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Pasadena Napalm Division

Minus Head (2013)
Rating: 8/10

For me, any band that is fronted by D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht has got to be on to a winner. Forget the thrash revival, D.R.I. were churning up mosh pits years ago. It’s great to hear that Brecht – in the company of three members of Dead Horse (guitarists Greg Martin and Scott Sevall, and drummer Ronnie Guyote) and one member of Verbal Abuse (bassist Bubba Dennis) – is still on sweaty form. With those distinctive choppy raps and rasps, Brecht has created one of the year’s best and very real thrash records.

D.R.I. were often called “crossover” due to their meddling with thrash and hardcore, but with his new combo Pasadena Napalm Division, Brecht sticks to a stronger element of speedy thrash, and boy is this a skull-rattling record.

The band formed back in 2008. Previous to this full-length debut however, only a couple of demos and a self-titled EP (2010) had emerged. Therefore, this was very much a long-awaited opus and one that offers us 13 tracks of sheer thrash joy, clocking in at just less than 40 minutes.

Pasadena Napalm Division will no doubt go down as an underrated band, but for those of you who like thrash metal such as Municipal Waste (whose vocalist Tony Foresta appears on this opus) you’ll find much to savour here. Just like D.R.I., Pasadena Napalm Division opt for a bit of fun amid the thrash, with tracks such as ‘100 Beers With A Zombie’ and ‘Murder The Bearded Lady Killer’ really packing quite a comical punch. The thrash is nonetheless so hard and professional that when you hear this record you can easily see who are the men and who are the boys in this new wave of thrash mayhem.

Naturally, there is going to be a touch of D.R.I. influence here, none more so than on the quaking ‘Bleached Blonde Despair’. This is more so in Brecht’s vicious tongue rather than the nifty guitar attack of Martin and Sevall, their guitar attack hinting at darker influences, even Slayer. However, the track slips into D.R.I. mould more so with Brecht’s eventual terse narration halfway through… brilliant!

Elsewhere, the band offer us the excellent ‘Don’t Care’, the white hot ‘My Own Little God’, which features bulldozer drums from Ronnie Guyote, and the slow building crunch of ‘Terror Cell’.

As debut albums go, this is a corker. As anticipated records go this really does live up to the expectation, the band effortlessly shifting between moods – one moment ready for a mosh pit knees up, the next opting for more serious commentary. All the way through the riffs are busy and built upon drums and bass of real conviction, while Kurt Brecht is once again the unstoppable vocal menace, imprinting his own style on the mix of punk, thrash and hardcore.

The project is capped off by the rollicking ‘Speaking In Tongues’; as colourful and vibrant as that album cover, the track jerks the listener from the sofa into a frenzy of cavorting and frenzied headbanging.

You can tell that these guys are seasoned musicians because this is 80s thrash brought to the modern era, and yet with no need to paper any possible cracks that may have emerged over time. As genuine and as sweaty as it gets, Pasadena Napalm Division are here to mosh your brains out.

Neil Arnold

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