Canadian lunatics Varga take late ’80s thrash to a lab and go ‘mad scientist’ on it with some very interesting results.
Blending familiar sounds from the heavyweights of the thrash genre with the intelligence of various prog legends is a brave and fairly eclectic move, but does it work?
Formed in 1989, Varga were naturally influenced by the most prominent musicians in the metal genre at the time, which is immediately apparent the moment you hit play. As soon as Joe Varga’s sneering vocals tear into the opening track Beginning Of The End you’re transported straight back to the glory days of Metallica and Megadeth, Varga doing a fantastic job of emulating the down picked aggression, riff density, high speed pace and anarchic attitude of both bands.
The similarities to Megadeth abound as you work through the album and come across the incredible lead work and intelligent, agile riffage that makes up the densely packed and thoughtfully arranged tracks. These similarities, while very impressive in their accuracy and technical ability also run the risk of condemning Varga to being nothing more then a clone of more recognisable bands.
Luckily there is a substantial factor that elevates them above such worries. The ability to blend their perfectly honed classical thrash sound with the progressive intelligence of a band such as Rush, with a touch of the atmospheric vibe associated with Opeth.
This allows them to create a much more layered and substantial overall product that experiments with the thrash template far more then the bands who conceived it. A track like Beginning Of The End is a show stopping example of the band’s abilities, tipping the hat to all the aforementioned heavyweights while still retaining its feel, and in the process feeling fresh and inventive.
Concreting the late ’80s theme is the lyrical content and delivery. Tracks like Mad Scientist, Shark Attack and Plane Crash serve as very obvious reminders of what era these guys are coming from, helping to keep you immersed in the vibe of a denim wearing thrasher from those glory days. That they manage to work in progressive elements, without alienating the listener from the ‘go fast or go home’ mentality of early thrash aficionados, is testament to the writing abilities and fantastically well structured nature of these tracks. Some of the tracks drag ever so slightly but are saved by moments of sheer musical madness, pulling the listener back in before the attention wanders to far.
There is no denying that this album is dated by its production and some of its genre elements. This is not your typical modern metal release. It isn’t technically pushing any boundaries in terms of new genres. It is however a shining example of what can still be done with classic thrash if you have the technical ability and talent to experiment with other genres as well. Not many bands have attempted what has been done here, and even fewer with this level of success.
Dig out your denim vest and prepare for a proggy blast from the past!
Boldly old school, impressively technical and intelligently progressive, Varga have created something remarkably eclectic yet comfortably familiar.