The Fear reviews
gasmask_colostomy on June 5th, 2017
Thrash was a funny thing, a mere flash in the pan movement that burnt itself out as quickly as the first waves of punk and black metal, yet like those other genres has remained a lifestyle for fans ever since. Acid Reign were rather out of that initial wave due to restrictions of time and place, breaking just as the initial surge of interest for the genre was beginning to wane, only releasing this first full-length album at the fag-end of the decade and breaking up after Obnoxious in 1991. Personally, I find it interesting how the British thrashers contained several members from the nascent Cathedral line-up despite the obvious evidence that the two groups had practically nothing in common musically or aesthetically. Here, Acid Reign align themselves with the socially conscious elements of thrash, while also playing a couple of jokes on the listener, not least the puerile (though admittedly amusing) intro track 'You Never Know (When the Nipples Will Strike)' - a joke that the title adequately explains.
As for the bulk of the music, anyone familiar with the words "Bay Area sound" should have little difficulty comprehending the environs of the content, though there are a couple of minor additions to spark the interest of experienced thrashers, as well as listeners from across the metal spectrum. As all good albums tend to, The Fear puts a typical song at the front of the running order, then succeeds to diverge from that template over the course of several more creative numbers. The style presented on 'Reflection of Truths' is heartfelt speedy riffing of the choppy variety accompanied by protracted squeals of guitar noise and whammy bar usage that reflect the movement of thrash into more heavy and technical waters, although the composition doesn't lose its melodic edge. As such, Slayer and Exodus were probably not the flavour of the month in Yorkshire when Acid Reign were writing The Fear, generally edging closer to Heathen or Anthrax depending on whether the section is complex or straightforward, as can be witnessed respectively on back to back songs 'Fear' and 'Blind Aggression'. These two also provide some of the less predictable jumping off points for the album, since the title track sprawls across a broad scope of tense, high register melodies, slower chugs, and even uneasy keyboard samples, while amidst the chugging and gang vocals of 'Blind Aggression' lurks the only riff (at 3:28) that really signals the future birth of Cathedral.
Therefore, the album has enough variety to recommend it to all but the staunchest of speedfreaks. The quality is decent too, without much misfiring in the riff department or any truly worrisome decisions regarding songwriting. The mix and production are fair for the year as well, although the chugging parts tend to scud along at lower definition than the airier lead guitar interjections, which comes as a result of the thick compression of rhythm guitar sounds and the rather scratchy bass that backs them up. Nevertheless, those upset by minor flaws in sound should heed the news that the character of that sound lends itself to the atmosphere of the release, creating a fairly grim ambiance over 'Life in Forms' and 'Fear' that belies all claims of Acid Reign being a joke band in the vein of Lawnmower Deth. The energy of the faster songs is heartening too, particularly how 'All I See' takes off at maddened intensity before settling into a mid-section that includes an unexpected trip into death metal picking styles and a skewed melodic movement, both of which show off the planning and chops of all three string players in addition to the ability of Mark Ramsay to fit everything together with his flexible drumming. The sparingly named H (really Howard Smith) might be viewed as the weak link, especially as his shouty style veers in the direction of Vio-lence's Sean Killian or a low-speed Phil Rind of Sacred Reich, though he keeps things together well enough not to let down his competent bandmates.
Admittedly a slightly odd mixture in the view of 1989, The Fear could certainly have been a minor success had the band had access to wider distribution and a more versatile singer. The curse of Acid Reign seems to have been the restriction of their full-lengths in terms of availability, since the UK was certainly not the biggest market for thrash, nor Japan, while the original release totally missed North America and much of mainland Europe. Had this been a worldwide release at the time, it's easy to imagine talking about The Fear in the same breath as Death Angel, Heathen, Testament, and Sabbat, one of the only British bands who experienced much recognition overseas. As for the present, this has been remastered and re-released in most territories, which should hopefully turn many metal fans onto a creative and enterprising treasure.
The Fear track list
|1||You Never Know (W.T.N.W.S.)||00:25|
|2||Reflection of Truths||05:39|
|7||Life in Forms||05:27|
|8||All I See||05:46|
|9||Lost in Solitude||05:55|
The Fear lineup
|H||Vocals, Vocals (backing)|
|Kev||Guitars, Vocals (backing)|
|Adam Lehan||Guitars, Vocals (backing)|
|Ian Gangwer||Bass, Vocals (backing)|
|Mark Ramsey||Drums, Keyboards, Vocals (backing)|