Bitter End were one of a great number of thrash metal signings who managed to spew forth a single album before dissembling into near oblivion. The members have managed to land stints in other bands, including vocalist/guitarist Matt Fox's current gig with the great California band Holy Terror, but this unfortunate creation has been consigned to the dust of obscurity, despite the fair level of exposure they had through Metal Blade Records. In particular, I picked up the album on the strength of the track "Sex and Death", which had some groove to it that reminded me of Megadeth circa 1986-1990, quite a lot actually. Even the way the vocals are phrased often reminds one of Dave Mustaine, though the voice itself is a little more gruff and goofy (not "Sweating Bullets" goofy, mind you).
Though they were hardly clowns, and the lyrics had some meaning to them, I'd consider Bitter End more of a 'fun' thrash than anything truly serious, and part of this is the band's constant reliance on silly sounding vocal hooks as you find in "Guilty (Until Proven Innocent)" or "Beat the System". The thick bass presence and the use of the fast paced, crisp and grooving guitar rhythms show a lot of potential, and the solos are often very bluesy and rock and roll fueled. It's really just the vocals of Fox that drag it under the margin, because they just don't sound hard enough to really do the riffing any justice. I realize the guy is also playing guitar, and quite well, but his microphone musings really walk the line between lame and uninspired, and it's almost impossible to displace their corniness and hone in straight on the music.
It's a shame, because the rampant thrashing bridge of "Beat the System", the flowing, crashing rhythms of the title track, and the desperate, choppy surge of "Waiting for Death" are all pretty good guitar-wise. "Sex and Death" is a pretty great song all around, vocals included, because the vocals have just enough anger and sparsity to not drive the listener insane. The hammering speed that closes "Living Hell" is also quite worthy, with some nice leads and speed licks, though it really brings to bear the band's Megadeth influence. The rest of the tracks are quite easily forgotten, though the riffs are never bad or boring; it's simply a matter of smothering the delicious cheese-fries or chicken wings in disgusting mayonnaise or pickle juice, the condiment here being Fox's treacherously weak delivery. The lyrics also blow.
Just say no to poverty
Just say no to misery
Just say no to Ronnie's wife
Just say yes to real life
These guys went on to produce a pair of demos beyond the album, but nothing important was really in the works for them. Matt Fox was actually once asked to join Alice in Chains, turning it down because this band was starting to take off. A noble decision that earns the man a lot of thrashing cred, but I bet he regrets it now! Anyhow, if you're up for some fun and mindless Seattle thrash with decent guitar riffs, competent leads and at least 2-3 songs that don't suck, Harsh Realities might be worth tracking down in a bargain bin. I wouldn't be opposed to using "Sex and Death" in a compilation, but this is not a particular favorite of mine and I rarely return to it other than research or nostalgia for average things.
Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10]