Wednesday 9 December 2020

Gama Bomb - Sea Savage (2020)

Country: Ireland
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 4 Dec 2020
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I like Gama Bomb. They play fast and energetic thrash, with a strong speed metal influence and more than a nod to crossover. They're lean and mean, ten of the twelve tracks on offer here wrapping up in under four minutes and half of those under three. They keep new material coming without overdoing it; this is their seventh studio album in fifteen years, which is a decent output. They also ensured this one happened even after long time drummer Paul Caffrey left earlier in the year; the drums here are handled by Vader's James Stewart on a session basis.

I kind of like and kind of don't like how wacky they are. It's great to see a sense of humour in an often overly serious genre. There aren't a heck of a lot of laughs to be found in the current Evildead album, as just one example, but Gama Bomb aren't raging at society, more at just how seriously we might be taking it. As such, they often feel like a thrash version of Alestorm, entirely separate to the ocean-themed title track, and I sometimes find myself wishing that they would take their art more seriously, while enjoying the fact that they don't. First world problems, huh?

At their best, they blister. This album wraps up with Gone Haywire, a two and a half minute blitzkrieg heavily reminiscent of Overkill. It's not up there with Electric Rattlesnake, but it does much the same job in much the same way and it's highly enjoyable. That's one to get a tired pit back into motion! I'm a big fan of this sort of intricacy at this sort of pace and this sort of energy level. Monsterizer got my head really going and I'm listening at work. It may have a weaker chorus but it has better riffs and the guitars just zip along on this one.

At their worst, they still blister but in a vastly sillier fashion. She's Not My Mother, Todd channels the crossover vibe of Nuclear Assault rather nicely, with punky vocals and slower mosh parts, but I found myself getting caught up in the silly lyrics so much that I couldn't pay as much attention to the solid musicianship on offer. And that's fine, but that happens too often here for my tastes. Sure, the band's response to me will be, "What are you going to do about it, Poindexter?" and my answer would be to just play the whole album again, so I know I'm on shaky ground.

I'm also a victim of my own preferences here. I prefer my thrash fast and angry with clean vocals that are mostly intelligible and that's exactly what Gama Bomb provide. Because I'm English, I can figure out most of the words Philly Byrne sings, and I wonder if I'd like them just a little bit more than I do if they suddenly decided to sing in Gaelic, which I don't speak. I'd still enjoy all their speedy riffs and technical changes, which are good at the worst of times and fantastic at the best, but I wouldn't be as distracted when Byrne comes out with a line like, "What shall we do with the drunken sailor?"

As it is, whenever I listen to Gama Bomb, I tend to think less about which my favourite songs are and more about my favourite intros. For all that the songs tend to be short ones, Byrne doesn't leap in at moment one. Even twenty seconds is enough for an intro to really make its impact felt and the thirty used for the title track are magnificent. I think my favourite intro may be Miami Supercops, because it stretches almost to the minute mark and features a number of neat changes. Electric Pentacle's is a gloriously vicious intro, and even a mere five seconds of bass heavy intro on Lords of the Hellfire Club sounds fantastic.

Of course, Gama Bomb are more than one of the best purveyors of quality intros in thrash metal. The twin guitars of Domo Dixon and John Roche may not weave on the level of a Wishbone Ash or an Iron Maiden, but they churn along amazingly well. Roche may be the new fish in the band, with only eight years tenure thus far, but he's a fantastic rhythm guitarist and he's an ultra-reliable force when Dixon launches into a solo. And when the two combine on rhythm, they're unstoppable.

And I need to stop listening to those guitars and eat or I'll be here all week wasting away and Gama Bomb will write a song about it.

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