Review Summary: A simple, straightforward, yet fun and enjoyable album, Gama Bomb’s Citizen Brain doesn’t stray into any new territory, as far as Thrash is concerned, but that wasn’t their goal.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
The recent resurgence of thrash metal in the 2000s has given metal fans a plethora of great thrash bands: Violator, Evile, and Municipal Waste, to name a few. Gama Bomb is among the many “New Wave of Thrash Metal” bands, and while other bands like Violator and Evile have made complex and somewhat lengthy songs, Gama Bomb has stuck to short, simple, yet extremely fast songs. Akin to Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, most of the songs on this album are short, hovering around two and half minutes, with only three songs passing the three minute mark. Despite this, "Citizen Brain" has venerable boat-load of riffs and solos into these compact songs, and the formula works.
Looking at the album’s track list, we can already tell these guys are here just to have fun and play music rooted in classic thrash of the mid eighties. This album is chock full of nostalgia, paying homage not only to the aggression and speed of old Slayer, old Megadeth, and old Metallica, but the album is littered with pop culture references from the late eighties and early nineties. Fans of video games such as Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and ultra violent nineties action movies will instantly catch the band’s references, and the lyrics and themes of these songs only add to the enjoyment present on this album. Also included in the albums themes are zombies, time travel, Superman, and, oddly enough, social and political issues such as global warming. The debate whether or not global warming is an actual threat will be saved for another review.
The first track, “Zombie Blood Nightmare”, sets the breakneck pace for the album with a punishing riff accompanied by frantic, rapid fire drum fills. Lead Vocalist Philly Byrne’s high pitched voice matches the album’s lighter tone. He also offers Rob Halford-esque screams, which are well done and keep the listener enthralled in the band’s upbeat, fun, yet punishing thrash conquest. Taking a page out of early Exodus and Anthrax, the album is full of gang vocals, as well as harsher backing vocals. These little instances throughout the songs only add to their enjoyment, and I, as a listener, can’t help but shout the gang vocal lyrics. Watching these guys play live would be nothing short of fun, to say the least.
The production is extremely clean and sharp, and while I usually frown on a band whose production is too clean and artificial, a rawer sounding album would have taken away from the enjoyment of this album. The guitars are crisp and sharp, and every aspect of the drums can be heard with clean precision. The bass is nothing special, nothing new in metal, but it’s one of those aspects of the album that you would most likely miss if it wasn’t included.
“Zombie Blood Nightmare” is extremely enjoyable, with its frantic instrument work, rapid-fire vocals, and lyrics dealing with zombie apocalypse. “Evil Voices” continues the speedy tempo, and throughout the album, the speed never lets up, though I did find the lyrics to this song a bit confusing. Half of the time I spent listening to this album, I was trying to catch the pop culture references, and I couldn’t find one in this song. “Final Fight” and “Global Warming” are equally fast and heavy, but it’s at this point where the songs start to blend into each other. While “OCP” differs slightly from most of the songs (being only forty-one seconds) the song is basically the same as the others. That’s one of the problems this album has: most of the songs stylistically have little difference. If not for the lyrics and vocals, the songs would have no difference at all.
Because of this fault, some of the songs toward the middle of the album feel like filler. Songs like “Sentenced to Thrash”, “Zombi Brew”, and “Hell Trucker” aren’t very interesting, either lyrically or musically. Fortunately, “Return of the Technodrome” has some cool vocal effects thrown into keep me interested with the song. It’s also about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and if you grew up in the nineties as I did, you loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Unfortunately, as I continued listening to the album, only the crazy lyrics could keep my attention. Running into a song with rather “lame” lyrics, such as the songs I considered filler above, only made me wish those songs would end. However, the band ends the album on a strong point with a few unique riffs in “Bullet Belt.” Though the song is simply a homage to eighties thrash style, as well as a rejection of the “Big Four’s” forays into different musical styles, such as Metallica’s and Megadeth’s ventures into the Hard Rock / Heavy Metal of the mid 90s. The album as a whole is one nostalgic trip back to the past, back to better times, where music and cartoons were better, yet we can only look on the past in memory.
This in no way means this album is bad. It’s quite good. It’s a fun, speedy, and interesting album, much like HORSE the Band’s “R. Borlax” or “The Mechanical Hand” in the pop culture sense. These thrashers from Ireland have come only to spread the memories of classic thrash and classic games and movies, and as long as you remember that, you should have no problems listening to them. The albums constant breakneck speed will wear the listener out, much like running eight miles an hour up a forty-five degree incline for 5 minutes, and by the end of the album you’ll be exhausted, but you’ll have enjoyed the trip all the same. For fans of metal, I recommend this.