Reviewed: October 2004
Released: 2004, Screaming Ferret Wreckords
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
There are many metal bands that hit the scene in the late 80s that got swallowed up and spit out. Labels were signing anyone with a guitar and a jean jacket or long hair, many who released one or two albums and just got forgotten about. Most were crap but it was sad to see the odd gem get tossed to the wayside once grunge took over in the early 90s. One example of this is Boston thrashers, Meliah Rage (named after the Meliah Indians’ habit of taking opium in preparation for battle), one of the most underrated metal bands of the late 80s. Their debut release, 1988’s KILL TO SURVIVE, ranks among the great thrash albums of the 80s and their next full-length, 1990’s SOLITARY SOLITUDE, packs just as strong a punch. Epic Records dropped the band in 1992 as the flannel farmers took over and its members ventured out to seek another record deal. The 1996 album, DEATH VALLEY DREAM, was the result and while it generated good reviews, the market just wasn’t there for metal at the time. Meliah Rage splintered into several other bands but decided to reconvene upon signing with Screaming Ferret Wreckords in 2002. That label released UNFINISHED BUSINESS, a nine-track demo recorded in 1992 featuring future Godsmack frontman Sully Erna on drums. That recording was initially shopped around to major labels after the band was dropped by Epic in hopes of landing a new deal but never got released.
So here we are in 2004 and Screaming Ferret has just released the new Meliah Rage CD entitled BARELY HUMAN and what a return this is! BARELY HUMAN is a solid slice of old school American power/thrash metal with similarities to Megadeth, Metal Church, Annihilator and even the 80s Bay Area thrashers. The band has a new vocalist and drummer as Mike Munro opted out of the reunion due to family obligations. Paul Souza does a respectable job and his performance on “Hate Machine,” “Ungodly” and the title track show the band chose wisely in getting him behind the mike. The band has toned things down a bit from their power-thrash days of SOLITARY SOLITUDE and even the DEATH VALLEY DREAM indie release from 1996. They still pack quite a wallop, though, and haven’t pussed out by doing ballads for soccer Moms like fellow Beantown rockers Aerosmith or albums with shitty production and no guitar solos, like, well, you know…
The lead-off track, “Hate Machine,” is the perfect blend of aggression and catchiness. The chorus is catchy and the guitars are melodic but still have plenty of crunch. Souza’s vocals have been given the Tom Araya/megaphone effect during the verses, but it is suited for the song. “Invincible” just rips from start to finish. The slow building guitar leads up to a thrash attack that hasn’t been seen since KILL ‘EM ALL. The song is extremely catchy and the riffs are beyond infectious. Former member Bob Mayo (also ex-Wargasm) plays bass on this track, too. A video has been made for “Barely Human” (it is also featured in the film GOD OF VAMPIRES) and this track continues on the string of amazing songs on this release. The chorus gets right into your head and won’t leave while the crunching guitars are some of the best on the record. “Ungodly” had me scrambling for the CD booklet thinking James Hetfield had done some guest vocals on the verses! Whether it was Souza’s intention or not, his vocals a dead ringer for the Metallica frontman here. The chorus of “Wrong Place, Right Time” is ultra cool and the rhythm guitar in this song reminds me of the Death Angel track, “Bored.” “Hell Song” takes a bit of a right turn and its chorus borders on a southern harmonized rock track but with a dark vibe to it. Things end on a heavy note with the band tearing through “Motor Psycho,” which is lined with some excellent rhythm work and a stellar performance by Souza.
The initial pressing of BARELY HUMAN comes packaged with the UNFINISHED BUSINESS demo. The sound is a bit rough in spots, but it is frustrating to hear damn good songs that should have secured them a deal knowing that they were probably overlooked in favor of some half-baked Nirvana clone that never made it past 1995. At the very end of the bonus CD is an excellent nineteen minute interview with Meliah Rage founder/guitarist Anthony Nichols, too.
BARELY HUMAN is a pleasant revisiting of a band I once took a real shine to, but it isn’t just a band going through the motions, either. Meliah Rage has crafted an excellent piece of work here, something they should be proud of and something that every metal fan should at least check out.
KILLER KUTS: “Hate Machine,” “Invincible,” “Barely Human,” “Ungodly,” “Wrong Place, Wrong Time,” “Motor Psycho”
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