Fueled by Fire - Spread the fire 4/5

Reviewed: 11-9-07


1. Intro: Ernest goes to hell
2. Thrash is back
3. Striking death
4. Spread the fire!!!
5. Betrayal
6. Massive execution
7. Metal forever
8. Dreams of terror
9. Command of the beast

One of the more fascinating developments in the last couple of years has been the emergence of new, young bands paying homage to old-school Bay Area thrash metal circa the mid-80s. In emulating this time-honored, once-forgotten style, these bands are not polluting it with nu-metal, emo, death-metal, blastbeats, or dreaded "modern thrash" elements, but are instead trying to reproduce and recapture the sound, vibe and feel of the leaders of the genre's formative years: Slayer 'Show no mercy', Metallica 'Kill 'em all', and especially Exodus' 'Bonded by blood', among others. The remarkable thing is that most of the members of these bands were not even a twinkle in their fathers' eyes when the Bay Area thrash heyday took the world by storm, yet these new CDs sound for all the world like they were recorded in 1985, albeit with punchier production than the notoriously muddy sound of those early platters. Last month the Metal CD Ratings staff brought you a review of Evile, and this month we follow-up by featuring Fueled by Fire. From 2 different continents, these 2 bands constitute the vanguard of the thrash metal revival.

Fueled by Fire hail from Los Angeles, and their self-released debut CD has caused such a furor that Metal Blade decided to reissue it, tacking on 2 bonus tracks for good measure. Right from the instrumental opener "Earnest goes to hell", Fueled by Fire make it clear that the listener should expect nothing more and nothing less than a pummeling collection of catchy classic thrash metal riffs. Honestly, the whole CD is brimming with killer riffing, influenced heavily by the Holt/Hunolt team of Exodus, though there's certainly plenty of early Metallica, super-early Slayer, 'Kill as one'/'Thrashers' era Death Angel, and maybe even some Testament circa 'The legacy' (check out the intro to "Put to death" and see if it doesn't remind you of "Burnt offerings") in there too. But Fueled by Fire haven't forgotten the importance of tunefulness either, as they toss in just enough guitar harmonies and melody lines to keep the listener on his toes. In general, though, 'Spread the fire" is a hammer-down speedy thrash metal assault on the senses from beginning to end, pausing for breath only during the brief shimmering acoustic intro to "Massive execution" (shades of Exodus's "No love"). Vocalist Gio does a fine job, perfectly delivering the mid-80s Bay Area semi-clean snarl and effectively channeling Mark Osegueda from Death Angel on his occasional high-pitched screams.

Talking about particular songs here would be a waste of time because there is no filler and there are no weak offerings, burnt or otherwise. All of the tracks are rifftastic hammers of the highest order that are guaranteed to make you remember the days when your 8th-generation dub of the 'No life 'til leather' demo was the coolest thing you'd ever heard and the highlight of your week was going to the independent record store to see if they had a new issue of Kick*Ass Monthly (R.I.P., Bob Muldowney, who passed away earlier this month) so you could read about the latest thrash metal acts to put on your wish list for your next tape-trading order to some guy in New York who mailed you xeroxed flyers every couple of months with his list of bootlegged gigs, demos, and dubbed records. If I had to choose, though, I'd say I'm partial to "Command of the beast", "Massive execution", and "Thrash is back" because they're just so awesome.

Perhaps the greatest strength of 'Spread the fire' is its unadulterated purity. But that may also be a weakness. As unwelcome as this sentiment may be at such a celebratory time for the rebirth of thrash, there's a reason why the Bay Area thrash scene died out the first time around, you know. It wasn't grunge, it wasn't MTV, it was the inherent stylistic limitations of the genre. Bands ran out of things to say within the pure confines of thrash, so they branched out. Some wimped out and sold out. Others got funky. Still others went technical, and others turned death metal. Very few stayed the course and those that did found a dwindling fan base to reward them to sticking to their guns, so they eventually became discouraged and broke up at the Taco Bell drive thru. My point is this: Right now, Evile, Fueled by Fire, Merciless Death, Dekapitator, Bonded by Blood, and their ilk are on top of the world, sweeping the metal scene with a refreshing blast of 80s thrash nostalgia. But what happens when the freshness dissipates? How will these bands prevent the scene from becoming stale again? I'm not being a pessimist or naysayer, but the reality is that these bands face some grim obstacles in the future. In Fueled by Fire's case, these concerns are exacerbated by the recent departure of vocalist/guitarist Gio, who is such an integral part of the band's sound that he will undoubtedly be difficult to replace. Still, I'm rooting hard for Fueled by Fire. Here's hoping they continue to spread the fire across an unsuspecting metal scene for many years, reliving and extending the glories of the once-proud Bay Area scene.




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