February 10th, 1989.
Visiting his local record store after another depressing week at school, a long-haired teenager who may or may not be this writer thinks about purchasing the debut album by UK thrashers Acid Reign. After inspecting the song titles and confirming with a satisfied nod that everything appears to be suitably metal, money is handed over and the tape goes straight into a cheap portable cassette player.
As he steps outside, music is suddenly replaced by the sound of chomping jaws and the band singing “you never know when the nibbles will strike”, an advertising jingle for a popular brand of peanut. Momentarily forgetting his public location, the surprised teenager bursts out laughing. Not just a quiet chuckle, but an explosive guffaw which seems to echo into forever as fifty shoppers turn their heads in slow motion curiosity. With no escape route available, the embarrassed individual simply points to his headphones and offers: “Acid Reign”. A two-word explanation understood by literally no-one but himself.
Becoming a permanent fixture on the stereos of many thrashers for years, The Fear, and its garishly pink and appropriately titled follow-up Obnoxious (Under One Flag) helped cement Acid Reign as one of the finest exponents of UK thrash. Unfortunately, though, things didn’t last and in ’91 the band split.
For years, singer Howard ‘H’ Smith took delight in sadistically disappointing fans hopeful of a reunion. In 2014, however, he eventually relented, but due to the unavailability of his old gang, it was obvious that a reboot rather than a reunion was required. It didn’t take long for things to fall into place though, and now, twenty-nine years since their last studio release, The Age of Entitlement (Dissonance Productions) is finally upon us.
Opening with the title track, a chunky two minute instrumental, the album kicks off properly with the rip-roaring fuck you of ‘The New Low’. Bearing all the hallmarks of classic Acid Reign, the pounding rhythms and face-melting riffs come thick and fast, imbued with a clear sense of melody as H’s harsh, strident vocals sound better than ever. ‘#NewAgeNarcissist’ is an upbeat thrashfest full of jagged, chainsaw riffs and hooks so meaty they could be sold at your local butcher’s. The punk as fuck ‘My Peace of Hell’ sounds like Anthrax on steroids and that continues with the Thrash’n’Roll of ‘Blood Makes Noise’.
‘Sense of Independence’ is an intense blur of riffs and speed one moment, but melodic and controlled the next, while arguably the record’s standout moment, ‘Hardship’ blends maturity, melody, and fierce and determined aggression. Based on The Evil Dead, ‘Within the Woods’ is a wonderfully horrific cut, as vintage thrashery co-exists with prog-influenced melody. There’s no time for any such progressive hued interludes on the fast, furious, and entirely self-explanatory ‘Ripped Apart’, and the album closes on the scathing ‘United Hates’, a song seething with vitriol and bitterness which stays with you long after the album has ended.
Bristling with raw energy and youthful vitality (no mean feat for someone approaching his fiftieth birthday) H and his band of northern miscreants have not only created a record worthy of their status in UK thrash history, but – and as much as some might consider this heresy – The Age of Entitlement might genuinely be the band’s finest release to date.