What if Chernobyl happened in the Texan desert and the inevitable nuclear winter was really a nuclear summer under the arid desert heat? Well, in addition to your earbuds, get your hazmat suits on because Gammacide’s 1989 LP is the perfect soundtrack for the inevitable radioactive fallout.
Gammacide was one of the numerous up-and-coming ‘80s thrash groups that was washed out by the explosion of ‘90s grunge and mainstream metal. Travel with me to a very secluded part of the metal universe and discover this hidden gem like I had the pleasure of doing a couple of months ago.
Gammacide formed in Texas in 1986 and were just another group of angsty teens inspired by bigger metal groups like Metallica and Slayer. The group of five were fairly active during their short five-year career as they released two demos, a full-length LP, and were even featured on a local metal compilation called “Thrash Metal Attack II” in 1988 which showed off metal tracks from ten different underground bands. While the members were dedicated and worked hard to achieve success, they sadly couldn’t due to the decreasing popularity of thrash metal at the time.
In 2016 their record label released a compilation of all their work in the “Contamination: Complete” boxset which is the record that I will be discussing below. While the original release had nine tracks totalling just over 33 minutes, the 2016 complete release features 15 tracks, totalling an hour and seven minutes of pure ‘80s thrash. I’d actually argue that the demo tracks added later on, most of which come from the band’s 1991 demo of new music following the release of Victims of Science, are actually better songs in comparison to the LP’s original tracklist. This fact is somewhat depressing as the group’s newer material showed promise for their future that was shattered by the band’s dissolution towards the end of 1991.
The complete release itself is phenomenal, which is why I am writing this article. The lyrical themes present on the album revolve around environmentalism and issues concerning a newfound nuclear fallout with a resulting lawless land. For those familiar with the Fallout video game series, Victims of Science is a perfect representation of that popular nuclear catastrophe theme. With that being said, the members of Gammacide lived within the time of real nuclear fear, as the Cold War from 1945-1991 caused significant public cause for concern regarding the imminent threat of nuclear catastrophe.
The culmination of the tracks on Victims of Science really demonstrate the fears people had back then in concern to a radioactive fallout, and the band members add a futuristic twist to this potential scenario. Songs like “Gutter Rats”, “Endangered Species”, and “Fossilized” set the stage for the future of a radioactive fallout and what it means for us mere humans. The onslaught of guitars, drums, and barking vocals paint the scene…
Civilization is destroyed. Few remain, and those lucky enough to live are left to scavenge the radioactive plains of the Texan desert for supplies and nourishment. The sun beats down on your slim body and you pass skeletal remains scattered across the desert, halfway poking through the mounds of sand that have piled up over the bodies. You turn to the nearby gutter which has been removed of all moisture as a result of its vulnerability to the scorching sun. Mutated rats scour the concrete surface of any remaining nourishment to be found within radioactive trash lying around the streets. You are forced to transmogrify into a rat yourself as you collapse to the ground in the search for any supplies you can come across on your journey. Gammacide is a hell of a drug.
Some of the album’s more sophisticated tracks use this dystopian scenario to highlight societal problems which will presumably only fester and multiply within a lawless society. “Vapour Lock” depicts personal sentiments of feeling static and stuck while an ever-moving world flies around you, while my two personal favourites, “Sex Cult” and “Walking Plague”, discuss the problematic nature of modern sexual availability and a subsequently ill-fed desire.
“Sex Cult” highlights issues of the desensitising nature of modern pornography, as teenagers like the musicians writing this album have a wide availability to this specific form of entertainment. This then causes subsequent issues regarding overconsumption and a lack of sexual desire outside of the realm of porn. The song describes a crazed sex-cult that mimics the apocalyptic nature of the post-nuclear world with their interest in increasingly horrific sex acts.
The band proficiently uses the interesting album theme to highlight prevalent issues within modern society while putting an entertaining twist on their delivery. While other comparable ’80s thrash bands enjoy discussing political and social themes, they tend to do it in a very straightforward manner and the style can get old. Although Gammacide doesn’t completely stray away from that classic thrash aesthetic, they put a unique twist on the subgenre which makes the record an enjoyable listen.
I managed to write 800 words about a music album without talking about the actual instrumentation…
The release is exceptionally mixed and features an outstanding use of all instruments. The most redeemable factor of the record is the lead guitar work during the prominent solo sections and just generally throughout the album. The solos are weird and diverse, but they fit snuggly within the chaotic nature of the record.
The riffs are also very groovy and the band manages to deliver a fluid mix of mid-paced segments coupled with those fast and ripping thrash sections that we all know and love.
Victims of Science is just a great thrash record that stands out because of its uniqueness and diverse instrumentation. Although the band broke up and can’t fully relish within this statement, I believe that it is one of the best ‘80s thrash records out there. Give it a spin.