From seemingly out of nowhere comes this obscure reissue from Southern Lord. Ignore the fact that the band name and the cover art might suggest otherwise, because "Circus of Chaos", the lone full-length from San Francisco's Clown Alley, is quite a solid slab of oft-quirky thrash with crossover leanings. Just to get all of the quick background info out of the way, this album was originally released on LP only by Alchemy Records in 1987 (the label's first release). Clown Alley vocalist David Duran was previously in Jerryz Kids (not to be confused with the better-known Boston act Jerry's Kids), while bassist Lori Black and guitarist Mark Deutrom both went on to play bass for the Melvins at various points in time. For the most part the songwriting builds around a combination of relatively fast, straightforward crossover thrash metal and peculiar dynamic shifts that branch out into slower fits of unexpectedly dissonant melodies and borderline "alternative" (for lack of a better term) sounding guitar/vocal textures. Certainly inventive in its own right, I'd definitely place it more in the "metal" realm than anything else, as the crossover-related hardcore/punk influences are fairly minimal from a musical standpoint, and many of the songs are considerably longer than most crossover standards: Routinely topping three to four minutes with lots of lead breaks and meandering into the aforementioned outside influences. All of which is fine by me, of course, as there are indeed a number of quick, explosive bursts that pack a nice punch.
The material was of course remastered for this edition, and while I obviously haven't heard the original, the CD sounds pretty damn solid. They more than likely beefed up the low-end a bit, so while it certainly has a dated ring to the guitar tone, I dig that aesthetic as it is, and the overall sound definitely holds up in my book. Tacked on as a bonus are a handful of understandably raw (though tolerable) live tracks recorded in 1986, plus an unlisted radio "interview" (if you can really consider 10 minutes of completely random humor and smartass sarcasm to be such), making for a nice little release when all is said and done. I do kind of feel like the packaging is a little lacking coming from a label as established as Southern Lord, though. Don't get me wrong, it looks nice with the slick metallic bronze ink and all, but no lyrics or liner notes are included or anything, so you basically get nothing more than a photo of each band member and minimal recording credits—which leaves a ton of wasted space considering it's a six-panel booklet, you know? But hey, no big deal. I love thrash, and I especially love obscure reissues that bring well-deserved attention to long-forgotten or underrated bands, so... I back this shit 100%.
Don't be a douchebag, fuckin' support these types of endeavors with a purchase in the interests of the continued resurfacing of out of print rarities: