Quick Hits: Divebomb Records, DIVE143 - DIVE148

I love reissues, and when it comes to metal, no one does it better than Divebomb Records. Period. Hell, very few labels can even half-compete! Divebomb has been my favorite record label since 2010, and I've been privileged enough to assist them on liner notes or retrospective interviews for a number of releases since late-2015. That doesn't bias me, though. I wouldn't yell and scream about this music if I didn't love it. And, look, clearly this label has been absolutely on fire as of late—additionally peruse outstanding work from Terminus, Degradation, Suspiria, and freakin' Cyclone Temple, among others. The following six mind-blowing releases just might be Divebomb's strongest consecutive run to date, too!

DIVE143 - Deadly Blessing, Psycho Drama (2017)

New Jersey's Deadly Blessing tends to be most remembered for their lone full-length, 1988's Ascend From the Cauldron, but when they traded in iconic frontman Norman "Ski" Kiersznowski for 17-year-old up-and-comer Larry Betson, things got more interesting—at least to my ears. This killer two-CD set collects everything from the group's Larry Betson era—previously unreleased obscurities and all.

A gruffer form of Bay Area-influenced thrash metal that still retains a sense of melody and some soaring vocal histrionics is present across two demos from 1990—the well-received Psycho Drama, and the never before released Mechanical Solutions. Both are included on Disc 1, alongside six live recordings, for 17 tracks total.

In 1991, though, the band changed names to Optimus Prime, shifting toward an ever-so-slightly groove-tinged or occasionally grunge-leaning sound—still rooted in thrash—before dissipating while working on what would have been another full-length. Disc 2 includes Optimus Prime's only three-song demo, four additional studio cuts, and four live recordings.

Where Divebomb truly shines is in their gorgeous packaging. This Psycho Drama set features all-new cover art and a thick ol' 24-page booklet that includes tons of photos and ephemera, studio memories from Psycho Drama engineer Bob Kimmel, a nine-page interview with the band (conducted by yours truly in late-2016), and even a reprint of an old interview from Unchain the Underground fanzine. Awesome.

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DIVE144 - Bugzy, Plan B... (2017)

Speaking of Psycho Drama engineer Bob Kimmel, he was also the drummer of an AOR/hard rock outfit called Bugzy, and this band's story is pretty fuckin' nuts. In the mid-'80s, an accomplished trio of former cover band musicians struck out on their own to flesh out a lineup and start writing and performing original material. In the years that followed, they worked with or caught the attention of producers such as Tony Bongiovi, John Ryan, and Chris Lord-Alge; and were courted by three major labels—RCA, Polygram, and EMI. That being said, they devastatingly failed to officially release even one single song throughout their initial 10-year run—despite having recorded an absolutely massive amount of material with an assortment of session musicians.

Divebomb's promotional text for Plan B... cites groups such as Bad English, Night Ranger, etc., and they're not kidding. Literally every single one of these 17 songs—largely recorded from 1989 - 1991—could've been on the radio, and a number of them could've been bonafide hits. One way or another: Bugzy should've been huge. At the very least, they deserve to have landed an infectiously catchy, motivationally uplifting tune or two amidst some half-popular movie soundtrack of the era.

Thankfully, there's a label like Divebomb Records out there to resurrect this music and finally give it a chance to be heard—20+ years later, if that's what it takes! And, sure, Bugzy may be the obscurest of the obscure, but that doesn't stop Divebomb from scoring enough archival materials to put together a slick package. This time around, the 20-page booklet includes plenty of photos, flyers, press clippings, and an 11-page retrospective interview (again by me, circa May 2016).

Seriously, if you grew up in the '80s and ever jammed Survivor on the radio (or are simply wise enough to appreciate said aesthetic), this is an absolutely mandatory purchase. That's all there is to it. It's just that good.

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DIVE145 - Arbitrater, Balance of Power/Darkened Reality (2017)

I personally tend to love those moments when highly regarded hardcore/punk bands decided to gravitate toward metal. That being said, prior to this reissue I was unaware that in the late-'80s, led by vocalist Tony "Rat" Martin, members of U.K. punks The Varukers went full-on crossover thrash—changing their name to Arbitrater in the process so as not to sully their punk credibility. More tactful than the path that fellow U.K. legends Discharge were treading around the same time, Arbitrater put forth solid thrash metal with light dashes of complexity and melody.

This double-CD set collects both of the group's ridiculously rare full-lengths—Balance of Power (1991) and Darkened Reality (1993)—plus 1988's The Conquest demo and a bonus track from the 1989 compilation A Taste of Armageddon. This is the first time on CD for Balance of Power (an LP was purchased for nearly £100 to use as source material for this reissue), and a CD copy of Darkened Reality once sold on Discogs for damn near $700, so... to refer to this collection as "long overdue" is quite an understatement! Its 16-page booklet includes original cover art, most of the lyrics, the usual dose of photos and archival materials, plus a seven-page interview with Rat conducted by Ian Glasper (Stampin' Ground, etc.).

