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Gama Bomb - The Terror Tapes

Label: Earache Records
Format: CD
Released: 2013
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 6.5/ 10


"Oh, so Gama Bomb are an Irish band? Like U2? Or the Cranberries? Or The Chieftans? Sinead O'Connor?" "Uh, no. . . Gama Bomb is nothing at all like those artists." Gama Bomb's "The Terror Tapes" album is pure 80s fun thrash, in the vein of Belladonna Anthrax (the cover art even evokes the look of "Spreading the Disease"), S.O.D., "War Ensemble"-style Slayer, Nuclear Assault, Exodus, and “Garage Days Re-Revisited” Metallica (not so much "Inc." or "Re"). However, where those bands all modulated and varied the tones, tempos, and mood between tracks, Gama Bomb is all high-speed manic aggression, all the time. Not a single note or chord here will be clean, sludgy, arpeggiated, strummed, or in a minor key. The metal is heavy but the atmosphere never is. Whether the subject is cannibalism, drugs, a self-mutilated Willem Dafoe, something scatological, or something derived from horror films and books, the lyrics are consistently seasoned with demented humor.

 

The Good: With so many brooding, angst-ridden gloom-stained acts in metal… with or without ghoulish makeup, it's a bit refreshing to encounter Gama Bomb's irreverent, obnoxious, undiluted thrash. With "The Terror Tapes," they clearly did not set out to create an introspective, philosophical commentary on the frailty of existence (If that WAS the intent, then they failed miserably). These guys always sound like they're having a good time. Track 2 on the CD provides a pretty good description of their music: "Lightning quick, like a kick in the dick/ Like a bolt right out of the blue, The G-force pounds with the throttle down / At the turning of the screw." Vocalist Philly Byrne has a great, ballsy voice for this music, channeling Udo, Souza, and Ellsworth at times. The intentionally darkly-funny lyrics and the relentless assault could almost make this the perfect thrash satire. The final note on the album is the band shouting, "BALLS!" Another apt description of their approach.

The Bad: They really could have removed the gaps between tracks and made this one epic song. There is zero variation or variety throughout the album, from the first note to the last. At a casual listen, every tune even seems to stick to the same key. It's tough for an album - regardless of the genre - to succeed without melody or some variation in mood. The solos are shredding, but unmemorable, as are the riffs. Byrne's voice is really the only distinctive aspect to be heard. And as much I like the sound of his vocals, as well as the backups, the lyrics are usually difficult to understand. "Beverly Hills Robocop" seems like it's a hilarious bit, but I can't really tell. Is there something you'd like to share with the rest of us? It's tough to keep going back to an album for repeat listens if there are no hooky riffs or vocals to keep me engaged.

The Ugly: I'd bet that this material is highly effective in a live setting, churning up the moshpit. As a one-trick thrash assault, "The Terror Tapes" succeeds. As an album in the car or through your earbuds, it's fun, but a bit too one-dimensional to merit a high recommendation.

 
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