Whiplash - The Roadrunner Years [Dissonance Productions/ Cherry Red - 2022]
The Roadrunner Years is a three-disc CD set bringing together the three 1980 albums from New Jersey Thrash metal project Whiplash. Featured here we have 1986’s Power And Pain, 1987’s Ticket To Mayhem, and 1989’s Insult To Injury. With the sound going speeding mayhem, to varied-paced material, and more formal fare.
The three-disc set appears on Dissonance Productions- which is part of the Cherry Red family of labels. It comes presented in a glossy eight-panel black digipak- underneath each of the CDs we find the original album art. The set comes presented with a sixteen-page inlay booklet- this features a good selection of band pictures, lo-fi posters, and release cover artwork. It also features a new nine-page write-up about the band and the release by metal/ punk writer Ian Glasper.
Whiplash were formed in Passaic, New Jersey in the year 1984. The original line-up took in Tony Portaro- guitar & lead vocals, Tony Scaglione- drums and Tony Bono- bass. The band released a handful of demos in 1984, and these went down well in the worldwide tape trading scene. They also had a track on mid 80’s Thrash metal comp Speed Metal Hell- and this along with a few other things lead to them signing with Roadrunner.
The band’s first album was 1986’s Power And Pain- this featured a crude cartoon-like cover of a man having his head crushed by a metal robot hand, and its most fitting image as the album is a nine-track rush for manic and battering Thrash/ speed metal- which never really slows down or lets up. The album comes in at a tight 34.45, and we go from the speeding and roughshod gallop of “Stage Dive” which is topped with Portaro’s rasping shout, and neat NWOBH soloing. We have the baying ‘n’ chugging riff craft rush of “Message In Blood” with some nicely spat ‘n’ hissed vocalising. There’s the rapid head banging gallop meets spiralling guitar tone bay of “Power Trash Death”. Or the album’s play out “Nailed To The Cross” with its roughly ripped shouty vocals, gunning pace, and scorching solo lines. As Thrash metal debut albums go Power And Pain is a rough ‘n’ ready affair- which feels like it’s more influenced by both the more crude ‘n’ speeding euro Thrash metal scene & NYC hardcore punk
Next is 1987’s Ticket To Mayhem- this is ten track affair, that still comes in fairly neat ‘n’ tidy at runtime of thirty-seven and a half minute, though it’s bookend by rather naff meant-to moody sound effect intro/ outro tracks. The album varies in pace/ tone slight more too- so it’s not all hell for Thrash speed. As we have the building from clean acoustic guitar and roughly wailing vocals, to looping bass purred gallop of “Last Nail In The Coffin”. Or the spiritly clean meets smarting drums almost jigging instrumental “Spiral Of Violence”. But of course, we also get the speeding/ Thrash side things too- we have “Drowning In Torment” with its switches between meaty chugging and speed malevolence. There’s the galloping and messy rush of “Snake Pit” with its great spitting and rasps vocal chorus, and seriously sped-up blue-rock fills. As follow-ups go Ticket To Mayhem is respectable enough, and it’s good to see the band trying to spread their sonic wings a little more. Though it does lack the appealing rough ‘n’ ready mayhem of the first album, which is kind of ironic with the album's title.
Finally, we have 1989’s Insult To Injury- this was a ten-track affair, which slides in at just under the thirty-eight-minute mark. And unfortunately what we have here is an extremely run-of-the-mill Thrash metal record. Throughout the riffs are so generic, the song craft, in general, is so predictable, and but worse of all Portaro’s rough vocal rasp has gone, to be replaced with blander Hetfield-like singing & dull power metal mids to highs. It really feels like an album lacking its own identity, edge and spark which is such a pity after the first two albums. In the mid to late 1990’s the band put out another three albums, as well as a 2009 comeback- but after this album, I can’t see myself checking those out I’m afraid…unless they see the band getting their roughshod spark back again.
In finishing it’s great to have this three-disc set-out, and certainly the first two albums highlight a Thrash/ speed metal band full of energy, punch, and aggression. If like me you’re an ageing metal head, who misses the days of bedroom headbanging- then this is for you, just don’t expect much from the last disc in the set.Roger Batty