Review Summary: An overlooked progressive metal gem
Following the huge success of progressive metal act Queensryche among others, many similar bands were born and emerged from the wiley windy moors, but Lethal were merely hibernating, as they had formed many years before, waiting to release their masterful debut LP Programmed. Like many bands of the era, Lethal are very similar to Queensryche, especially the vocalist Tom Mallicoat, his voice is scarily similar to Geoff Tates, which is a big compliment indeed. The guitar work however is more traditional metal sounding and prospers greatly from the fact. The opening track Fire in Your Skin is a superb introduction and sets the tone for the rest of the album, a definite highlight. As well as the vocals, the guitar playing is exceptional. Eric Cook (RIP) delivers some of the best riffs in all of progressive metal. Not only is his guitar work superb, but his choice in melodies, chords and guitar harmonies constantly fit the songs to a t and never come off as cheesy in the slightest. Fire in Your Skin is an obvious highlight of his playing, as is Arrival, especially the solo, which is a real testament to his chops.
Like many albums of the time, the production is crisp and there is plenty of room for the instruments to breathe, the album has a warm analogue sound which is sadly missing from most modern records. Luckily the bass is audible too, which has a great tone and takes a mostly subtle but sometimes thrilling approach when choosing to follow the complex guitar lines. The ballad Another Day is excellent and is perhaps the best showcase of Toms vocal abilities, his vocal range on the chorus is impressive to say the least. Coincidently Dream Theater also have a song called Another Day which was released two years later, but the Lethal one is far superior. There are literally no dull moments on the entire album, the song writing is just that good, even the short acoustic track Pray for Me is interesting, with Glen Cook showcasing his dynamic bass lines. The title track is a great way to end the album, a real rocker with plenty of double bass playing and the excellent outro.
Like many progressive metal acts of the 80s, Lethal were overshadowed by bands such as Queensryche and Fates Warning, and while those bands are of course excellent and hugely important to the genre, Lethal were a highly talented band that didnt get the break they so deserved. The band went on to make a follow up and final album titled Poison Seed in 1996 which was a far inferior album to Programmed and helped mark the end of the band. The band have since reformed, but with the death of Eric Cook their future is uncertain, but we live in hope, hard.