Whatever moment crossover thrash may have enjoyed feels well and truly over now. Bands like Suicidal Tendencies have nowhere near the pull they once did, and those framed as more of a parody of the genre like Municipal Waste have pretty much run their course now. Still, at least those bands have been able to survive through to today on inertia alone; a band like Gama Bomb, who never hit the same heights of popularity, have even less of a reason to exist. That might sound harsh, and the Northern Irish quintet at least deserve credit for roughing it out since the early 2000s, but now more than ever, they aren’t much more than a relic of, not only an outdated style, but the bands who found much more favour doing it.
Therefore, you can hardly blame Gama Bomb for tailoring their albums to those who really won’t care that they’re running on empty. That’s certainly what Speed Between The Lines feels like, and while it’s not totally irredeemable, Gama Bomb’s presence in the modern musical landscape is on the very fringes at best. Because, face it – Gama Bomb are barely any sort of force in metal, and with an album that refuses to advance or even accommodate to modernity in any form, the most acknowledgment that Speed Between The Lines deserves is a nonplussed shrug.
Of course, there’s some leeway to take into account here, mostly in how Gama Bomb present themselves. Without question, this is not an album to take seriously as Bring Out The Monster and Kurt Russell would certainly attest to, and between that and Philly Byrne’s fixation with hitting Rob Halford-esque peaks of falsetto whenever possible, there’s a cartoony attitude that feels like a natural fit for the generally lighter tone. It’s also a solid accompaniment to the larger focus on speed above anything else, and John Roche and Domo Dixon have the sort of sharp yet stretchy guitar playing that you would expect from an album like this, even working well for some more incisiveness in the social commentary of Alt-Reich.
And that would all be fine, and actually fairly entertaining, if the execution didn’t feel as slapdash and rushed as it does, to the point where Speed Between The Lines would be so much more of a chore to get through if it wasn’t fast to end itself. For one, the production feels horrendously mismanaged, particularly in the vocals which pushes Byrne midway into the mix to not only muffle his voice to an unworkable degree, but thin out the ever-present falsettos to the point where they barely sound produced at all. That’s not even touching how messy the general instrumental canvas sounds, relying on speed and volume to mask how sloppy it all is. It just sounds amateurish at this point, something a brand new band might come out with if they had no clue how to balance a mix. And because of that, so much of Speed Between The Lines comes across as painfully anonymous, as tracks bleed together with little distinct identity in a fashion that’s so dull. It’s hard to think who’d even want an album like this, especially when crossover thrash has delivered countless more entertaining and sharp albums over the years.
And that’s ultimately where Gama Bomb fall, in the fact that they’re such an inessential act in a genre that’s already struggling for relevance as it is. They could easily try and rectify that, but Speed Between The Lines feels all too content with playing to the same tune in a way that’s not flattering and not appealing. Even then though, as an absolute last resort when every other option has been worn down, perhaps this is alright to have on in the background, but there’s not a lot of payoff that comes from it, and it’s not as if you’ll remember it.
For fans of: Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, Overkill
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Speed Between The Lines’ by Gama Bomb is released on 12th October on AFM Records.