Friday, September 2, 2011

Bitter End - Have a Nice Death! (2011)

I'm not going to pull any punches and deceive the listener into the notion that Bitter End were anything more than an average thrash band for their day. They had a few chops, surely, and a refreshing level of energy and intensity which transfixed their Megadeth like riffing into the sincerity of their street level lyrical cred. But Harsh Realities, their sole full-length (1990) left quite a lot to be desired. It had the reek of potential if the band would have only wrought something less ultimately goofy. I'll still spin a handful of tracks from that disc when re-exploring my thrash collection, but the blunt and everyman vocals are something of a turn-off. Anyways, in abrupt consistency with most of the 80s underground, the Seattle group has decided to reform here and give it another shot.

Now, to be clear, Have a Nice Death! is NOT the long-awaited new Bitter End album you and a dozen other people might have been crossing fingers for. It's primarily an official pressing of a mini-album they recorded to follow up Harsh Realities, which had not previously seen the light of day. So the fact that it sounds so close to that debut makes a whole lotta sense. Tracks like "Tiny Minds" and "Burning Bridges" have that same hustle to them, with thin and spunky crisp guitars muting along in patterns redolent of Rust in Peace, only far simpler in construction. The vocals sound exactly the same here, sort of a half-way between Hetfield and Mustaine, and the individual guitars aren't bad as far as their level of aggression and consistency. The leads are actually decent throughout, in particular when they open "Tiny Minds". You can picture yourself in the late 80s banging heads to "Sludge" in between your Gothic Slam and M.O.D. records, but there's really just not more to it than that smiling breath of nostalgia...

However, while the core of this release is not even on par with Harsh Realities, the guys have decided to round out this package for the longstanding fans who remember and celebrate their once and future existence. They've incorporated the entire Meet Your Maker demo (1988) in its original form, even though the songs are comparable as they appeared on the full-length. And lastly, they've included a quartet of live tracks from a summer 1990 performance in Seattle. Three of the selections hail from the EP this release is based upon, but they also play "Profits of Doom" from the debut. The vocals sound a little choppy and muffled, the overall recording sort of airy and inconsistent, but you definitely do feel like you're in the back row at some retrofit garage club in the 80s, or perhaps listening from across a field. And what's more, the band should be lauded for releasing something this complete, even if its to such a limited niche of admirers.

The bottom line: if you worship Harsh Realities like the underground gem that it's not-exactly, then you will have absolutely no obstacle getting into this. If not, then your opinion is unlikely to sway, with the caveat that newcomers to Bitter End are better off checking out the debut, since there are better songs present. I've never been a big fan, really, but at least it's cool to note that they care enough about the music that they desire another round.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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