I had the pleasure of chatting with three-fourths of SoCal thrashers ATTACKHEAD back in early November: guitarist George Portoulas, bassist Eddie "Munster" Ellis plus guitarist/vocalist (and sole original member) Mark Chapman. Of the topics we discussed off-the-cuff, we touched upon the red tape underground heavy metal acts such as ATTACKHEAD endure from the military in order to perform free shows for the troops, which this band has done on numerous occasions. Despite certain hurdles ATTACKHEAD has weathered, they've entertained American forces at the Fort Irwin National Training Center, the U.S. Naval base in Ventura County, California, the Marine Base at 29 Palms, the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona and the Ontario, California USO.
ATTACKHEAD is also a big supporter of melanoma research and five percent of their merchandise revenue goes to the Melanoma Research Foundation. Mark Chapman, a former police officer, led his band to the Rock Harvest II Festival in White Marsh, Maryland for the Fallen Blue charity organization where we met. Chapman was candid in our discussion about his experiences in law enforcement, vividly describing to me crime scenes that would make a viewing of "The Human Centipede" or "Cannibal Holocaust" a cakewalk. Those encounters are obviously personal to Chapman and I'll reserve his privacy, but suffice it to say, he remains haunted by those gory sights today. They perhaps explain why ATTACKHEAD is so fierce, in their lyrics and in the execution of their old-school-styled brand of thrash.
"Voices in the Dark" was originally recorded in 2008 then re-recorded in 2011 with two new songs for the Twisted Hillbilly label. Since then, "Voices in the Dark" has resurfaced on vinyl and now once more as a custom red LP.
While "Voices in the Dark" has been scrutinized by the press in its various incarnations, the transfer to vinyl does its material proper justice. Bearing a classic vibe of mosh, thrash, punk and power metal modes, ATTACKHEAD smartly dickers with their signatures and transitions to keep their music stimulating. Mark Chapman's vocal ranges tend to hit between NUCLEAR ASSAULT's John Connelly and SLAYER's Tom Araya, though he's neither in full. Tagging his guitar with George Portoulas, both men are highlighted on "Voices in the Dark" and get the full benefit of the mix. In previous versions of "Voices in the Dark", the common gripe has been that the guitars were pushed so far to the front that Eddie Ellis and drummer Steve Cordero became secondary.
Not so the case on this red vinyl edition. All players are prominent now and listeners should be able to hear Ellis picking and plunking (his torqueing lulls on "Blame" being one of the best examples), while Steve Cordero's blitzing parts come raging forward, especially on "Possessed" and his rolling intro for "Blame".
While much of "Voices of the Dark" is thrust into a speed zone (i.e. "Lead the Blind", "Infected", "Possessed", "Dark Ritual" and "Waste of Life"), there are variations and transitions throughout most of the songs that makes it a pleasurable listen. While Chapman and Portoulas represent the band's front, it's their tightness aside from their ripping solos that rings best. Showing hints of METAL CHURCH in the opening moments and later on a rhythmic bounce groove during "Infected", the riffs are tight as the tempos range from mosh to thrash. Afterwards, "Rebirth" pounds away until reverting to a skate punk rhythm similar to SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. There's a somewhat softer, macabre interlude in the middle of "Rebirth" before the song hits the gas with increasing velocity.
"Make Me Suffer" has a handful of different shredding transitions in the first stanza alone before assuming a D.R.I. hardcore stomp, then ATTACKHEAD whips up a storm of speed and churning guitar solos. "Possessed" begins with a great set of sliding notes before Steve Cordero smacks the song into a galloping thrasher with excellent modifications to the thrashing bars during the solo section. On "Blame", ATTACKHEAD incorporates a classy, tempered bridge that acts as a sanity check to the restrained strumming that always threatens to hurtle away but stays checked down.
If you passed over these guys in the past, give the red vinyl version of "Voices in the Dark" a try. There's a lot more going on in their songwriting than they've been given credit for by other reviewers and with all the causes they support, you're probably doing someone a service aside from the band.