If you read lists of what women find attractive in men, Number Three is always a sense of humor. Since most men (including myself) will never have Numbers One or Two, this becomes a very important trait. Enter Gama Bomb, an Irish thrash band that loves to sing about Kurt Russell and Robocop. Their nerdy sense of humor has been a beacon on the thrash scene since their 2005 debut, Survival of the Fastest, and in some ways, they could be considered the AC/DC of thrash: they do the same thing over and over with conviction. While they will never blow your mind, they will also never disappoint. Speed Between the Lines is the band’s sixth album, and what do you think the odds are that these crazies will serve up anything but fast and furious metal with a healthy dose of prepubescent humor?
There’s nothing epic or progressive about the thrash on Speed Between the Lines. None of the songs extend past four minutes. whether it’s a song about right-wing populism (“Alt-Reich”) or paying someone to kick you in the balls (“Give Me Leather”), Gama Bomb get to the point quickly, make it, and move on. Jagged riffs, staccato drum fills, a Loctite® rhythm section, and Philly Byrne’s humorous, punk-tinged, demented vocals—coupled with his enthusiastic Halford/Udo screams—rule every song. Think of the fastest moments of Overkill and Havok blended with the humor of Municipal Waste and you’ve got a rough idea of the goings-on here. This is all evident within the first fifteen seconds of “Give Me Leather,” with its anthemic riff capped off by a healthy “yeaaaaaaaahhhhh, headbang!” scream before the song tears headlong down the speed metal highway.
Variance is rare and consists mostly of the tempo of songs varying between 160-240bpm.1 Blazing riffs open songs such as “666teen” and “A Hanging,” while “R.I.P. U.” is faster than a lightning strike. Through it all, Philly’s lyrics remain remarkably clear, which is important for the humor in some of the songs. Take my favorite, “Kurt Russell:” “you’ll be Tango (Kurt Russell), I’ll be Cash (Kurt Russell), drinking cider (Kurt Russell), smoking hash (Kurt Russell!—the last one in falsetto)” is the greatest chorus of the year, the bass guitar breakdown followed by “K-U-R-T” chanting is priceless, and the final falsetto is the cherry on top. “Kurt Russell” hearkens back to “We Respect You,” a song from Tales from the Grave in Space, where Philly sings “if you don’t like Kurt Russell, you’re scum.”
The question remains as to the replay value of the entire album. With the short, blazing songs flying by at breakneck speed, they can blur into one another. While I love listening to some of these cuts, I’m not convinced I’ll be coming back to Speed Between the Lines in its entirety very often—I’m much more likely to add a handful of these to a playlist or two. That’s not to say Gama Bomb have produced a bad record: rather the opposite. But good-humored thrash doesn’t often have the longest shelf life.
This lack of variance might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as I said earlier, Gama Bomb stick to what they’re good at. If you’re listening, chances are you already know what you’re in for. All twelve songs are strong, with great musicianship and okay vocals (along with endearingly over-the-top screams), and the production provided by long-time collaborator Scott Atkins is clean and aggressive. While no wheels have been invented during the creation of Speed Between the Lines, Gama Bomb have dropped one of the more enjoyable thrash albums of the year.