8/30/2004 - Review by: Eric Compton
Meliah Rage - Barely Human 2004 Screaming Ferret Wreckords reviewed by: EC
Boston's Meliah Rage have decided to step into the squared circle as well, unleashing their newest studio effort "Barely Human", courtesy of Screaming Ferret Wreckords, a label that is doing quite well by releasing these high quality veteran acts. The label released Anvil's newest release, "Back To Basics", domestically this year, and now the group focus all efforts on Meliah Rage's newest offering.
These late 80s thrashers have seen success on many different stages throughout their career. The group began in the late 80s, during a time when the thrash scene had started to run out of gas. With their debut record, "Kill To Survive", in 1988, the band took on a Metal Church style persona. Their first impression gave a wink and a nod to Floridian power metal, but for the most part was a crisp, polished example of the hardened thrash metal of that time. The group landed a big label early in their career, and with their debut, live EP, and 1990's "Solitary Solitude", the band were cashing in checks cut from CBS Records' bank account. The big bucks stopped shortly after however, with the bigger suits and jackets looking for the next Soundgarden instead of denim wearing headbangers.
In '96 the group released "Death Valley Dream" through smaller label Backstreet. The band still showcased that mad sense of Megadeth riffing, Testament heaviness, and Annihilator's writing sensibility. After that release the band split for various reasons. In 2003 the group retailed their 1992 unreleased album "Unfinished Business" through Screaming Ferret Wreckords. The album caught some attention due to Godsmack vocalist Sully Erna playing drums for the recording.
With the group's new album, and newest material since 1996, Meliah Rage find themselves deep in the trenches of late 80s thrash metal. "Barely Human" features founding members Anthony Nichols, Jim Koury, and Jessie Johnson, along with new drummer Barry Spillberg and brand new vocalist Paul Souza, who replaces longtime vocalist Mike Munro. The most astonishing thing I found on this album is the fact that Souza sounds oddly similar to former singer Munro. Souza is mid-range all the way, keeping up a fast, vocal delivery that is rich with metal tradition as well as a fine line of aggression and melody. One can think of singers like Jeff Waters, John Bush, and Geoff Thorpe when listening to Souza.
With the same vocal vibe comes a very familiar Meliah Rage sound, one that never compromises hardcore fans of the group. With "Barely Human", the band focus on their initial persona dating back to '88. The combat ready platoon of Nichols and Koury do quite well in recalling their days of youth, with the hard hitting combo firing up the engines smoothly, bringing fast, chunky riffs to each track. For those of you who haven't heard Meliah Rage, Koury and Nichols align much in the same way as Mustaine/Friedman. The two really play off of each other, while never going too far over the top with flashy dynamics.
Quick pacers like "Motor Psycho" (not to be confused with Megadeth's Motopsycho) and "Hate Machine" highlight this throwback thrash attack. However, the group do bring to the table something a bit new, that being the fact that Souza uses a slower, more melodic voice quite often. A perfect example of this new Meliah Rage voice is the chorus of "Hate Machine", which sets Souza's voice back a bit in the mix to add a bit more diversity to the fast assault he does so well. Something else that I find interesting are the slower tracks here, "Ungodly" and "Hellsong", which to me are similar to what Metallica tried with their "Load" session ("Until It Sleeps" comes to mind). Don't worry though, those are the only two slower paced tracks, with the rest of "Barely Human" fitting the Testament/Metal Church/Annihilator mold perfectly.
Meliah Rage have returned in triumphant form here, with this new album offering up exactly what it should, an album that picks right up where the last left off. This record is a direct continuation of "Death Valley Dream" with a slight bit of the new millenium's edge. The band have become crafty with their songs, but at the same time have remained true to their roots like so many other bands this year (Unleashed, Anvil, Death Angel). Along with the release of this album, Screaming Ferret has also thrown in a bonus disc featuring the entire "Unfinished Business" recording along with a twenty minute interview with the band.
Choice Cuts - "Motor Psycho", "Hate Machine", "Rigid"
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