You have to be grateful to Sonick Plague and Pavement Music for bringing us not only a blast from the band’s past but giving it a fresh breath and energy, though it is easy to suspect a straight release of their 1988 debut album would have been a treat too for those us missing it first time around. The West Virginian thrashers though have re-recorded and re-energized that rampage, originally titled What’s the Purpose, and uncaged it as a self-titled offering and attention filler whilst the band works on new material. It is old school thrash dosed up with punk and classic metal ferocity, and yes the band’s sound has been emulated, reworked, and twisted many times over the years since Sonick Plague unleashed their album, but still the songs just stir up ears and appetite.
Formed in 1984, the band’s first ‘memorable’ line-up of Ken Cuccaro (drums) and Tim Meehan (guitars), alongside Tony Teodoro (guitars) and Sean Donnelly (bass, vocals) came a few years later, the four behind the band’s 1988 debut album. Though it swiftly gained hordes of new fans and attention, not long after it’s unveiling, Meehan left the band to be subsequently replaced by guitarist Chuck Crilly. From there Sonick Plague undertook their own self-supported tour and shared stages with the likes of Death Angel, Voivod, Gwar, Pantera, Ludichrist, Crumbsuckers and many more. The intensity of that tour and surrounding shows saw the band’s stability shaken, and after a few unsuccessful line-up changes the band parted. It was apparently the sad passing of Teodoro in 2012 that sparked Cuccaro, Donnelly, and Crilly to begin talking musical things again, and with the addition of Matt Dupre, Sonick Plague reformed and set about re-recording their first offering.
Recorded at the legendary Carriage House Studios, the album quickly gets down to business with Street Wars. An alluring melodic entrance gives no indication of the sonic rioting to come but it does wake up ears and imagination nicely. Increasing its muscle and drama with every passing chord, riff, and spiky beat, the track eventually hits full steam, the vocals of Donnelly ripe with attitude and aggression. We are as many, not able to bring a comparison to the first version of the album but it is hard to imagine his delivery being any more potent first time around. Musically, with age and maturity involved, you can assume the release also has a richer and thicker body, and certainly the opener rumbles and grumbles as if old school thrash was a fresh proposition.
The great starts continues with My Gun, the throaty bass of Donnelly a great coaxing alongside the virulence of driving riffs and concussive swings cast by Dupre, Crilly, and Cuccaro respectively. Settling with an attack somewhere between a lively prowl and an all-out charge, the track bites and snarls whilst a solo lights the air. Of course we have heard this all before in many ways, but from those coming after and being inspired by Sonick Plague and the bands around them in the eighties, and a great many of them definitely labour to make the same highly satisfying assaults as the reworked but undiluted proposals offer on this release.
Both AA and I Don’t Want to Relax churn up air and the senses, the first with a rabid nagging of riffs and crisp beats led by the grouchy tones of Donnelly, and its successor through its military and Celtic teased imagination. The second of the two is pure anthem, enslaving from its opening contagious moments to and across a ravenous landscape of psychotic grooves and quarrelsome riffing speared by rhythms as hellacious as they are viciously precise. The track is thrash bred but simply rock ‘n’ roll in its most irresistible form, and easily our favourite, and probably the best track on the album, despite many challengers. Its punkish character also adds to the anarchic glory before making way for the crushing yet infectiously tempting turbulence of View of Death and straight after the middle finger growl of One Swift Kick. Each keeps body and appetite greedy, the first with its predatory and unrelenting gnawing at the senses and the second courtesy of a deliciously bestial bass sound and another scourge of heavy niggling riffs and contagion spilling grooves; the mesmeric melodic oasis deep into its tempest is pretty juicy too. The track stands aside I Don’t Want to Relax as the pinnacles of the album, each the perfect invitation to newcomers to Sonick Plague past and present.
The pair of Misc Bullshit, with its classic metal hued enterprise within another savaging embrace, and finally NRG brings the album to a great close. The last track simply brawls with the listener vocally and musically, leaving no attitude coated stone unturned in its tenacious and uncompromising carnage, and both songs again showing plenty of accomplished and inventive touches not always fuelled by hostility.
As mentioned we cannot say how much the songs have changed during their re-recording etc. but there is no denying the unfussy but skilled craft and technical ability set loose. This is certainly an album in many ways you already know thanks to those who have followed over the years employing the sounds Sonick Plague and their like inspired originally. It is going to be interesting how the band’s new songs shape up, but easy to suspect they will also offer a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
Sonick Plague is available now digitally via Pavement Music and on CD @ https://squareup.com/market/sonickplague/sonick-plague-cd