The last column took on a bifurcated Death Metal/Stoner Metal focus, so I’m happy to return today with an update that concerns the Bay Area’s favorite kind of metal: Thrash! To bring the uninitiated up to speed, let us note the fact that these Nor-Cal shores were at the epicenter of a musical movement, at a time when bands like Exodus, Testament, Death Angel, and everyone’s favorite Napster-enemies were beginning still-extant careers amid an orgy of polka-beating violence.
In recent years, heavy music has witnessed an explosion of so-called “retro-thrashers,” all attempting to capture the glory and furious fecundity that the genre experienced in the middle eighties, when the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer) were at their peak and thrash outposts like Germany birthed classic bands like Sodom and Kreator. The results attained by these backwards-looking hair-farmers have been varied — sometimes ripping, sometimes mediocre, sometimes downright poseur-tastic — so allow me separate the ripe wheat from the corny, fecal chaff.
Ireland isn’t known as a metal hotbed, but the thrash masterpieces produced by Dublin natives Gama Bomb might just change that reputation. 2008’s Citizen Brain (Earache) was my favorite album of that year, combining impossibly fast razor-wire riffing with a tongue-in-cheek lyrical sensibility that name-checked video games, horror movies, and the band’s inexhaustible appetite for alcohol. The immaculate production and airtight drumming added further incentive to headbang unabashedly (headbash unabangedly?), but it was the group’s way with a heavy hook that made them stand out, with guitarists Luke Graham and Domo Dixon proving that you don’t have to sacrifice an ounce of frenetic mayhem to produce a riff with unrestrained earworming tendencies.
Gama Bomb is back this year with Tales from the Grave in Space , and their dedication to preaching the thrash gospel is made apparent by their decision to make the entire album available for free download on Earache’s website. The band’s picking hands and double bass feet seem undiminished by their heavy drinking, and the gleefully theatrical vocals, light-speed chugging (both guitar and booze), and machine-gun fills all return with a vengeance, replete with a pulpy sci-fi twist. Now if only they would fucking tour the U.S. already!