Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Artist: Game Over
Album: Crimes Against Reality (2016)
Label: Scarlet Records
Last year, there was a tongue-in-cheek short film released called Kung Fury. Garnering mostly enthusiastic reactions, people enjoyed the over-the-top homages to the ridiculousness of 80s action films. However, there was a subset of people who took a different note. The ridiculous and cheesy movies of the 80s are sometimes only judged to be so in hindsight. The movies did not set out to be humorous; they took their source material seriously. And by failing to likewise take their source material seriously, Kung Fury becomes little more than a piss-take by people who see the genre as little more than a joke.
This might be a little high minded for a critique of a cobra-bitten Hitler-fighting cop, but I feel that a similar reaction to the new wave of old school thrash, hereafter known as retro-thrash has been occurring. At best, bands like Havok, Dr. Living Dead, Gama Bomb and fellow Italians Hyades are judged to contribute nothing new to the genre. At worst, they’re considered piss-taking imitators, little more than a niche Spinal Tap. As much as I enjoy them, Municipal Waste springs to mind. It’s a delicate balance to strike, to conjure up the familiar nostalgia of the 80s culture whilst still being true to its sincerity. Toxic Holocaust are a band who I feel achieve this well.
Into this fray are Italians Game Over, whose 2014 sophomore record Burst Into The Quiet I quite enjoyed. Along with the aforementioned bands, Game Over brings up a familiar slab of somewhat-technical, somewhat-melodic thrash metal, replete with 80s cultural references and Ed Repka-like album art (some of the aforementioned having artwork by the man himself).
On this, their third album, Game Over don’t stray terribly far from their last outing, but the songs definitely have a greater focus on melody, with particular emphasis on choruses, chants and punk-like sing-alongs, as seen on lead sing Neon Maniacs and opener 33 Park Street. Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a problem, as I feel that vocalist/bassist Reno can’t really hold a tune to save his life. The kind of shouted semi-harsh vocals thrash metal employs really only works well when it actually sounds like the vocalist is shouting, trying to overpower a dominant backing band. Reno’s vocals are placed so far forward in the mix that the technique sounds like little more than a somewhat-raised voice, akin to later day Megadeth. In turn, some of the music loses its power and urgency.
Fortunately, this is not ubiquitous across the record, as the eponymous track Crimes Against Reality and Fix Your Brain are powerful in their bellows and delivery, backed up by the supreme rhythm section and dominated by the dueling guitars of Sanso and Ziro. Indeed, the guitarwork on this album is a substantial improvement upon the already-pleasing past album, with tracks like Gates of Ishtar spitting out fiery hot guitar licks, one after the other. Astral Matters lives up to its name by opening with a series of cool, spacey guitar melodies.
Just a Little Victory is the party song of the album, pairing up the crossover punk sound of Municipal Waste with the carefree 80s rocking of early Anthrax. The song works brilliantly, but the vocals can still be trying at time, as the off-key singing doesn’t hold the melody that the guitars promise. The ultimate low-point of the album appears fairly early on. Whoever penned the idea for the ballad With All That Is Left should reconsider their life choices. Fade to Black this song is not, and Metallica this band could not hope to be. With the pacing, clean guitar verses and the crisp chugging of the chorus sections, the Ride The Lightning classic was an obvious influence, but it was so poorly executed that even improving it with the fast, galloping close to the song was not enough to wash the taste from my…ears?
Overall, this album tends to grow on me as the back end of the record is far, far stronger, and closes out with a series of killer thrash tunes, convincing and memorable riffs while the vocalist works far better in his comfort zone. If I’m to be fair, dividing the album at the halfway point of forty-five second punk rocking Fugue in D Minor (a great little tune closed by a silly but enjoyable neoclassical flirtation) leaves one with one half of questionable but sometimes-workable tunes, and another half killer convincing retro-thrash. I would hope that the band can learn from some of the weaknesses here, but melody seems to be a one-directional path for many bands.
Check them out here: http://www.gameoverofficial.com/