CD - $12.00
In the vortex of a Bushcroft future, there's simply not enough crude, dark post-punk apocalyptic noise in the world. Re-enter Thrall, back on A.T. for their third full-length cauldron of bedlam from the other side of the Masonic Lodge door.
Front and center is unique vocal stylist Mike Hard (ex-God Bullies, Hand Over Head, Debauched), whose stage assault is somewhere between Lux Interior, Jimmy Swaggart caught with his pants down, and Renfield (the guy who eats the flies in "Dracula"). Once seen, a Mike Hard show is never forgotten.
Lifer reunites Mike Hard with guitarist Scott Kodrik, who wrote most of the music on their classic Alternative Tentacles debut, Chemical Wedding. Seeing is believing, hearing is divine.
"I must have missed an LP or two by THRALL somewhere along the line - I haven't heard anything from them since their debut album seven years ago. Regardless, not much has changed for the band other than the fact they are even darker, creepier, heavier, and more overpowering than before. Some might call this "post-hardcore" but that would be selling the band short. A better description would be "hardcore and more." This is like taking the most sinister of the AmRep bands and listening to them have a psychotic episode. I don't care if you are a fan or metal, hardcore, noise or electric polka, you are gonna find something here to twist your mind."
"Lifer is the most diverse of all Thrall recordings, so much so that I can't describe the album as "all the songs go up-down-up-down" or "all the songs have dark chords with high lead notes on top." Therefore, we could be here all night as I try to figure out what to say about it. Strap on your ass dildo - it's going to be a wild ride!
Like the legendary Nirvana after Pat Smear joined and during the songs when Kurt didn't play the guitar, Thrall is here reduced to a four-piece with one guitarist. It's the same band as God Hung You, except the bassist got his ass canned (and caned - in Malaysia) and one of the guitarists replaced him. The sound is much more raw, loud and noisy than the first two albums, with an exciting live-sounding action-packed smash-a-lot drum tone. Mike goes over the top with strange news and radio drama samples, darn near putting one at the end of every song. There's also quite a few moments of wah-wah guitar, unfortunately, but we'll let that one slide on account of the terrifically hooky, romping, twisted music they're writing, recording and releasing this time right round. Like the last record, a few parts suffer from generic Jesus Lizard chords and lame hard rock riffing, but the good-to-middling ratio is much higher this time around. By my count, more than half of the songs have terrifically hooky, romping, slightly disturbed rock riffs that serve as perfectamundo accompanimentamundo to Mike's conspiracy rants and sad character studiesamundo. Heavy chords, loud bass, headbanging drum contraptions, some high notes of course - just chalk it up as "loud creative guitar rock riffs of slight strangeness" and we'll agree to agree.
This is the first Thrall CD to come with a complete lyrics sheet, so you'll be amazed and miserable as you read his twisted, obsessive tales of deranged (yet possible!) fringe beliefs. In the very first track, he suggests that Jesus was a fraud, and his descendents are using his lies to control all of us! And that's in the very first song! Aw man, don't even get me TALKING about "I Thought I Told You," "We're Gonna Get What We Deserve" and "I Blame Myself"! Don't EVEN!
One song you CAN get me talking about, however, is the absurdly rhythmic (and hooky as the day!) "Petrochemical Pharmaceutical Military Industrial Complex." I maintain that it is IMPOSSIBLE to hear this song without chanting the title alongside Mike Hard during the chorus (although to be fair, he kinda screams it at the top of his lungs). Likewise, "Get up and go to work! Go home and go to bed! (repeat)" is a vocal hook so hooky it's like a hooker in a bra with lots of hooks and wearing fish hooks as earrings and having a hook instead of an arm, watching TJ Hooker. And what's hookier than that? I'll tell you what! Billy Joel!
Mike Hard is a unique and idiosyncratic lyricist and vocalist (not to mention performer -- when I saw the God Bullies live, he was dressed in a suit and rubbing a newspaper against his groin!), so it's fantastic (and kind of unexpected!) that he managed to find two different groups of musicians creative enough to carry on his warped musical vision after the God Bullies collapsed on the highway to the streets of nowhere. Does Thrall still exist in some shay, fape or worm? I dunno. David Livingstone told me in an interview last year that the God Bullies were recording a new album, but it still hasn't seen the light of day four years later. So who knows? And who cares as long as "Whoa-oh-oh-oh, For The Longest Time" is available at our local underground punk rock store?"
- Mark Prindle