Released: 2015, Pentacat Records
The return of Powermad comes twenty-six years after their only LP, the criminally unknown ABSOLUTE POWER from 1989. The new album INFINITE actually saw a limited, underpublicized release back in October of 2015, but a recent push to get the word out has started to reach more folks. For those whose memories, or explorations have not led them that far back, a recap is in order. Powermad were not your average and generic thrash band that were being spewed forth in large quantities by 1989. Guitarist and singer Joel Dubay sung in a clean, often high voice compared to the gruff and growled vocals that were the default choice of most thrash singers then (and now). Powermad played tight, progressive melodic thrash that saw them garner plenty of critical acclaim. Minor commercial success was also briefly tasted, as MTV used part of the riff from “Slaughterhouse” as the opening to MTV At The Movies, the video for “Nice Dreams” saw repeated play on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, and the band made a cameo appearance in the David Lynch film, “Wild At Heart.”
The lineup up from that 1989 album is mostly intact for INFINITE, with drummer Adrian Liberty being replaced by Dirk Verbeuren. One thing that is immediately clear is that the band spent plenty of time listening to and absorbing music during their absence. The biggest influence was unquestionably Nevermore, as Powermad has altered their sound to incorporate detuned guitars, twisting passages and lots of dissonant, atonal riffs. Things are mostly hyper-caffeinated, the band retaining many of their speedy qualities while Verbeuren offers much more kick drumming than the band formerly used. The new Powermad bears more than a passing resemblance to the current Overkill as well.
“Army of One” starts the show, with Dubay and Haug laying down tracks of pummeling riffs and a ripping opening solo. It certainly recalls great former tracks like “Slaughterhouse” and “Absolute Power” while showcasing the band’s new modern mix and approach. “Souls Descending” is the tune the band teased us with back in 2011 before finally delivering on a new album. Much like the other songs on this album, it is a breakneck and technical song with Dubay alternating high screams with his standard range. The detuned guitars are also prominent on the chorus.
I have spent about 3 weeks listening to this album, and I have found that it is one of those albums that is easy to admire but difficult to love. The execution, production, and aggression are all unassailable. The songs though do little to endear themselves, lacking the bands penchant for melodic and catchy riffs such as “Nice Dreams” and “Plastic Town” possessed. Yeah, it is 1989 and I certainly do not expect rewrites, but a song has got to be memorable, and these take far too much work on the listener’s part to appreciate. Like with Nevermore, I find the conventional more melodic parts to be the band’s strong points while the detuned and atonal riffs leave me unmoved. Still, it is good to see this oft-forgotten band back and making music, and finding their footing and true soul might be something that takes them until the next album, assuming there is one. Certainly worthy, but not the return I had hoped would be the result of INFINITE.