Joined: 30 Jan 2003
|Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:49 pm Post subject: WHIPLASH – POWER & PAIN
|WHIPLASH – POWER & PAIN
(Roadunner records, 1985)
Thrash metal was a far noisier beast in the early 1980’s, and some would say truer (kvlt) than the major label Attack of the Metallica-Clones it became later on. One could argue that they hadn’t the foggiest how to record thrash metal in 1984/85, and this point is debateable; but most of those early albums were raw, rough-around-the-edges that sounded like nothing you ever heard at the time yet still maintain a certain charm when listened to today. Among others, the Germans had Endless Pain, Sentence of Death and In the Sign of Evil; the Americans Seven Churches, Kill or Be Killed by Blessed Death and here, Whiplash’s Power & Pain.
Formed in 1984 in New Jersey by what’s commonly known to thrash aficionados as the ‘three Tony’s’ - Tony Portaro, vocals & guitar, Tony Scaglione, drums, and Tony Bono on bass. This is the classic lineup, the lineup which produced several demos - Fire Away and Thunderstruck in 1984, Looking Death in the Face in 1985 - before landing a deal with fledgling Roadrunner records. The band released their debut album Power And Pain in March 1985, and this, incredibly is despite the ‘three Tony’s’ up to this point having never played a live show!
As for the songs … Power & Pain is best described as a beautiful, chaotic mess. There are solos galore (glorious solos) in which Tony Portaro excels as a guitarist. His performance on this album is astounding; just check out the jaw-dropping solos of Red Bomb if proof were needed. A student of Berklee College of Music, able to read music theory he brought this knowledge to the altar of metal and applied forthwith.
Stage Dive opens proceedings and this is the template for the entire album; riotous, frantic, breakneck speed, the production by one Norman Dunn capturing solid performances from all involved, not to mention capturing the recognisable Whiplash sound. No ballads, no acoustics, just thunderous, clanking thrash metal with pit-bull vocals and some of the tastiest guitar solos to come out of that period – Last Man Alive, War Monger, Power Thrashing Death, Spit on Your Grave, Message in Blood … I don’t really need to analyse their lyrics, do I?
And then there’s the infamous final track, Nailed to the Cross, complete with nail-hammering and a prolonged finale – You know that you’re dead/when you’re nailed to the cross - that’s still outrageous even today.
Guest singers included members of Agnostic Front and the late Pete Steele of Carnivore fame, snarling and growling in NY Metal and Hardcore unity. In fact, once Whiplash were hitting the live circuit they were a familar face on both metal and hardcore bills.
As for *that* cover … drawn by NY artist Sean Taggart, who was invovled with the Hardcore scene and was known for his album covers for Agnostic Front and the Crumbsuckers. It’s a stunning (iconic) album cover – in your face, visceral and very metal - an iron fist grasping and squeezing some poor bastard’s bald-head, electric bolts crackling behind him. Cartoon-ish yes, and some would say amateurish, but then again that’s its appeal, and those people would be wrong.
The one review I have to hand is from Kerrang, where non-thrash metal fan Mark Putterford gave it a ridiculous –K (that’s minus K!) and completely slated it in a hilarious, over-the-top critique. “This isn’t music at all, it’s noise,” he complained, “nothing but cacophonous, indefatible, unlistenable noise.” He wasn’t one to mince words, was he? “If I stuck a mircophone onto a blade of an electric lawnmower and drove it acoss a mound of rusty nuts ‘n’ bolts, would you sign me up Roadrunner? Wouldja? Eh? EH??”
Enraged at such an appalling public thrashing, I put pen-to-paper to write in and complain about Putterford’s (‘Puttyford’ as I called him) review, which to my surprise they printed. Sadly I don’t have a copy of that particular issue, but I was delighted that my headstrong teenage defense of a favourite album was acknowledged.
Whiplash went on to record their follow-up, Ticket to Mayhem two years later, and one of my personal faves, too. With a far superior production thanks to Dan Johnson (producer on Death’s second album Leprosy) Tony Portaro once again proved himelf to be a sickenly talented composer and musican. Yet at the time, they were clueless to their own influence of others and importance to the scene.
Said Portaro in an interview with bravewords.com: "The good thing about those albums was that they were groundbreaking. It was just when thrash was coming out. It took us years to realize how popular those albums were! We just were doing what we were doing making thrash metal music and playing as fast as we could and just doing our style … But we never really knew how popular that first album was till ten years later.”
Whiplash is the familiar story of a band's youthful yearning to play the Motörhead way, that is louder and faster than anyone else. Though they went on to record a catalogue of classy speed/thrash metal albums (Portaro even stepping down from vocal duties to concentrate on his guitar playing at one point - see 1990's Insult to Injury) this one fact remains: Power & Pain.
A cacophonous slab of early thrash metal you'll ever hear.
Red Bomb, live '86: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF-BpTwCRP8[/b]