Meliah Rage - Barely human 3.5/5
1. Hate machine
3. Barely human
5. Wrong place right time
8. Hell song
9. Motor psycho
As a college student in Boston in the late 80s and early 90s, I proudly worshiped at the altar of local heroes Meliah Rage. Along with thrashers Wargasm, Meliah Rage were a pillar of the Boston heavy metal scene. When Meliah Rage signed with Epic Records and shortly thereafter landed the opening slot on the Metal Church tour (circa 'Blessing in disguise'), I viewed it as a personal triumph, a validation of Beantown's underground metal community. But guitarist/band leader Tony Nichols and the boys experienced a catastrophic reversal of fortune in the early 90s as the music industry deserted metal in favor of the Pearl Jam/Seattle trend. Meliah Rage were one of the casualties, calling it a day in 1992 or 1993 after a sickeningly swift fall from grace. Nichols and fellow Meliah Rage axeman Jim Koury went on to form Cactus Land, which veered in a more melodic direction than their former outfit, but delivered some memorable gigs in Boston in the 1993-1995 time frame opening for Wargasm and others. Cactus Land recorded a full-length CD during that time period, but it's never seen the light of day, much to my chagrin. (I'd kill to get my hands on that recording). A short-lived Meliah Rage reunion fizzled in 1996, and that seemed like the end of the story for these criminally underrated New England metal heroes.
Fast forward to last year, and Meliah Rage have returned with a vengeance on the 'Barely human' CD. Nichols & Co. continue to inhabit the same musical space they always did, somewhere between traditional metal and thrash. Their brand of riffy, stout American metal is more muscular than the Omens and Lizzy Bordens of the world, but a step less frenetic than the Wargasms and Exoduses. And this is no half-baked reunion, either. To the contrary, this CD is jam-packed with classic Nichols/Koury riffs that bear the indelible Meliah Rage stamp of quality and that rival anything on the 'Kill to survive' or 'Solitary solitude' opuses. 3 songs ("Invincible", "Wrong place right time", and "Motor psycho") flirt with all-out thrash mode a la "The pack" from the old days. Hell, "Invincible" would have fit in comfortably on a Wargasm CD, so it's no surprise that Wargasm bassist/vocalist Bob Mayo plays guest bass on that track and Wargasm drummer Barry Spillberg is behind the kit on the entire CD. New vocalist Paul Souza (ex-Cactus Land) fills longtime singer Mike Munro's shoes admirably. Souza's quite versatile, as he can sound like a dead ringer for Munro, then switch seamlessly into a Hetfield tone or a Bob Mayo style. Souza even channels a bit of Sully Erna (ex-Meliah Rage drummer, now singer for Godsmack) in his vocal delivery from time to time. Nothing like keeping it all in the family, right?
I cannot imagine any Meliah Rage fan not being thrilled with 'Barely human'. It sounds like the Meliah Rage of yore, but offers enough freshness and enthusiasm in the songwriting and performances to avoid coming across like a tired rehash. That said, Tony Nichols' crew will struggle to find a niche in today's heavily segmented metal market. They're too heavy to appeal to the Stratovarius/Edguy club, but not nearly brutal enough to curry favor from the death/thrashers. I wish them all the success in the world, as this hard-working band have paid their dues and have returned with an outstanding reunion CD. I'm proud to be a fan of Meliah Rage in 2005, and eagerly anticipate the follow-up to 'Barely human', due later this year.
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