Chalk this one up as surprise of the year! Stress Factor 9 is a new band featuring ex-Annihilator/D.O.A. vocalist Randy Rampage and drummer Ray Hartmann. Fans expecting to hear ALICE IN HELL 2 need look elsewhere because while the thrash metal elements are clearly there, Stress Factor 9 also brings in some punk attitude, undoubtedly drawn from Rampage’s days with D.O.A.. I saw Stress Factor 9 open for Overkill in Vancouver last fall and considering it was only their third-ever live show, the band showed promise. Eight of the songs on BRAINWARP MINDSPIN were played and there was definitely something there. Now, six months later, the album is upon us and I can say without a word of a lie that this band has potential. Musically, Rampage’s voice is still intact and his vitriolic snarl wraps itself around the socially-driven lyrics easily. Hartmann is an absolute powerhouse behind the kit delivering double bass, loads of kick drum and along with Markus, a driving rhythm section is in place. Between Kick and Frank Frightful, the riffing and solos are executed perfectly and thanks to the stellar production of Shaun Thingvold (Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory, Lamb of God), this album smokes!
“Home Sweet Grow” and “Pig Farm Willy” are nods to local happenings with Vancouver””and British Columbia, in general””boasting one of the most prolific marijuana industries in the world and the latter pointed at accused serial killer Robert “Willy” Pickton who is currently on trial for the murder of over a dozen prostitutes that he turned into food on his pig farm. Both songs drip with Rampage’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics and delivery and are among the standouts here. “Taker” is straight-up metal and not far removed from what Rampage and Hartmann would have done with Annihilator. An excellent vocal performance from Rampage is complemented by some razor-ship riffs and a sizzling solo trade-off between Kick and Frightful. “My Leech,” my personal favorite here, sees Rampage tackle thrash metal again. Sounding like the evil brother of Overkill’s Blitz, Exodus’ Zetro and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, the venom and attitude spewed in Rampage’s voice take this already catchy song to another level. “Slowly” features a punishing bass line from Markus and a distorted riff that bends itself around a gang-styled, shouted chorus. The overt punk influence rears its head on tracks like “Spare Change” but the over-riding presence is that of metal. Many of the lyrics have tongue planted firmly in-cheek including “Suck-cess,” “Road-Rageacide” and “Church of T.V.” “Like A Bitch” is a rancorous slice of punk-filled metal with cuttingly amusing lyrics that round out 42 minutes of eye-opening music.
The main thing that Stress Factor 9 has going for them is that, like myself, most people’s expectations will be low. Rampage’s presence on the music scene has been non-existent since being ousted from Annihilator in 2000 and he really wasn’t around much between the recording of the ALICE IN HELL and CRITERIA FOR A BLACK WIDOW albums, either, so those are really the only two recordings most people have to go on. Hartmann was in the band for two more albums (NEVER, NEVERLAND and CARNIVAL DIABLOS) but even he is not exactly a name that is on the tips of most people’s tongues. The rest of the band is comprised of local musicians and Frightful is pulled from a Singapore thrash band called Opposition Party, so along with an independent release, the odds are definitely against Stress Factor 9. Still, if people are willing to give this album and this band a chance, there is definitely something to be heard.
KILLER KUTS: “Home Sweet Grow,” “Taker,” “Pig Farm Willy,” “My Leech,” “Slowly,” “Like A Bitch”
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