Last month I reviewed the latest Very Good release from Flotsam and Jetsam, a band known more for their contribution to Metallica than to thrash music in general. Well, not to be outdone, here comes Trauma, a band that should be known even more so for their contribution to Metallica. After all, it was Trauma that gifted the inimitable Cliff Burton to Metallica, and as we all know, the rest is history. And it was history for this Sunset Strip band: their debut album, Scratch and Scream, came out two years after Burton departed, and it was another three decades before their follow-up, Rapture and Wrath, dropped. Now here they are with As the World Dies, their third album (a mere three years after their second, instead of thirty), and another attempt to establish themselves as more than just a footnote in metal history.
As the World Dies sees a few lineup shifts: Donny Hillier (mic) and Kris Gustofson (drums) remain from the debut era, while Steve Robello (bass on Rapture and Wrath) moves to guitar, Greg Christian (Testament) joins on bass, and second guitarist Joe Fraulob (Danzig) is added. These shifts add an air of legitimacy among this new quintet. They get things off to a solid, thrashy start with “The Rage.” No, it’s not a Judas Priest cover: it’s a fast, hectic rocker that allows the band to establish their chemistry instantly. While overall Trauma owes more to the NWoBHM than thrash metal for their sound, “The Rage” and “From Here to Hell” are furious, thrash-inspired openers—as good musically as anything from the new F&J album—but don’t start thinking this is a thrash album.
High-energy Iron Maiden comes to mind throughout As the World Dies, and the reason is obvious. Besides the up-tempo nature of most of the songs, Hillier sounds very much like Bruce Dickinson, with a dash of John Arch (Fates Warning) thrown into his voice for good measure. The title track and “Last Rites,” are both very Maideny, with their galloping nature, harmonic guitarwork, and/or Hillier’s vocals. It certainly doesn’t come across as worship or ripping off, though, just as a similarity. Meaning if you’re into Maiden you’ll probably like some of the songs Trauma drop here. Hillier’s vocal style may be tough for some to swallow (this is where the similarity to Arch, whom I’m not a fan of, comes into play), but he’s passionate throughout, and effective if he doesn’t let himself get too carried away.
Throughout most of As the World Dies, Trauma keep a solid yet unspectacular level of quality about their song writing. The back-end pairing of the awful “Cool Aid” (being the shortest song, it should have just been left off) and unremarkable “Savage” are the only true weak points. Aside from that, the cheesy delay effects on Hillier’s vocals in “The Rage” can be off-putting, as can his style at times, but those are the only issues with the material. The band sounds great, with a ton of energy, great riffs and solos, and sleek but not overly so production. This is a guitar-aggressive album, as it should be, rather than the listener being pummeled to death by an over-loud kick drum.
An enticing mix of thrash, NWoBHM, and plain old heavy metal make As the World Dies a fun listen that Trauma should be proud of releasing. There are plenty of head-banging moments throughout the album, with fist-pumping choruses and catchy riffs. It’s hard to suddenly create a legacy decades after first making your mark, but Trauma are proving that they can stand up tall with all of the big boys on the scene today, and they should be remember for more than just being the band Cliff Burton left. With albums like this, one would almost believe that they hadn’t disappeared for thirty years.