I love the original Star Wars trilogy, like most people who are alive and not assholes. I was born too late to see any of them in their original release, so when the Special Editions came out in the mid-’90s, I was overjoyed. Seeing those films in a movie theater was the one big thing that’d been missing from my experience of them. Likewise, the thrash revival has a special spot in my heart, as I’m sure is true for a lot of people who weren’t around when thrash first emerged. Being in my late teens when Fueled by Fire, Havok, Warbringer, et al. crashed and thrashed onto the scene gave me a precious little piece of what it had been like to see Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, etc. in their early days.
Despite constant cries of unoriginality, thrash revival bands did develop distinct styles and sounds. If the sound you were looking for was “unrelenting noodle-shredding/yelling about cyborg dolphins from Pluto or whatever,” Northern Ireland’s Gama Bomb was the band for you. Their album Citizen Brain was on my thrash rotation for a while. The guitar work is so blistering I’d be hard-pressed to hum a single riff from it now, but even though I haven’t listened to it for seven or eight years, the song “Time Crime” indelibly etched the lyric “Panzers at Hastings 1066/We fought with lasers, they fought with sticks” into my brain. That’s what really makes Gama Bomb stand out for me.
Sea Savage, though, doesn’t rely solely on having songs called “Ready, Steady, Goat!” and “She’s Not My Mother, Todd.” The songwriting incorporates more melodic exploration and mid-song style shifts than previous outings and listening to it’s a proper journey. The guitar tone is kind of thin and synth-bloopy, not rich enough for an album that relied solely on chugging and shredding, so it’s good there’s plenty more on tap. Songs like opener “Judo Killer” and mid-album highlight “Iron Blood” emphasize Gama Bomb can do more than speed. The latter especially has a strong sense of storytelling, and the pace and tone of the music shift back and forth along with the fantasy story in its lyrics, ascending into a glorious power metal-like chorus.
The album doesn’t lack all-out rippers, mind you. The title track and penultimate “Electric Pentacle,” among others, come thrashin’ and crashin’ like hunting hounds on amphetamine kibble. The mix of thrashier tracks and more melodic tunes gives the album a solid shape and enough variety to avoid staleness. Having said that, Sea Savage’s 12 track length does feel 1.5-2.5 tracks too long. Cutting out one of the weaker tracks like “Sheer Khan” or “Monsterizer” and letting “Electric Pentacle” end the album would’ve made it hit with significantly more oomph.
Something else that lacks oomph is the bass. You can sorta hear it rattling along down there and it gets about two moments to shine, but it doesn’t add any heft or breadth to the mix. I realize that the Gama Bomb sound is very much a tight, clean, sharp sound, but just a little thump in the lower frequencies could do a lot for the album, and complement the excellent-sounding drums.
Sea Savage is a fun, rollicking thrash story, told with Exodus-like barks over a surprisingly diverse array of shredding. The production would benefit from some fleshing out, and the album lingers past its most effective endpoint. If you’re looking for a good, weird, thrashy time, you’ll find one here, and get a little more than you expected.
And hey, if you like rollicking stories of pirates in space, keep an eye out for Privateers of Mars, by yours truly, coming out in December from Rampant Loon Press.