Crossing the Thrashold: Ramming Speed
You vagabonds want more thrash? Well here’s some thrash, and it’s going to thrash you so hard, you’ll wish it didn’t thrash you so hard. Full steam ahead with Ramming Speed.
I’ll readily admit that there are other writers ’round these parts that are much better informed about thrash than I, so I was surprised to find that very few people actually knew about Ramming Speed. The quintet has been globe-trotting for years now, building steam behind their two full-lengths and multiple EPs and splits with relentless touring. However, Ramming Speed have finally reached a certain level of stability, relocating to Richmond, Virginia and working with Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studios on their third full-length, No Epitaphs. So what can you expect from this hard-working young thrash band on their latest effort? To answer that, let’s look at where they’ve been.
Formed in Boston in 2005 and originally named Despotic Robot, the band gained attention for its work ethic and for combining elements of thrash, grind, and NWOBHM. However, Ramming Speed’s first full-length, Brainwreck, was a pretty by-the-numbers thrash release. The rhythm is driving and the riffs are headbanging (courtesy of guitarist Kallen Bliss), but it definitely sounds anchored in the thrash revivalism that was happening back in 2008. Pete Gallagher’s vocals especially sound more unpolished and restrained on this release. However, the punk and crossover influence of more established acts like Suicidal Tendencies and M.O.D. bleed through the cracks in the form of d-beat rhythms and unpredictable breaks, driven by drummer Jonah Livingston. Check out “Lazer Assault” to hear that cool DIY vibe. Brainwreck is definitely a serviceable, if not brilliant note in the re-emerged thrash scene and should appeal to fans of the more hardcore side of the genre.
The band’s second full-length, Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die saw the band increase their sonic palette considerably with the addition of guitarist Snake Chuffskin (of Concussion) and bassist Ben Powell (who replaced guitarist Ricky Zampa and bassist Derek Cloonan, respectively). Listening to Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die gives the impression that the band finally melded into a cohesive unit with a unified creative vision. This equates into an increased focus on the crossover side of the thrash equation for this release, not dissimilar to fellow thrashers Iron Reagan. In fact, many of the tracks, such as the blistering “Gorgon’s Eye” have an almost grindcore energy to them, with rhythms alternating between double-bass assaults and crusty d-beats with nary a hitch. The riffs continue to bring the mosh and are enhanced by a new, more guttural vocal style. Overall, Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die sounds like a band proving itself and finding a good balance between its influences and its own vision. Check out the title track to hear what I mean.
No Epitaphs sees Ramming Speed fully embracing the crossover thrash style while injecting new elements to craft a, dare I say it, fun album. Ramming Speed have always written catchy, headbanging tracks, but with their new-found stability and confidence, they seem to have stepped up the party mosh ethos on this album. Everything sounds bigger and brighter, accentuated by the band’s adventurous guitar acrobatics. Tracks like “The Life We Choose” feature huge dueling guitar harmonies and massive riffs, while “Beasts of Labor” sports one of the slickest of all six-string techniques, the too-oft neglected divebomb. “Horns of War” even has a guest solo by Kurt Ballou himself. However, the guitar theatrics aren’t the only parts of these songs that will get you smiling and spin-kicking in your garage. Almost every song features punky gang vocals, and it’s nearly impossible to not find yourself shouting “Brick by brick!” during the chorus of “Walls”. However, don’t think for a second that the band has lost its edge. The sewer-scraping grind vocals return, and they’re used to terrific effect to accentuate that warm bass and buzzsaw tone. In the end, No Epitaphs improves on everything its predecessors did and manages to make it still sound fun. Check out the two already-released tracks below and try not to headbang.
As I said, the band has a number of other releases worth tracking down, most notable of which is the Tankcrimes split with A.N.S. You can download that for any price over at Bandcamp (or stream below). Go give Ramming Speed a like on Facebook and tell them the Toilet said “‘Sup.”
No Epitaphs comes out on September 4th via Prosthetic Records.