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Rough Children of America, Get Quirky! - 75%

bayern, October 18th, 2017

I got a hold of this band relatively late, some time in the late-90’s to be precise, and I couldn’t help but be mildly entertained by their debut which was a decent slab of Bay-Areasque thrashisms spiced with several trippy deviations from the path, those recalling Voivod, above all, including a Pink Floyd cover (“Time”).

As I got both albums at the same time, I didn’t have to wonder about the direction the guys had taken for the sophomore, but it must have been interesting for their fans some ten years earlier to see which side of their repertoire would take over here. Those who had voted for the Bay-Area one may have been left a bit disappointed as the band have gone further down the rabbit hole elaborating on their quirky habits already generously displayed on the debut. For some this may be the better option, but the hardliners may be confused at times since they might not know what to make of this hallucinogenic musical experience which provides instant classic thrash gratification with the opening “3-D Man”, a jazzy hectic listen that is quite good despite its “bumpy” character.

“Spy” enters the scene, and the uplifting optimistic rhythms overtake the aether permeating the Mordred-esque funker “Gentleman Death” and the atmospheric melodic progressiver “Forever Alone”. “Draintime” is a weird, but listenable, combination of ballad, more hard-hitting riffage, and funky “distortions” reminiscent of the Japanese avant-gardists Doom, already heard on an EP released a few months back. “Surrounded by Idiots”, another cut from the mentioned EP, is an edgy progressive offering trying to keep up with the merry mood instilled, but its relaxed attitude is completely overwritten by the more intense thrashing on “Desert Grins”, a surprisingly dynamic roller-coaster sustained for 6.5-min, with a nice balladic interlude, the highlight here. “What’s Your Pleasure?” retains the thrashier ways of execution even reaching headbanging proportions at some stage, obvious echoes from the debut, somehow surviving among the funky, groovy jumps and jolts also amply provided. “Prego” is a nervy all-instrumental shredder with not very predictable riff-patterns ala Spastic Ink. making the second half even more attractive, but “Another Nameless Face” is just a bluesy/balladic non-sense its blasé nature compensated by the sprightly “//”, another less ordinary attempt at the good old thrash with the obligatory quirks installed including a cool quieter passage. The merits of the closing “I Ain’t Drunk, I’m Just Drinking”, another cover (of Albert Collins), are also quite debatable although it’s obvious that this is supposed to be the joke song, but this mild unpretentious rock’n roller is too big a mood spoiler to be placed in the better-filler category.

A bumpy ride, with ups and downs which kind of complement each other the band not willing to radically sever their ties with the old school, or maybe not feeling so spaced out in order to branch out into the totally unexpected. The resultant blend of those hesitations might have pleased both fractions back then, and not only because at the time so many changes were taking place on the scene that the fans were nodding in not very certain approval at almost anything that was coming out. Still, the outside-the-box kind of thinking wasn’t anything new even in the early-90’s with Voivod followers like Transilience, Calhoun Conquer and Omnitron having already bewildered the audience, and with Mordred’s “In This Life” having already introduced the funky template a few months earlier. The band were definitely developing their own thing without emulating any existing at the time trends, and the groovy post-thrash arena seemed like a very probable destination for them… For better or worse, they never reached this ever-reliant “shelter” for all America’s rough… sorry, wrath children; or at least not in this 4-dimensional world of ours.

I'm gonna make you disappear - 80%

autothrall, December 3rd, 2010

You didn't have to look far to realize that something has changed within the Wrathchild America camp. Just one glance at the cover image and you'll find something even more perplexing than the debut, which was a fucking guy stuck in a maze! Okay, perhaps its not 'perplexing', but 3-D certainly looks surreal, and even the logo had changed from something expected to something more uniform, modern, and...chic? Thankfully for us all, the actual musical content has a lot going to it, so it's hardly the product of some pretentious ejaculation. In fact, Wrathchild America were one of the few bands who seemed as if they'd survive the wake of the great thrash metal purge of 1991-92...and they did. But not as Wrathchild America.

