Canadian prog-thrashers VARGA had a brief run from 1989 through the mid-Nineties, which is to say, they were doomed from the start for obvious reasons if you were paying attention to the North American music climate of that period. They released two albums, “Prototype” and “Oxygen” as well as their 1991 debut cassette, “Multiple Wargasms”, before packing it in. In 2011, the entire lineup of Joe Varga, Dan Fila, Sean Williamson and Adam Alex reunited and went back into their vaults with the purpose of releasing two scheduled albums bearing re-tooled material just now seeing the light of day, the first being “Enter the Metal”.
Listening to “Enter the Metal”, the listener is saturated by abundant chops, well-timed transitions and wads of thrash to chew on. The six song album is a product of the times the songs were originally conceived, which means it carries more than a few airs of ANNIHILATOR, ANVIL, MEGADETH and VOIVOD. The effect is so fluent, the chains planting into the skull inside “Enter the Metal”‘s packaging haunt of Vic Rattlehead. In other words, VARGA shamelessly yet proficiently stake who they are and where they come from.
The longer songs on “Enter the Metal”, “Gamera”, “Shark Attack” and “Plane Crash” sometimes wander (“Gamera”, mostly) and require the listener to absorb the note-flinging parts, randomly placed as they may be at times. At least “Plane Crash” sounds like a continuous terror dive, prolonged at eight nerve-wracking minutes. “Shark Attack” makes good use of “Rust in Peace”-era MEGADETH to send out tons of gusting shred, vying as a possible theme for the “Sharknado” sequel just getting ready to film. The best two tracks aside from “Shark Attack”, “Beginning of the End” and “No More Clean Air”, are focused juggernauts blending speed and power metal with excellent juxtaposition.
Joe Varga wields rapid, heavy bass picking and at times he sends out blower chunks in the vein of VOIVOD’s “Blacky” Theriault. On slower march patterns, Varga has a tendency to mimic Steve Harris, but he spreads himself into the whipping guitar lines of Sean Williamson and Adam Alex on the quicker parts and he’s lethal in response to them. Varga frequently summons Dave Mustaine vocal impersonations throughout the album, which is not much of an offense since his tones are sharp and seldom over-the-top.
The banging power drive of “No More Clean Air” will prompt automatic headbanging as VARGA takes up MEGADETH and NUCLEAR ASSAULT’s old environmental conscientiousness cause before beginning a succession of increasing tempos and scorching guitar solos. The payoff to “No More Clean Air” comes with a colossal thrash attack that any diehard will go wild over, especially once VARGA dashes on the layers before stripping it all back down to the original piledriving sequence.
Clamoring drum rolls from Dan Fila in the middle of “Plane Crash” remind of the late Gar Samuelson and his precise signature changes on “Enter the Metal” give VARGA all the flexibility they need to romp through most of their songs while dishing out metallic ear candy. The delicate note scales blossoming amidst the otherwise throwaway “Mad Scientist” maintains VARGA’s expertise of flair.
“Enter the Metal” is thus filled with hounding note scales, impressive shred and mostly well-harnessed mayhem sure to satiate any fan of classic metal. This album sounds like many you’ve heard from the late eighties, sure, but it’s done with such allegiance to some of the best of vintage American and Canadian metal, it’s an easy sell. Stand by in 2014 for VARGA’s next installment, “Return of the Metal”. Obviously these guys are Bruce Lee fanatics on top of monster junkies.