The Curse Of Martha Splatterhead
posted on 9/2009 By:
The Accused’s debut The Return Of Martha Splatterhead was an important record in my extreme metal history—I can still remember exactly where and when I bought it, although I admit that I was behind the times and that the purchase was made in 1992, six years after the record’s initial release. At that time, Return was like nothing Fifteen-Year-Old Me had ever heard—neither thrash nor punk, but somewhere right between, frantic and chaotic and brilliant beneath Blaine Cook’s chattering vocals and goofy b-movie lyrics. Coincidentally, my belated purchase of Return coincided roughly with the band’s first break-up. Reuniting in 2003 after a decade-long hiatus, these crossover pioneers released the acclaimed Oh, Martha!, and then promptly three-quarters of the band departed again, this time to form Toe Tag, a move that left only guitarist Tommy Niemeyer to carry on the legend of Ms. Splatterhead.
Flash forward to now, and this (mostly) new version of The Accused has dropped their first full-length post-post-reunion-split. While old-school fans may be turned off by the thought of the band sans Cook’s charismatic choked yelps, no one interested in the band or in crossover thrash should be disappointed in The Curse Of Martha Splatterhead. Stylistically, this one’s right in line with previous efforts, following the blueprint of the band’s self-defined "splatter-rock": frantic punk-fuelled riffage; fast and manic songs that tend to avoid conventional verse-chorus structure; performances that are always one step away from complete collapse and all the more exhilarating for it. Admittedly, Curse does nothing to move the band in any direction, and it does feel a bit less immediate than its predecessors (it lacks a standout track like "Wrong Side Of The Grave"). Nonetheless, overall, this is a solid release, even if it is a holding pattern. These songs are mostly strong, although somewhat same-y, riding on the quality of Niemeyer’s riffs and Brad "B.R.A.D." Mowen’s array of shrieks, growls, and grunts. (Mowen deserves some praise: as I listened to Curse, knowing that Blaine Cook was gone, I honestly didn’t miss him as much as I thought I would—a surprise considering how integral his vocals were to The Accused’s sound and style.) The production is predictably ragged and raw. Mike Peterson’s snare drum sounds hollow, almost wooden, which is an approach I’ve never learned to fully embrace, but that’s my only sonic complaint.
You should know what The Accused sounds like, since they pretty much define crossover, but for those not in the know, picture Slayer / Kreator thrash and Minor Threat / Discharge punk all diced up and thrown together, with dashes of early grind and crust and everything that this hybrid sub-genre begat. The tempos on hand are largely furious, but The Accused has sense enough to vary their attack in places, with a scant few moments of slowness to break up the pace. Tracks like album opener "The Splatterbeast" rage and roil, but those like "Festival Of Flesh" and closing highlight "Splatter Rock II" tread in a mid-tempo groove that lumbers instead of careens. (Thankfully, the band avoids undertaking any cover tunes like the abominable reworking of Ten Years After’s "I’d Love To Change The World" that cropped up in the middle of 1987’s Martha Splatterhead’s Maddest Stories Ever Told.)
As we all know, thrash has experienced a resurgence in the last few years, with the likes of Municipal Waste and such releasing records heavily indebted to bands like The Accused. It’s always good when the old guard comes back to challenge the youngsters, and while Curse isn’t as killer as the highest spots of The Accused’s catalog, it’s a fun listen for fans and a worthy acquisition for thrashers both new and old.
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