3-D shows some a pretty sound progression from the material of Climbin' the Walls, which was largely just a flirtation with Metallica and Megadeth worship that failed to even take the coat of those bands' shadows in the 80s. Here, we've got a band trying something new without sucking at it. The choruses are catchy, the songs more uniquely structured, and you can hear that the band are bringing in the outside influences of jazz, and perhaps a tiny element of funk, without soiling themselves over it. The thrash & hard rock mix of Brad Divens' vocals is a more subdued hue, but a strong improvement over the debut, and where the rest of the band add in some contributions, it sounds quite good. As for the composition itself, just about every song has a few riffs worth going back to, and as a whole it flows rather nicely. You'll grow to trust the album after only a few songs, and it never betrays you, provided you've got a slightly more open mind than normal when approaching a thrash record.

The songs. Many of them are great, not the least of which include the opener "3-D Man", an oddly structured, strutting rally against the narrow minded, and then "Spy", which was the album's 'hit single' if every there were one. This is a pretty impressive, accessible tune with a dainty walking bassline that is eventually laid on thicker with the guitar chords, and I love the private eye philosophy in the lyrics, even if one might argue that this is not really entirely 'metal'. Sure, it's fun, the sort of campy fun that I often don't appreciate on an album like this, but it's very well written, if not the best song here. "Gentleman Death", "Forever Alone" and the other 'silly' piece here "Surrounded by Idiots" are all just as riffy, with solid melodic chords being used against catchy, simple thrash riffs that felt fresh and crisp in their day, as they still do. I also enjoy the groove and swagger of "Another Nameless Face" and "Desert Grins", and the eerie ballad verses of "Draintime".

If you've got the CD, there's another bonus silly song, and it's not an original. No worries though, this isn't Pink Floyd, but a blues rock cover of "I Ain't Drunk, I'm Just Drinkin'" by Albert Collins. Of course, the original is funny, and they don't really fuck around with it, but it does sort of tie together the band's sense of security around incorporating outside elements into their music, and unlike so many faltering thrash bands trying to cast their last chips into the game, Wrathchild America didn't quite fail at it. Okay, well they changed their name to Souls at Zero and put out two more albums of middling quality, so I guess they felt they must have, but at least drummer Shannon Larkin got to perform with Glenn Tipton and even a gig with Black Sabbath. Souls at Zero does feel like a natural continuation of the band's experimentation here, but it's nothing to write home about, so while it's not perfect, I'll have to nominate 3-D as remaining the best work of these musicians, and something to check out if you're interested in what bands were trying right as the bubble burst on this beloved genre.


Totally, Criminally Underrated - 95%

corviderrant, May 14th, 2009

Wow, I remember this band, and most favorably too. I remember how talented, skilled, and diverse they were as musicians, which was probably exactly what worked against them in the end, the fact they were not clones of anybody else out there. They had a unique and distinctive sound, and while it may have held them back ultimately, it was the listener's loss that that happened, not theirs. Wrathchild America were original, and you can't say that about just any band.

Brad Divens' crashing, clanking bass tone anchors the guitars loudly, thanks to Alex Perialas' sterling production job, and his vocals come off as more down to earth and accessible than anything else. His raspy, drawling sneer fits the music exceptionally well and his lyrics are well-written, too. The rest of the band are right there with him, no dead weight here. Shannon Larkin in particular stands out as a criminally lost drum talent with his eccentric drumming approach, and both Terry Carter and Jay Abbene let rip with riffs, solos, and fills everywhere with bluesy feeling taking precedence over technical skill, though they certainly don't lack the latter. While the songs display a dazzling array of influences musically, they never once seem out of place or gratuitous; it all adds up to a remarkably strong and cohesive whole. Everything from reggae to blues to hard rock, thrash metal, you name it, they pull it off well and easily, not sweating it once from the sound of it.

