rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Prologue Under The Pyramids
02. Egyptron (feat. The Egyptian Lover)
03. Living Dead in Beverly Hills
04. Rusted Gold
05. Materialize
06. Mask of Anarchy
07. Don't Get Your Hair Cut
08. Dreamstealer
09. Speed Funeral
10. Secular Saw
11. Bats in Your Hair

The thrash metal revival of the mid-2000s may have eventually fizzled out, but its main protagonists are all still hacking away at the high-velocity coalface. Second only to MUNICIPAL WASTE as an unassailable benchmark for that scene, GAMA BOMB have maintained a steady pace, releasing a series of authentic but avowedly madcap thrash records that have all been absurdly entertaining. "Bats" is the Irishmen's eighth full-length, and, perhaps surprisingly, it rips harder than anything they have released since "Tales from the Grave in Space", 14 years ago. If 2020's "Sea Savage" was an unexpected return to top, blistering form, these new songs are the result of that creative momentum being ruthlessly exploited, and with goofy, swivel-eyed fun placed firmly at the top of the band's agenda.

While many contemporary thrash acts prefer to meddle with the genre's essential formula, often moving into more brutal territory, GAMA BOMB are purists at heart. Give or take the odd detour into esoteric mischief ("Egyptron" is part thrasher, part mystic fakir fandango; "Bats in Your Hair" fades out accompanied by Gavin Kerins's ripping saxophone solo),  "Bats" is a bold and unapologetic act of undiluted '80s metal worship.

Frontman Philly Byrne's trademark yelps and screams remain a refreshing antidote to the gruff growls favored by many comparable bands, and songs like glassy-eyed zombie-fest "Living Dead in Beverly Hills" and recent single "Speed Funeral" are far catchier as a result. Perhaps more importantly, guitarist Domo Dixon has produced, mixed and mastered the entire thing, and he has done a fabulous job. In sonic terms, "Bats" is as crisp, crunchy and well-rounded as younger fans will demand, but old-school diehards are well served here too, as GAMA BOMB summon the wild energy of their live shows and apply it to proudly old-school songwriting. One major factor contributing to the sheer intensity of it all is the presence of new alumnus James Stewart (DECAPITATED/ex-VADER): one of the most devastating drummers out there, he attacks everything with his customary vigor and imbues the likes of "Materialize" and the heroically silly "Don't Get Your Hair Cut" with a ferocious precision that is relentlessly exhilarating.

In truth, thrash metal never really needed a revival. It has been a perpetual presence in heavy music for 40 years and shows no sign of loosening its grip on the tastes of several generations of metalheads. Nonetheless, GAMA BOMB have given the genre a robust kick up the rear-end on more than one occasion, and "Bats" is so joyously on the money that it promises to make thrash aficionados fall in love with the genre all over again. Metal is fun, and GAMA BOMB are the funnest.

Author: Dom Lawson
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