplifting, optimistic spirit that was too alien to and way friendlier than the angry, belligerent NYHC sound, and more interesting and more flexible than the rigid early D.R.I. repertoire. Mentioning the latter band, the self-titled debut of the Suicidals was quite close to the stripped-down dishevelled delivery of their compatriots, and it beats me why they don’t get the same level of recognition for the foundation of the thrash/crossover hybrid as there was noticeable early thrash influence on it.

The guys didn’t elaborate on it, however, as on this soldier-recruitment “declaration” they had decided to create an ode to crossover in all its hardcore-ish and punk-ish “beauty”. And who are we to complain… One can hardly come up with a better opener to this perennial roller-coaster than “Suicidal Maniac”, the ultimate speed punker, a rousing hymn which gives an enormous boost to the album which carries on with the officiant stomping title-track, a sing-alonger second to none with the most infectious mid-paced bounces and the sudden fast-paced “suicidal” outbreak. The band mix it up in the most appropriate way later with the short jumpy frolicer “You Got, I Want”, the more “serious” anthem “A Little Each Day” with Muir providing some of his most memorable vocal lines on a nearly doomy background; and the energetic crossover prisoner… sorry, pioneer “The Prisoner”, a brief to-the-point invigorator with the cool slower ending.

“War Inside My Head” is my favourite Suicidals’ cut, the closest the guys come to pure metal here, with the varied playful rhythm-section at the beginning boding jolly good tunes ala Krokus and Accept, before the song acquires more formidable power metal parametres with some impressive blazing leads present. The speedcore madness is unleashed on full-throttle after that on “I Feel Your Pain and I Survive” and “Guinea Pig” before “Possessed to Skate” introduces the catchiest part of the album, a friendly merry-go-rounder which is intended as a pause from the moshing roller-skater that later includes the marginally more dynamic “No Name, No Words”, but also the headbanging crossover classic “Born to be Cyco”, the diverse alternation between calm and intense passages which “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right” is, and the supreme surreal galloper “Looking in Your Eyes”, another highlight served as an epitaph drawing the future path towards a more fulsome metal sound, with another portion of tasteful melodic leads.

Absolutely compelling music from beginning to end, a hit after hit presented in an inimitable airy, punky fashion the guys obviously having a lot of fun during the recordings. One can’t possibly imagine the Suicidals’ approach without Muir, one of the most characteristic singers in the metal/hardcore/crossover roster, someone who could actually sing without taking too many adventurous paths with his steady clean mid-ranged timbre, and one who can be instantly recognized among hordes of other vocalists. He’s actually the only member from the initial line-up, and the main driving force behind the band’s endeavours which took a decidedly more metallic direction with the very next opus, a more aggressive approach which Muir also tested at around the same time with his side-project No Mercy (one album released, 1987).

It’s interesting that parallel to Suicidal Tendencies’ career another band was doing pretty much the same thing, Excel. It’s not quite clear whether they were plainly emulating their peers, or were coincidentally composing the same music as them. Whatever they were doing it must have been good cause Muir later recruited some of the Excel members for his later spells like Infectious Grooves and Cyco Miko. Yes, the man branched out into quite a few directions in the 90’s, including with his main band, leaving his hardcore/crossover roots far behind, not quite capitalizing on the catchy nature of the album reviewed here. Thrash, progressive, alternative, funk, I have by all means forgotten some nuances the guys have passed through for the past thirty years during their musical transformations… Quite a lot of fans had joined their army through those years, some of them staying with them from the very beginning probably. I was an early recruit, and my heart remained stuck in the 80’s when the biggest, most heroic “battles” were held with all kinds of dangerous “cycos”, “suicidal maniacs”, “human guinea pigs”, and “possessed skaters”. Those were the days, those were the hymns…

Hardcore tendencies - 79%

HumanTorch, April 18th, 2005

Join the Army was always something of a cult album for me, as it was both hard to find in my area and Suicidal was strongly associated with skater sub-culture. I clearly remember flipping through skate mags like Thrasher and invariably seeing ads selling Suicidal paraphernalia like those crazy flipped up hats (does that mean Jesper Parnevik was a skater?), not to mention the fact one of their songs was called ‘Possessed to Skate’. So the question begs, is this typical skater music?

I think it’s too simple to label this as crossover. We have hardcore influences showing up in most songs in the form of a related vocal and base line rampaging at breakneck speed complemented by some generic speed riffs. There are mid tempo bass grooves on the likes of ‘Possessed to Skate’ and ‘A Little Each Day’, the latter having almost a Dead Kennedy’s feel to it. However, the majority of the original riffs on here are undeniably thrash. Add Rocky George’s insane soloing over the top and you might call this thrash metal. Might. Ultimately though, I think there are just too many hardcore and groove elements.

The best cut on the album is probably the most atypical Suicidal song there is, the anthemic title track. This sort of swaggering adrenaline pumper will give you swivel neck after the first bar. An instant heavy classic that ends with a manic thrash fest. Other standouts include the aforementioned groovy ‘A Little Each Day’ and the catchy ‘Possessed to Skate’. Most songs have a lot of internal variation so almost all have a standout element or two regardless. The only real downside is the presence of some generic thrash/hardcore passages, most represented by the rather lackluster ‘I Feel Your Pain’ and ‘Human Guinea Pig’.

The bass is very prominent in the mix, which is not surprising considering it was engineered and co-produced by Lester Claypool (I guess this was his pre-Les days), the bass virtuoso of Primus fame. However, it works here because the bass lines are very lively and at times infectiously groovy. The production is descent for the era, but not spectacular.

The overall catchiness of the songwriting should be emphasized at this point. This album has a lot of hooks, both vocal and instrumental. Mike Muir actually begins to sing instead of the whiny shouting/talking he chose to perform on their debut. The new restrained moany style turns out to be quite distinct and pleasing and really is the main element of their signature sound. Recommended for fans of eighties thrash who don’t mind some hardcore.