Following the re-release last year of VIO-LENCE's "Oppressing the Masses", this reissue brings the long-scarce debut album, "Eternal Nightmare", back into print, and adds on a 2001 live show as a bonus disc. While VIO-LENCE is chiefly known today as the starting point for Robb Flynn (and now Phil Demmel) of MACHINE HEAD, they've always been praised and exalted by fans of the second wave of Bay Area thrash metal, maintaining a strong cult following in the years since their demise.
No discussion of VIO-LENCE can ignore vocalist Sean Killian — easily one of the weirdest singers in thrash. His high-pitched, atonal, rollicking ranting style is the very definition of "love it or hate it," but it can't be denied that his crazyman uniqueness set the band apart from the glutted scene of the day. For those of us in the "love it" category, "Eternal Nightmare" offered up mean, speedy asskickers like "T.D.S. (Take It As You Will)", as well as angry midtempo riff-fests like "Calling In the Coroner". Truth be told, VIO-LENCE was never an innovator, but their volatile attitude and the sheer sardonic anger they could stuff into every song made them a top-tier outfit almost from the start. And they rarely got credit for their musicianship — drummer Perry Strickland in particular could always be counted on for a crushing performance.
Though "Oppressing the Masses" is more polished, pissed-off and ultimately memorable, many VIO-fans still hold the more raw aggression of "Eternal Nightmare" as their favorite. It's hard to argue with the unrelenting ferocity of "Kill on Command" and "Serial Killer", and the sheer off-the-rails clatter of the title track is exhilarating — it sounds like the band is just gonna fall apart at any moment, Protools be damned, too much echo on the backing vocals, Strickland flailing away madly, Killian raving off key like a demented carnival barker, Flynn and Demmel taking extended solos. Like I said, they weren't the first, or even the best, but they definitely hold a place of honor in the thrash canon.
The bonus CD contains the band's second 2001 reunion gig, after a triumphant appearance at the Chuck Billy benefit show Thrash of the Titans. If your only exposure to VIO-LENCE live recordings has been the shitty-sounding tracks that close out "Torture Tactics", these dozen songs should knock you on your ass — the band sounds vicious and hungry, Killian is spitting and snarling as only he can, and the song selection (going clear back to mid-'80s demo track "Paraplegic"!) is inspired. (This show is supposedly slated for release on DVD in the future as well.)
With original pressings of "Eternal Nightmare" going for $50 or more, this reissue would be a welcome sight even as a single CD. Add the bonus disc and you've got yourself a mandatory purchase for anyone who claims to be a thrash metal fan.