Take a look at that cover art. Look at it again. One more time. If you are left with any uncertainty whatsoever as to the kind of heavy metal album that Sonic Pulse has released, then you simply are being myopic.
Heavy metal cover art has seen some small evolutions over the years, but these are mainly cosmetic, as the iconography has bent and waved to the whim of culturally pleasing aesthetics in the moment. What remains paramount is that metal cover art must, by genre-dictated norm, conform to one of four principles:
1) Heavy-handed demonic imagery
2) Heavy-handed dystopian or world-destructive imagery
3) Heavy handed imagery celebrating the tenets of metal: those being wine, women, violence, song, manliness and naturally, metal itself.
4) Depictions of desolate landscapes and the plains of mysterious, dark adventure (caveat: Scandinavians only.)
Sonic Pulse has clearly cast their lot in group 3, and done so in the most idiosyncratic fashion we’ve witness in some time. A scantily clad, impossibly endowed woman protects caskets of frothy ale while preparing to beat back the dark hordes with the righteous power of her guitar-axe. Gripping stuff, really. Could there be any doubt as to what the album beneath it all contains?
Sonic Pulse, hailing from Massachusetts, do their damndest to continue the tradition of thrash in the mid-eighties, stuffed to all angles with solos, choral cries to what would be an engaged audience, and bravado well-heeled in the machismo of thrash gone before. This is time-warped Exodus or Anthrax from roughly 1988; celebrating all that made metal excess great while ignoring any pretense toward preachy subtexts, bloviated threats or words of societal caution.
As if you needed more evidence of the alcohol-fueled mayhem that permeates the soul of Sonic Pulse’s debut record “Lager Than Life,” simply listen to the first track. It’s a wonderful retread of an old idea, the same one that stirred Iron Maiden to pen “Iron Maiden” and Black Sabbath to name themselves after “Black Sabbath.” As an introductory piece, “Sonic Pulse” is more literal than those two forerunners, but still accomplishes the task of informing the world who this band is and what they mean to achieve. Lyrics aside, the musical statement, beginning with the wild, untamed guitar solo, makes all the impression that it needs to.
If you’re a person who prefers their music to sound factory stamped and tuned to pitch-perfection, stay away. The production of “Lager Than Life” is thin at best (and that’s being slightly kind) and only those who prefer that their music sound like it was recorded in a trash can will truly appreciate the echo-y nature of it all.
Furthermore, this record is short. Really short. If you take away the two very solid covers of songs originally by Demoniac and Gammy Ray, what you’re left with is one introductory song, two songs about beer, a track called “Bong Zombies” and a ninety second kicker. Not a ton of substance.
It would be nice to hear Sonic Pulse inject some more of themselves into their next effort, rather than relying on covers and throwaways to fill out a record. That said, “Lager Than Life” may not be transcendent, but is very good, quite enjoyable for the time that is runs through your speakers. Frankly, it’s a similar but better record to Tankard’s most recent release. Anyone with a few extra bucks and a genuine love for the bombastic, carefree party thrash of old would do well to take a listen to Sonic Pulse, with an eye toward the future.