Welcome to the first ever Retro-spective review! Why is Steel Druhm reviewing old stuff you ask? Well, because I’m old! Old enough to attend shows during the NWOBHM without wearing diapers (though it would have helped in a few cases). Since I’m such a geezer, it only made sense that I start doing reviews of older albums that deserve a look back by new generations of the metal mongering masses. First up on the Angry Metal Chopping Block is Boston’s own Wargasm. A power trio in every sense of the word, these unsung thrashers put out three albums and an EP’s worth of meat and potatoes, tough guy thrash and their sophmore release Ugly was their enduring statement. Originally available via Massacre Records, it didn’t get nearly as much love as it should have which means its out of print and finding it might be a challenge. However, word on the street has it that there may be a live DVD coming soon, so a well deserved re-issue of their back catalog may not be far behind.
So what makes Ugly worthy of your attention? In a word, songcraft. Wargasm had it in spades and Ugly was where it really came together for them. It delivers ten tracks of tough-as-nails but very catchy, riff-tastic thrash that blended the crunch of classic Metallica and Testament with the more melodic sensibilities of Overkill and Anthrax. The one vibe Wargasm always projected was that of toughness. They had a certain biker thrash vibe and it helped make even the mellower tracks feel gritty and hard. Opener “Rude Awakening” comes out swinging with quick double bass rolls by Barry Spillberg and a heavy, crunching riff by his brother Rich Spillberg. Bob Mayo’s vocals are a big commanding shout/sing style similar to James Rota of Fireball Ministry and his large presence and tone add greatly to the general badassery. Spillberg is a one man riff warehouse and he throws one big hook after another at you. The man could write quality riffs in his sleep and he delivers a boatload on this song alone. Its fast, furious and fun thrash for the working man. Other stand outs include the melodic but crunchy “Chameleon,” the epic “Ugly is to the Bone” (which has really great, insightful lyrics), the slowly building intensity of “Dreadnaught Day” and my personal favorite, the absolutely huge riff monster, “Blood Flood.” This one has to heard as Spillberg cycles through an endless array of crunching, crushing riffs while Mayo sings about people being harvested for bodily fluid with clever and amusing word play (the riff that starts at 2:52 is one of my all time favorites).
In my experience, everyone that seriously listened to this album was blown away by different songs and that’s because every track is so damn catchy and cool. From the very Metallica-esque “I Breathe Fire” to the powerfully emotional “Spirit in Decay” there isn’t a lame moment to be found. Adding to the fun is a lyrical focus on real life issues instead of the genre norms of death, evil and Satan. Toss in a tongue-in-cheek charm and swagger along with a punchy, hard hitting production and you have a real winner on your hands.
If you enjoy the thrash stylings of classic Metallica or appreciate well-written metal generally, this is bound to impress (as would their debut Why Play Around?). Its heavy but oh so catchy and memorable (Ugly demonstrates the direction Metallica should’ve moved in instead of the abysmal Load/Reload approach). I always hoped these guys would reform at some point because their style was different, addicting and no one else ever sounded like them. Find this in some dusty corner of a careworn record shop or track it down on eBay, just find it! After all, who can say no to a good Wargasm!