Song wise, "3-D Man" leads the charge with aggressive up tempo drumming and a choppy riff riding over that snarling bass guitar, and explodes into a strong album opener, with "Spy" displaying an incredibly cool walking bass line and a variety of guitar tones and styles on display. "Draintime" I actually like a lot as well, with its trippy opening and crunchy main riffs, and "Gentleman Death" has one of the best choruses on the album, if not the best one period, with a very menacing half time feel. When WA let rip into thrash mode, they do it well and with conviction, going straight for the jugular with a vengeance as Shannon steers the band unerringly on their course. A great drummer is the key to any band being elevated to high status, and Shannon being as good as he was/is makes their being virtually ignored by American fans all the more upsetting in the end. Look to "What's Your Pleasure?" in particular for that aspect of them, as it is probably the most vicious song on the album musically. "Prego" lives up to its title with an amazing array of musical styles crammed end to end for a very amusing end result. I don't think it was meant to be entirely serious, so I don't take it as such.

This whole album is a roller coaster ride in the best sense of the phrase in that it has ups and downs, hills and valleys, with dynamics to spare, and it is a damned crying shame that this band didn't make it any bigger than they did. But as mentioned, their diverse approach ended up being to their detriment, as most fans must not have known what to make of them. Their not being clones of any of the Big Four worked against them, sadly. If nothing else, this is awesome ADD listening! Seriously, though...this is very much worth hunting down and adding to the collection whether in hard copy or hard drive, it's just that good.

Highly original and effective nineties post-thrash - 94%

morbert, November 24th, 2008

While most of us, the old thrashers, agree the nineties were the downfall of good thrash and speed metal, there were some exceptions. There actually were a few bands succeeding at re-inventing it AND keeping it enjoyable. Wrathchild America were such a bunch. Yes they threw in some groove. Yes they threw in some, almost glam-ish, rock and roll. But all in a good way. The band could handle their instuments so well, it all sounds perfectly normal and convincing.

In a way they never sound as if they’re taking everything too seriously yet they easily blew 90% of the early nineties competition out of the water when it came to re-inventing thrash metal. The surgical tightness of their more furious songs is impressive. “ 3-D Man”, “What's Your Pleasure” and “Surrounded By Idiots” are easily the best three songs here. The band is all over the place stylewise yet these songs remain thrash metal-focussed, strong, logical and do sound very energetic when picking up the pace. The hooks and breaks are all well contrived and executed perfectly.

Brad Divens’ vocals are melodic yet raspy enough to suit the more aggressive aspects of this album as well. His vocals are an important element in keeping all their influences and styles together and giving Wrathchild America a very characteristic and recognisable sound at the same time. Chapeau!

The only reason for not giving this album 99 points is because some songs are just slightly less impressive. With an eclectic sound like this it’s logical not all your songs will come out equally briliant. Especially “Draintime” has a good idea behind it but fails in efficiency.

For some thrash metal fans Wrathchild America will be too soft or even a bit too humoristic or sleazy in a way but if you’re into metal in general you will surely find something appealing here!

How did this one slip through the cracks? - 90%

worgelm, September 6th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Atlantic Records

The band's swansong under the "Wrathchild America" moniker, this album is impressively executed, impeccably produced by Alex Perialias (Testament, Anthrax, etc) and superbly written, managing to impress with its creativity and technical brilliance - right up until the bonus track, an unfortunate Albert Collins cover "I Aint Drunk, I'm Just Drinkin". "Dreamtime" is a creepy, tripped-out delight ("When satin feels like broken glass/I know it's time to smile"), while there is some downright brutal progressive thrash on "Gentleman Death", "Desert Grins" and "What's Your Pleasure".

The band is at once ferocious, tight, balancing accessibility with progressive influences and good-natured humor - "Surrounded By Idiots" is a great, driving anthemic slab of fun-metal that should have dominated alongside of the likes of Scatterbrain. And aptly-named instrumental "Prego" ("Its in there !") is just so goofy that you might miss how technically incredible it really is, managing to outdo even the excellent "Hernia" from _Climbing the Walls_ by a longshot. However the band's most enduring and progressive numbers are unquestionably the James Bond metal of "Spy" - one of the catchiest thrash metal songs ever penned, and "II", which incorporates epic thrash, prog and reggae influences into a shockingly cohesive whole.

While I enjoyed these songs as they are very much both at the time the album was released and now, I suspect some will find the vocals an acquired taste. But the savage instrumental work turned in by this quartet will win the vast majority of you over. If you were into any of the big thrash bands of the late 80s-early 90s, you owe it to yourself to get to know these Maryland boys who almost struck big.