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The Expert Swordsman Living Unseen in the Hills - 94%

Gutterscream, February 2nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 1985, Cassette, Independent

“…holocaust stricken, the temptation unknown, the pain seems unbearable to your flesh and bone…”

Peel yourself away from that shoegaze crud and brutal, blast-beaten boobery currently oozing stagnant pus into your minds and unpeel one of underground metal’s best buried secrets. To long time fans of this San Fran five-piece, stopping at ‘secret’ is like feeling content sampling the top most visible layer of a cake and ignoring the filling that truly defines it because you’ve never heard of the baker. For them, this pastry fresh outta ‘85’s oven is a buried prize, treasure, and even honor that never cooled off. And I’m not gonna argue with ‘em. Why? Because I just burned my friggin’ hand on this thing, man.

There isn’t enough ‘duh’ factor in the hemisphere to not call the living entombment of Ulysses Siren’s early discography a criminal felony in music, and it’s for no simpler or predictable reason than that these particular morsels are too good to be covered over as one would bury an old backyard swing set. They could be half as good as this and it’d still be rightfully shitty. There is, of course, a handful of reasons why this stuff disappeared from earshot. A quick look tells of a membership that seemed relatively sturdy, but there’s no guarantee of sustained chemistry or comradery. I laugh at label disinterest, but not at labels’ flimsy offers. Opposingly, they wouldn’t be the first band to hold out beyond the point of label patience. Regardless, I’m sure there’s a band interview out there spilling all there is about it.

U. Siren is an outfit gifted with a couple of things; in their possession is clear
understanding of where traditional metal, speed, and thrash collide, then with obvious aptitude and mechanics in all three styles play rings around this collision, yet avoid the craaaasssh! that often accompanies novice bands who try crossing three lanes of traffic to suddenly realize it's a stick shift and that the T-tops are leaking on the cassette deck like a skimpy tampon. Now while a ton of bands had their first vehicles billowing smoke in ’85, U. Siren and their affinity for the heavier stuff (that was still regarded as new then) logically built a dragster and jumped straight onto the racetrack in the company of the first wave of thrash bands, the obvious place their main metal motivation lied. This incentive lead to this darling Terrorist Attack demo that would provide the evidence needed to officially stamp their metalworkers membership cards.

To narrow the echelon of frenetic metal U. Siren demand of themselves, let’s say they wouldn’t be caught dead shopping in the Tame Thrasher Mall where Intrinsic, Guillotine and Anvil Bitch carry their wives’ pocketbooks through Yarn Barn, and while they may look entertainingly upon the obtuse lack of finesse brandished by Sodom and N.M.E., they probably wouldn’t offer much more than basic respect for their bare barbarism. Y’see, there’s almost nothing tame or barbaric about Ulysses’ wildly-controlled ruckus. It’s anxiously and immodestly frantic without devolving into hysterics. It’s bruised up with more than enough well-executed technical agenda to make anyone in that stuffy realm take certain notice, yet this competence is cross-wired and camouflaged well enough with a sneering, near-primal savagery that it doesn’t give off an aroma as such. Their resonance is ultimately nowhere near safe; in fact, it's exciting as hell, crisp like newly-minted currency, and boldly aggressive, so those claiming thrash isn’t an extreme form of metal need to bend a hearing aid to the three stampeders here as well as the albums and bands that are gonna have smoke rings blown around them in like two seconds.

“…exposure of metal tears through the land…”

What’s heard is an iron-like grip crushing a nexus somewhere between Whiplash’s ’85/’86 infernal timeline, small traces of poisonous pollen from Exodus’ Bonded by Blood, salivating debut-era Sadus, a healthy dose of irresistible technical hyperbole that’d be bred exceptionally well by Atheist one day, and some multi-faceted Morbid Saint that also cultivated a smidge more melodically unkind sensibility like scarlet fever in a Petri dish, and there’s no need to await a separate description of Manuel Lopez’s thrashscratch ‘cos it’s right there clinging like flayed meat to the five aforementioned thrash machines.

Only three tracks deliver U. Siren’s explosive package. Fourteen and a half minutes. It’s all they need. “Lake of Fire”, volatile "The Reich" and the torrential title track are proof incarnate that these lads are possessed of whirling thrash hot damn factor that may as well be the equivalent to a four tool player in baseball (five’s the highest, mind you). The first four tools have more or less already been identified, so match ‘em on your own time, yet the elusive fifth tool, to put in a metal dialect, could be a band’s ability/want to experiment, or not only change gears, but change vehicles altogether. Experiment, however, is a high rent word of big and virtually limitless possibilities, so it’s best to narrow its definition to something universally known, well-rounded by time and has become routinely comprehensible like Master of Puppets/…And Justice-era Metallica diversity. I know, can’t we go five friggin’ seconds without their asses coming up? Hey, it’s just a handy, if not generic example of my point. Question is: is this a tactic these fine fellas would bother with? Beats me, but tour de force stuff like this isn’t generally concocted by narrow brainpans. I personally don’t think they need agonize over the last tool, but I am nobody.

There are acts that will remain nameless who released below par albums around the known existence of Terrorist Attack that should’ve been awarded light prison sentences instead of recording contracts. Conversely, albums worth every penny hit the streets as well, something like Destructor’s same year debut Maximum Destruction, a disk of high thrash value and adoration to yours truly, yet U. Siren’s triune within Terrorist Attack can make Destructor’s best seem clumsy, slow, uninventive, and even archaic. Never thought I’d say that.

Their name’s a lot cooler, too. Make a special attempt to clean out yer ears for this.

“…the children all condemned by the sons of a sinister man…”