We Americans have an overly simple idea of what Ireland is all about, but it’s about damn time we open our eyes and see it for what it really is — an island nation of thrash metal. And that’s in large part thanks to Gama Bomb and the two decades of ripping tunes they’ve been putting out over the years.
Tomorrow, the boys from Newry are dropping the band’s eighth studio album titled Bats. We’ve already covered their single “Speed Funeral” and the Lazarus-like resurrection their mascot Snowy The Gamabominable Snowman experienced. But what about the rest of the album?
Thankfully, we got vocalist Philly Byrne to not only break down each track on the new record, but we’ve also secured our readers a first listen of the entire album, so you can check out the track while you read what went into the music.
“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this album – almost a year of our lives. We’re proud of how eccentric, complex and ambitious it is, and how damn catchy the riffs are. We hope you love it just as much as we do. See you on the road!”
So without any further distraction, here’s the Artist Breakdown of Gama Bomb’s new album, Bats.
Prologue: Under The Pyramids
Philly Byrne (vocals): We took a pretty maximalist approach to the opening song Egyptron, adding a piece here, an idea there, until eventually it was built brick-by-brick into a crazy power metal epic complete with a big soundscape introduction. When it came time to submit the album, we realised the song and prologue needed to be separated for streaming purposes and Under The Pyramids was born – it’s a sound collage that sets up the mighty Egyptron. Domo assembled this piece and I just fell about laughing when I first heard it – it’s so full of futuristic noises and of course, has a few snippets from The Egyptian Lover in there too.
The track is named after the short story by H.P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini, written in 1924 as a promotional piece for Houdini – it’s written as though it’s a true story about him, getting lost in a cavernous world under the pyramids of Giza. It’s a great piece of novelty writing.
Philly: This song started as many of ours do, with a title. I couldn’t believe nobody had ever used the name Egyptron before, so I leapt at it. Joe had a snippet of music that sounded like Iron Maiden but had no idea what to do with it, which fit my draft lyrics perfectly. The song practically leapt into existence from there, and was a real joy to write and record.
It’s a sprawling epic about a giant robotic pharaoh returning from the underworld to re-conquer Egypt in the modern day, what’s not to like about that?
What first came up in conversation as an idle daydream became real on this one – we contacted hip hop and electro veteran The Egyptian Lover, asked if he might cameo on the track as the Egyptron himself, and he said yes. We’ve been big fans of Egypt’s music for years, so to have him collaborate in such a laid-back, very positive way has been a dream. His rap is so smooth, and he took the whole thing with great humour.
Living Dead In Beverly Hills
Philly: This song took a long, long time to reach its final form. The music was written by our guitarist JR and underwent a lot of revisions in terms of lyrics. I was determined to match the aggressive lyrics with angry political content and wrote lyrics about white people’s lack of perception of their own role in perpetuating racism in the west, but the lads wouldn’t go for it. They felt I was Americanising the concept in a way that seemed inauthentic, kinda talking like I could understand racial politics in a country where I don’t live.
After a lot of back and forth I had to concede they had a point and changed gears, picking up some lyrics I wrote around the time of Sea Savage about Death Becomes Her, one of my favourite movies as a kid. This track has one of the best solos on the whole album, a spooky kinda atonal screeching thing by JR. It’s pure atmosphere and the kind of basic noisy guitar playing you can only manage when you’re a master of shred. We may have lost the message of the track but we gained a lot of camp and fun, and a very catchy song.
Philly: This song pushes the boat out a lot for Gama Bomb – it’s a complex, galloping, Mexican-tinged track that pays tribute to Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy. It’s not a thrasher at all, rather a new sound for us. My great grandmother was born in America in the 19th century and the role of Irish people in the old West has always fascinated me, as has the plight of First Nations people at that time. Plus, Irish people have this big soft spot for cowboy stories and the romance of ‘Americkay’ so writing a cowboy song was really appealing. Recording it, for me, was super tough though. I did over 300 vocal takes to find the right vibe and nail the many harmonies. It’s a sing-y one.
Rusted Gold is a story about an Irish gunslinger in the old west and has a spectacular dual guitar solo by JR and Domo, written to pay a big tribute to Lizzy. We’re all huge fans and it feels like we get to channel a little bit of their magic with this song.
