Dublin Death Patrol - DDP 4 life 4/5

Reviewed: 6-15-07


1. R.I.P.
2. Unnatural causes
3. Mentally unstable
4. Pigs in the hollow
5. DDP for life
6. Sid vicious
7. Iron fist
8. Cold sweat
9. Lights out
10. Trail of the executioner
11. Devil in disguise
12. Corruption

Do you remember back in the day, when the Bay Area thrash scene reigned supreme? To paraphrase Dave Mustaine, if you weren't there you wouldn't understand. It was the most exciting, intense and dangerous music any of us had ever heard, and the quality bands were coming out of the woodwork. Exodus, Forbidden, Testament, Mordred, Vio-Lence, Heathen, Death Angel... the list went on and on. One band that I never heard of back then was Dublin Death Patrol, as in Dublin, California (a suburb of San Francisco), not Ireland. Despite their relative obscurity, DDP boasted some impressive alumni, including 2 of the scene's most revered vocalists, Chuck Billy (Testament) and Zetro Sousa (Exodus), as well as Laaz Rockit bassist Willy Lange and a host of others. Although the band never released a proper CD in the 80s, some of its members recently got the idea of getting all the band members together to record some new songs, some old songs, and some covers. The result is 'DDP 4 life', an exercise in razor-sharp old-school thrash from some of the form's most skilled veteran practitioners.

Initially, I was quite skeptical about this release. The line-up of 8 official band members (including 2 lead singers, 4 guitarists, a drummer and a bassist), plus more than half a dozen guests, suggests pure chaos, if not anarchy. The cluttered band photo of a bunch of middle-aged metalheads in shades, wool caps, backwards ballcaps, and gangsta poses did nothing to alleviate my concern. When the CD commenced, and I heard Souza and a brutalized Billy trading vocal lines for the first time, it felt like the whole project was careening off the rails. But then I stopped and listened, I mean really listened. This CD features a collection of riffs that are guaranteed to snap your neck to smithereens. Bands don't know how to write riffs like this anymore. These are the kind of classic 80s thrash riffs that burrow into your brain instantly in catchiness while smashing your skull with ludicrous heaviness. Some of these riffs sound like unused Holt/Hunolt riffs, others like forgotten 'Kill 'em all' arrangements. You get the idea. Then there are the vocals. Once you get accustomed to 2 of thrash's most legendary heavyweights basically doing duets on every song, the effect is amazingly cool. Cuts like the relentless "Unnatural causes" and "Sid Vicious" (which interestingly cops some of the lyrics and vocal lines from Testament's "Blessed in contempt", although I bet the DDP song came first and Billy just cannibalized it for Testament) are Grade A prime Bay Area thrash of the highest order.

Then comes the curve ball. The listener is rolling along through the first 6 songs of thrashing mayhemic goodness, when suddenly the band shifts gears drastically by going into unabashed cover mode. And woah Nelly, these are some killer covers: Motorhead's "Iron fist", Thin Lizzy's "Cold sweat", and UFO's "Lights out", all delivered in amazing versions. "Iron fist" faithfully reproduces one of the all-time magnificent Lemmy songs, with superb vocals from Billy. Meanwhile, "Cold sweat" and "Lights out" are delivered in heavied-up renditions that belie their almost classic-rock origins, with stunning results. Once we're relaxed, smiling and having fun with these cover tunes, DDP switches things up on us again, segueing into "Trail of the executioner", a mindboggling original that gets my vote for best song on the CD and boasts a serious contender for guitar riff of the year. This song is an air guitarist's paradise. The only time the CD loses steam is at the end, when it closes out with several minutes of Native American traditional music. This can be a bit annoying, as it has nothing to do with the rest of the CD, but I'm sure it was a well intentioned gesture by Billy (and perhaps other members) to pay tribute to his Native American heritage, so I can understand the motivation. Besides, it doesn't break up the flow of the CD at all because it comes at the end, so if you don't want to hear it, just push "stop" after the last real song and be done with it.

'DDP 4 life' is simply a feast for the senses for Bay Area afficionados. Don't go expecting any of the dreaded "modern thrash" elements here. If you're looking for The Haunted, Dew-Scented or 'Shovel headed kill machine' type stuff, you're in the wrong place. This is strictly for the old-schoolers. Your mileage may vary, but as for me I love it. It's truly a rarity to listen to a thrash CD in which it sounds like the band is having the time of their lives here. It's like Chuck Billy hosted a barbecue with some of his closest metal buddies in his backyard, cranked up the amps, and let it wail in between swigs of Dos Equis and mouthfuls of tangy smoked ribs, all with the tape player rolling. Thrash metal may be coming back into vogue these days, but Dublin Death Patrol have an air of authenticity, professionalism, aptitude and enthusiasm that places them head and shoulders above the competition. Thrash 'til death!




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