Bats by Gama Bomb

Release date: November 10, 2023
Label: Prosthetic Records

Thrash metal has been around for a while now… The genre has reached 40 years of frantic beats, raging vocals and sooo many riffs! While the genre’s popularity has ebbed and flowed like the waters of a chaotic great lake, a few bands have consistently carried the torch for this stalwart genre over their careers. One such band is Ireland’s legendary Gama Bomb. For over 20 years Gama Bomb has released consistently strong albums that have continued to inject life into thrash metal. The band’s new release Bats nods to some of metal’s greatest bands, like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and their thrash brethren Municipal Waste.

Before I delve into the music… I have to mention the incredible cover art. From the release notes: The album is tied together with a 1960s-inspired aesthetic as demonstrated via the BATS artwork – serving as a visual tribute to the iconic design trends and pop culture of the 60s. The art was created by the legendary Graham Humphreys, artist behind iconic posters for A Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead and What We Do In The Shadows, now in his fourth collaboration with Gama Bomb. The power of album art should never be diminished. Keeping the same artist album to album creates continuity with album art and artistic vision. What would Maiden’s mythology be like without the work of Derek Riggs?

There are certainly some very serious metal bands out there. That’s not Gama Bomb. While the effort and intensity of the music is serious, the band’s attitude is not. God forbid metalheads crack a smile now and then. This quality is exemplified by the band getting freaky on the intro tracks. Gama delves into the creepy tombs of ancient Egypt with ‘Prologue: Under the Pyramids’, which is an atmospheric intro that leads into blistering ‘Egyptron’. The theme shares an obvious vibe with Maiden’s classic ‘Powerslave’, but ‘Egyptron’ has a wholly Gama Bomb take. (Hmm, Osiris gets all the metal love doesn’t he?) The Bomb bring some quirky musical breakdowns, subtle saxophone and a hip-hop cameo by The Egyptian Lover and swirl out some metal magic. I foresee the chorus will be great live: “{{All hail!}} the iron pharaoh/ Programmed by Anubis/ Come the dawn of {{Egyptron}} / To rule forever with an iron fist”.

 

Fret not old school rockers, the Bomb also provides some no nonsense bangers like the 2m blast ‘Living Dead in Beverly Hills’. Philly Byrne hitting the high note on “Hiiiiiiiils” is a little gem. He brings so much charisma, character and colour to the lyrics throughout Bats. Correct me if I’m wrong, but do I hear a few bars honouring ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ here? Next, the Bomb pays tribute to Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy in the unique ‘Rusted Gold’, which comes across sonically like an old black and white Western got tossed into a metal blender. Metalsucks reports that it took Philly over 300 takes to get the vocal feel right on this track. It sure sounds like they hit the feeling they were looking for. Philly is at his shrieky best on the track ‘Materialize’ (“Now it’s time to ma! ter! ial! ize!”). The exaggerated syllables harken back to many classic 80s metal tracks. As does the abundant guitar shredding by Domo Dixon and John Roche. This track gave me a serious 80s thrash flashback. I can see the grainy videos with hair headbanging away…

Bomb can certainly be lighthearted at times but the band can also write reflective serious cuts that rival anything in the genre. The ‘Mask of Anarchy’ is inspired by a poem of the same title by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley’s words are heavily incorporated into the lyrics, including the opening verse: “Stand ye calm and resolute/ Like a forest close and mute/ With folded arms and looks which are/ Weapons of unvanquished war”. The lines hit hard and fast in classic thrash style, as guitar and drums march this track forward with swift, biting venom. Shelley’s words feel relevant and sharp in this political metal song and the lyrics sadly still ring true today. I mean “Shake your chains to earth like dew/ Never let them fall on you” is close to what Shelley wrote over 200 years ago!

 

‘Don’t Get Your Hair Cut’ brings more classic thrash metal with a strong metal ethos. The pace is breakneck with some tasty time changes and lyrics that ooze metal spirit: “Long hair ‘til I dieeeeee”. The final moment of the track is punctuated by a final Philly “Owww!” – (I envision firepots exploding on stage with that final note!) ‘Dreamstealer’ is more of a hard rock track. It might seem a bit out of place if not for the thundering drums of James Stewart and mighty bassline by Joe McGuigan, which brings a heavy edge to the track. I’m not sure if it is the guitar tone or the marching drum beat, but ‘Speed Funeral’ gives me a bit of a KMFDM vibe – especially the chorus. Regardless, it’s another solid thrash track that layers more meat on the bones of Bats.

The album Bats ends suitably with a final, glorious blast of punky, angry bats… The flying mammals who are clearly channelling the almighty Halford are “Swooping, alighting /Flapping and biting /It’s mayhem /Squealing, disgracing /Pinwheeling your arms /No way to dissuade them /Bats! In your hair! /There are bats! /Bats in your hair!” If that does conjure a frantic mental image, nothing will. The track does a slow fade-out accompanied by some sweet saxophone. Gama Bomb tosses in a few unexpected musical diversions that always seem to fit the song well.

Well, sometimes just writing good catchy songs is enough. This is where Gama Bomb consistently excels. Gama Bomb’s Bats, is no pretension, no BS, straightforward, enjoyable metal. The music is fun and infectious, the choruses are intentionally chant-able, the guitars shred and wail and the rhythm section is on point throughout, constantly propelling Gama Bomb forward. It’s a great release, one you shouldn’t miss if you like the ‘metaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!’.

Pin It on Pinterest