Philly: Originally I had wanted to theme the whole album around the spiritualism craze of the 1920s, especially about how it had exploded in Ireland just as the country broke free from Britain and fell into civil war. That conflict led to the dominance of the Catholic church and a lot of the free-thinking and esotericism of the 20s being swept away, which is a great shame. It’s hard to believe that Dublin in the 20s was full of hippie spiritualists, jazz musicians, controversial writers and experimental artists and left-wing thinkers, given how conservative the country soon became.
Materialize came from that reading about spiritualism – it’s a spooky story about a seance gone wrong, with a lot of shrieking vocals. I was very inspired by James’ singing in Hellripper, a band I love, and wanted to prove I could sound like a demon with the rest of the biker jacket gang. So, thanks James!
Mask Of Anarchy
Philly: This is one of those songs that came together very easily. Joe wrote this banging punk song, and just as I was wondering what kind of lyrics should go on top of it, our old guitarist Luke sent me this link to the poem by Percy Shelley, like ‘Have you ever read this? It’d make a great basis for a song’. It was kinda fate, and felt like good juju to have Luke influence the decision as we’re still really close with all our former members. And wouldn’t you know it, the poem fits almost perfectly over the music.
It’s about non-violent resistance, and has a long history of being used in protest situations, including Tiananmen Square in 1989 and Egypt during the Arab Spring. We wanted to use the original words as accurately as possible to deliver a message about resisting violence and oppression with dignity and calm. We grew up surrounded by violence in Northern Ireland, so that’s a message that feels very powerful to us.
Don’t Get Your Hair Cut
Philly: A thrash song about people who were once right-on and progressive, but who grow rightwing and selfish as they age. In this song we say: it’s okay to call these people out – and to cut them out of your life, if you have to.
The riffs in this one have a bit of an Overkill vibe, it’s nasty and speedy. I reckon people will think it’s an old school GB track.
Philly: This one’s kinda Gama Bomb cosplaying as The Cult – it’s a short hard rock track. Lyrically, it’s a call-out on toxic people in the metal industry who bands must obey or appease to make a career for themselves – the ‘racist, sexist idiots who rule their tiny world’. We’ve met and dealt with a lot of these people over the years. The industry is small, so there’s nobody willing to call them out. I suppose the most we can do is write a catchy song about it, that’s something. This is one of the album’s biggest curveballs – a kind of song you don’t expect from us – but we’re really happy with it. It has a killer chorus.
Philly: This was the lead single because it’s really a classic Gama Bomb thrasher about being lashed to a rocket and blasted into space, post-mortem. Initially we didn’t plan to lead with this one, but there’s a certain logic to picking a song that people will expect and enjoy up front. The lyrics were written by me and Domo, a sort of wordplay mashup of Irish cliches around death, mixed with stuff about rockets, car racing and space travel. We laughed out loud a lot when putting this song together and it’s a joy to play live.
Philly: A catchy song about using science, logic and humanism to dismantle the toxic religious beliefs we’ve been programmed with since childhood. Also, a banger chorus in the vein of Faith No More – when we record these kind of vocals, we refer to them as ‘Pattitude’ because I’m just pretending to be Mike Patton, haha! When heavy metal songs are anti-religious, they usually blame the believer or follower of that religion for being weak, being a sheep, or whatever. I reckon that’s a very poor way to get people onside with your view of religion – offending them up front. This song says to believers hey, it’s not your fault – you likely were fed these beliefs as a child when you had no rational grasp of life and the world you live in, and it’s as easy as taking an objective view of the world and your beliefs to sever those ties – the kinda secular saw of the title. It’s a really upbeat, positive song about killing your religion, and I like that.
Bats In Your Hair
Philly: Gonna be honest — we wrote this song when we were very stoned. The demo was this unusual mix of Ugly Kid Joe, Judas Priest and Whitesnake that made us roar laughing every time we heard it, so it kept surviving successive rounds and made it onto the album. It’s a beautiful freak of a song that builds to a coda that’ll take you by surprise. This song sums up the whole spirit of the album – it’s accomplished and detailed music that doesn’t take itself seriously. There’s a journey here and we hope you enjoy the ride – honestly we loved making it, and anything that happens next is just a bonus.
The post Exclusive: Gama Bomb’s Philly Byrne Breaks Down the Thrash Metal Madness in <em>Bats</em> appeared first on MetalSucks.