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DIVE146 - Temporary Insanity, Final Walk (2017)

Alright, if you enjoy top-shelf thrash metal, just stop reading, click this link right now, and buy this CD. It will be the best $12 you've spent since the early-'90s, and I'm dead serious about that. I've been dreaming of a Temporary Insanity discography CD for over a decade now, ever since my friend Brian Vocal Terror burned me a CD-R of some of the band's recordings back in the early-2000s, so I'm absolutely thrilled to see this material given the Divebomb treatment.

New England may have had the single most criminally overlooked thrash scene of the late-'80s/early-'90s, and of all the highly-talented bands affected, I'd have to say that Temporary Insanity probably had the most potential. One listen to their sole official five-song demo—1989's T.I.D.C., with should-be classic anthems like "D.S.H." and "Arrogant Fuck," among others—and it's painfully evident: T.I. should've been signed in 1989 and on tour with a band the size of Exodus or Anthrax within a year or two. They had the absolutely perfect mix of catchiness, technicality, monster bass playing, violent aggression, and good-natured fun; recorded another 13 impeccable tracks from 1989 - 1990; and broke up in 1991. Had I been old enough and a part of their scene at that time, I probably would've cried that day. This band is just so fucking good, man. So good!

Thankfully, Divebomb Records knows high-level thrash when they hear it, so Final Walk collects Temporary Insanity's entire 18-song repertoire on one handy disc. The 24-page booklet boasts absolutely gorgeous new artwork from the aforementioned Brian Vocal Terror (a longtime friend of the band), complete lyrics, tons of photos and flyers, and an eight-page interview with guitarist Michael Lucantonio that I conducted back in February.

I can't possibly recommend this CD enough. If you call yourself a thrash fan and don't flip the fuck out over Temporary Insanity, please email me your IP address so I can blacklist you from ever accessing this website again, okay? Thanks!

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DIVE147 - Triphammer, Years in the Making: 1992 - 1995 (2017)

Triphammer was yet another incredible Massachusetts band that was inexplicably passed over by record labels during their time, despite offering a wonderful mix of progressive-tinged melodic thrash and period-appropriate chugging grooves. They self-released their first two demos on CD back in 2003, but with Divebomb at the helm, this collection is of course far superior—adding in the band's rare 1995 demo and a bonus live reunion track for a total of 13 songs, all remastered, etc.

The first two demos in particular put forth some really fantastic songwriting, and are so professional-sounding that they probably could've been presented as a proper full-length album as-is. The 1995 demo started to head toward a sound that was comparable to a more metallic version of what other area groups like Stompbox or Tree were doing at that time, and it damn sure holds its own, too. I've remarked in the past that Triphammer's material could be as appealing to fans of Queensrÿche as it is to those of Pantera, so it really boggles the mind that they never secured a proper record deal back in the day.

But, hey, that's where Divebomb steps in to make it right. Better late than never, you know? The densely-packed 24-page booklet includes great new artwork, all of the lyrics, tons of photo and flyer collages, and a 10-page interview with the band from March of this year (and, yeah, I did this one, too). Another highly recommended release that I'm psyched to see materialize!

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DIVE148 - Clockwork, Kill in Time (2017)

Fuck. Yes. The same way I love it when hardcore/punk bands go metal, I love it when metal musicians branch off into slightly left-field side-projects that could ruffle the feathers of a narrow-minded portion of their fanbase. Short-lived Swiss quartet Clockwork was spearheaded by drummer Peter Haas (Calhoun Conquer, Mekong Delta, Poltergeist, etc.) and guitarist Tommy Vetterli (Coroner, Kreator, etc.), and to my utter shock I cannot recall having ever heard a single mention of this band before. When Divebomb Records sent me a couple of tracks to check out to see if I wanted to interview the band, I completely lost my mind. As soon as I heard them intro a song with "Kick that shit!" I was grinning from ear-to-ear, about to start throwing furniture out of the way to mosh across my living room. I mean, come on, I live for shit like this!

Clockwork recorded eight songs in 1994 and 1995—only four of which were ever officially released—but Kill in Time finally collects them all on one CD. The disc is completely packed with unexpectedly meaty, chugging rhythmic grooves and some subtle industrial flare—plus some sleek, jazzy lead work from Vetterli. At times it's reminiscent of Prong circa Cleansing (as well as Coroner's final recordings from 1995), and... it's just badass, plain and simple. I only wish I had heard the material sooner, but that just makes me all the more enthusiastic about this reissue!

The slick-looking 16-page booklet has more of a stark and simplistic design than most Divebomb releases, and I think it looks absolutely awesome. There are some killer black-and-white promotional photos, lyrics scanned from the band's original typed and handwritten pages, and a three-page interview with Peter Haas that I did back in May. This one's not out until next month, but you can—and damn well should—pre-order now!

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