Released: 1989
Label: Warner Brothers

Powermad_Absolute-PowerThe third and fourth waves of thrash washing ashore in the late 80s and early 90s saw their share of dead fish and used condoms. But even amongst that flotsam were a few hidden gems that had they arrived a few years earlier might have been regarded as genre classics. Powermad‘s sole full-length was one of those ill-timed pieces of precious driftwood. Absolute Power was a slick, surprisingly mature debut loaded with high level progressive playing and even higher writing standards. It was the rare thrash album that offered catchy, extra memorable hooks along with legitmately heavy, accomplished and convincing music, borrowing the best elements of Megadeth, Testament and Annihilator to craft tunes often more memorable than what their infuences were churning out. Despite having a song prominently featured in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (and having Nicholas Cage slam dance to it), Powermad weren’t able to grab a foothold in the rapidly fading thrash genre, and with no follow up forthcoming, they quickly faded into oblivion. Though the band was a tragic flash in the pan, the album they left behind is easily one of the most overlooked and underrated thrash outings of the 80s and it’s high time they get some recognition for it.

Things get off to an aspicious start with the raging, Nicholas Caging speed of “Slaughterhouse” with its very Megadeth-y approach to riffing and song structuring. Luckily for Powermad though, they had the talents of Joel DuBay on vocals instead of the sneering and jeering of Mr. Mustaine. DuBay could actually sing and had an effective thrash bark as well as ear piercing screams rivaled only by Mark Osegueda of Death Angel. From there you get the album’s “single” in “Nice Dreams,” which paired a truly unforgettable riff with very catchy and melodic vocals punctuated by wild screams. This song had a sporadic run back in the waning days of MTV’s Headbager’s Ball and it could have become a staple of hard rock radio with a better push.

POWERMAD OLDAs the album progresses things get even better, with the heavy, Wargasm-like crunch of “Return to Fear” which evolves into all sorts of interesting riff patterns and sweet melodic flourishes, really showcasing the talents of DuBay and Todd Haug. The galloping riffs of “Test the Steel” cannot be fucked with, and “Plastic Town” harnesses the same morose, melancholy sensibilities Metallica would dabble in on classics like “One” and “Nothing Else Matters,” and though at first blush it appears to be a simmering power ballad, the band keeps it righteously heavy. It features a strange, uneasy anger alongside the sadness and it works like a charm thanks to the insane screams of Dubay. “B.N.R.” is a barnburner with sick guitar work and another top-notch vocal performance, “Failsafe” sounds like something vintage Testament could have done, with DuBay adopting an eerily dead on Chuck Billy delivery, and “Brain Storms” has a quirky, herky jerky style that calls to mind Killing Technology era Voivod.

Every song is slick and highly enjoyable and the album flows better than 95% of thrash albums past, present or future. It’s one of those listens that goes by too fast and leaves you hungry for more, which sucks because no more was ever delivered.

The band was very talented and you hear it on every song. DuBay and Haug were as good a guitar tandem as you could hope for and they really had a gift for writing quality riffs, harmonies, transitions and solos, all with a mildly proggy bent, but never wanking so much that it detracted from the songs. These skills along with DuBay’s vocal ability gave the band a lot to work with and they utilized these assets to their fullest potential across the ten tracks.

I haven’t a clue why the band disappered after such a solid debut, but I suspect they were dropped from their label as the thrash trend began dying on the vine. There have been a few attempts to reform over the years, but aside from one new song being released in 2011, things have been mighty quiet at Camp Powermad and I suspect that’s all we can expect going forward as well. I’m thankful they got this whooper released, as its stood the test of time like a champ and I still go back to it regularly, which is something I can no longer say for a lot of the big thrash albums of the 80s. Nicholas Cage wants you to find this album and give it a chance and he’s a fucking national treasure so you best listen.

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  • Grymm

    True story:

    Due to such high demand for Powermad’s only album, a rabid fan made several hundred copies on CD-R to give to fans who missed them. One of those fans was Nicolas Cage who, when he happened to stumble upon a copy, ran around the room screaming “How did it get burned? HOW DID IT GET BURNED? HOW DID IT GET BURNED?!??!!?”

    Fer realz. Ask him sometime.

  • Oh, how I love this album. Still in my regular rotation. One of those thrash bands that the major labels tried to cash in on but when they didn’t sell millions, sent them packing.

    • Yep, it’s a tragedy they weren’t able to land on their feet and release a follow up.

  • Norfair Legend

    Great start to the day here ! So awesome to see some love for these guys, their work is classic…Shit, Absolute Power was my avatar for years.

  • DrChocolate

    This. This is why I come here. I had no idea this album existed and I’m hooked already. Now I’m on the hunt for a copy. Thanks.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Holy shit! That song was incredible!! And the production is perfect, which is something not even Testament managed to get right at that time.
    Thanks a ton Steel Druhm, I’ll begin my search for this gem ASAP!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    What I’m wondering is how I’ve never heard of this…

  • I remember getting their The Madness Begins cassette for free for sending in a coupon. Always loved these dudes and it’s too bad they didn’t do more. Absolute Power is a stone cold classic.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    This is some really refined stuff the late 80s…..its a pity they couldn’t follow this up!

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    I remember when the Pure American Thrash Metal EP came out in ’86. Powermad’s song Chasing the Dragon hooked me.
    Rumor has it around these parts that AMG himself has bought multiple copies and promotes Charred Walls of the Damned’s cover of Nice Dreams. Is this true?

    • It’s true. He’s also behind Symphorce’s cover of “Nice Dreams” as well. The dude likes nice dreams, what can I say?

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        I can see why he would back ABF, but the closet Ripper support shocked me.

  • Michael Wilson

    This disc is so bloody underrated it’s criminal. I bought this disc at Metal For Melbourne in Melbourne in 1989. I used to flog this drivin to, and home from high school in my final year. Pity they never came along a few years earlier, and not in the last year or 2 of thrash as we remember it

  • Michael Wilson

    Slammer’s The Work Of Idle Hands is another underrated late 80’s gem too

  • Michael Wilson

    Not to mention Artillery’s Fear Squad, the thunderous Terror Squad….hell even By Inheritance ain’t bad