Gama Bomb – Bats


Irish outfit, Gama Bomb, are one of the unsung heroes of modern heavy metal. Their brand of thrash is more tongue-in-cheek than mace-in-the-face, but their output is consistent and often meets with approbation from media and fans alike. As one of the last generation of bands to be snapped up by Earache Records before the coming of Spotify, they switched to AFM Records in the 2010s, and landed on the roster of Prosthetic Records for album number seven at the beginning of this decade (see 2020’s Sea Savage). Now, they return with a new effort, and their humour and intelligence remain as sharp as ever. It’s more Frankenstein than Einstein, but Gama Bomb guarantee a good time.

Gama Bomb are messengers of the metal gods, and they deliver their commandments to you in the language of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. ‘Egyptron’ welcomes you to the palace of the pharaohs with the visual imagination of Michael Jackson and the thrash metal spike of Metallica. The chorus serves its purpose as the instigator of a crowd covenant between preacher and faithful. Guitar chords bite like lions tearing apart a baboon. Scale-shredding fingers work through the solos like master weavers. It has a quirky brutality like the latest Avatar record. By contrast, ‘Rusted Gold’ is thrash metal as an espionage thriller, but with the muscle of Stallone rather than the reserved poise of Costner. You might scratch your head under the gleaming colours and swashbuckling action.

If there’s one criticism, it’s the homage to Anthrax, which almost turns into a pastiche on ‘Living Dead in Beverly Hills’ and ‘Mask of Anarchy’. You’d assume Joey Belladonna seized control of the vocal booth for the former; the latter is Anthrax in spirit, Metallica in execution, and Municipal Waste in outcome. Vocal inflections head northwards under the phantom menace of a hand squeezing the singer’s testicles in both.

Yet the band’s willingness to expand their chops and widen their reach makes up for any imitation of the Big Four. Beethoven receives a heavy metal makeover in the image of Manowar on ‘Materialize’. The guitar tone in ‘Speed Funeral’ is sharper than a bed of thorns, the vocals more absurd than a football hooligan at a Dungeons and Dragons cosplay event. Listen to the songs with the lyrics on your screen if you want the best experience. Then you can appreciate the wit and wisdom of this band. You’ll see that behind the B-movie infatuation and obsession with ancient deities is a serious message. ‘Secular Saw’ is a solidarity anthem for those that must pretend to believe in religious laws to remain part of their community. “It’s the power and the glory / That blinds us to their flaws / We’ll cut you from the prison of religious law / It’s that Hoodoo that you do / That leads you to crawl / Dismantle your deity with the secular saw.” Imagine these words sung by a young Anthony Kiedis in the spirit of Sacred Reich. It might spur you on to dig out Mother’s Milk by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers as a reminder that the LA superstars were once a world class rock band.

Of course, the humour can sometimes border on the ridiculous. Seldom do we hear a breakup song in thrash metal, but penning lyrics against a former metalhead who lost his way and left the scene is rarer still. ‘Don’t Get Your Hair Cut’ is the culprit here, yet you can forgive the rip-off of Megadeth’s ‘Poison Was the Cure’ in the main riff when you read the words. Likewise, the heavy metal mayhem of ‘Dreamstealer’ is a clear attack on the metal elitists and tastemakers that only listen to post-metal and black metal? How do you take on this intelligentsia? You write a song with absurd heavy metal imagery and use the cliches to attack your opponents with a smirk on your face.

Gama Bomb party like it’s 1989, but their songs are timeless. It’s true that album-of-the-year accolades are beyond them on this record, but it might surprise you how long they stay in your playlist.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 10/11/2023

Record Label: Prosthetic Records

Standout tracks: Egyptron, Materialize, Secular Saw

Suggested Further Listening: Artillery – X (2021), Anthrax – Among the Living (1987), Avatar – Dance Devil Dance (2023)