By: Andy Little
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Released on September 30, 2016 via Suicidal Records
Legendary Californian hardcore punk/thrash metal crossover pioneers Suicidal Tendencies led by the sprightly and candid Mike Muir, have undergone the odd hiatus and numerous line-up changes over the years. As bands reach their 25th/30th anniversaries it is always going to be a challenge to find a fresh innovative approach to new material, especially which successfully holds up against their earlier inspirational back catalogue. Most of the thrash legends have in the last few years have released, or about to release, new albums (Exodus, Slayer, Metal Church, Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament, Metallica) and so far to a mostly positive degree of success, but I think it’s fair to say, not necessarily exceeding above previous classic status triumphs.
So, in 2016 Suicidal Tendencies release their twelfth album, and first in three years, with a particular eye-brow raising new member drafted into the S.T. clan, none other than true thrash drumming legend Dave Lombardo, teaming up with fellow new members Ra Diaz (bass) and Jeff Pogan (guitar), so joining forces with Dean Pleasants (guitarist since 1996) and Mr Muir himself.
How will the inclusion of such a dynamic drummer intrinsically linked with the legendary Slayer sound, impact on the S.T. sound? And which S.T. will be unveiled? The earlier hardcore punk sound of their debut? The anthemic chant along punk rush of Join the Army or the metallic thrash metal edge of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today? Or the convergence of all styles as delivered on the gloriously diverse and outstanding Lights, Camera, Revolution?
It’s fitting that Dave’s drumming kicks off the album. And what is noticeable is he adapts his style to the needs of S.T. while maintaining his technically faultless, precise power. Also, the two guitarists supply trademark S.T. soloing along with a mixture of Join the Army and 13 albums guitar sounds. This coincides with Mike Muir’s brand of melodic phrasings, speed like ranting approach, and easy to singalong to choruses. So, on the whole a familiar S.T. sound but it surges at you with a new lease of purposeful zest.
Opener ‘Clap Like Ozzy’ might be a S.T. by numbers song, but it sets the tone. But upping the standard ‘The New Degeneration’, ‘Living For Life’, ‘The Struggle is Real’, are ferociously fast paced, riotous and frenzied, with said characteristic soloing bursting out of all corners. ‘Get Your Fight On’ successfully recalls their harder metal crunchier guitar sound. Mike’s call “to stick your finger in the air and wave it around like you just don’t care” on ‘One Finger Salute’ is joyfully humorous. While the title track, ‘Happy Never After’, and ‘Damage Control’ are mid-tempo bouncy slam dancin’ gems, which should encourage attempts at imitating Mike Muir’s idiosyncratic stage moves around the living room.
Although this doesn’t quite achieve the highs of the aforementioned albums from their heyday, though let’s be honest that is a virtually impossible task, it does at times come very close and is severely better than the tired and jaded sounding Art of Rebellion album. There are plenty of tracks on World Gone Mad, which can be snugly added into their live set and keep the mosh pit in ecstatic slam circulating mood. It is great to have them back sounding ready to go ‘cyco’ all over again. So, what are you waiting for, join the S.T. army.