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Himsa Courting Tragedy and Disaster

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Monday, March 22, 2004 @ 8:20 AM


(Prosthetic)

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Eleven tracks of pounding thrash and guitar work that calls to mind early Metallica and Iron Maiden, Seattle’s HIMSA rack up a lot of points on musicianship alone. The only thing that they have against them is that the vocals are the exact opposite of Hetfield’s snarl and Bruce Dickinson’s scream. Grounded more in old-style hardcore growl, and death-metal barking, it is an astonishing contrast. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t: but when it does… hold on to the steering wheel and keep an eye in the rearview mirror.

The similarities to Maiden (the opener, “Dominion,” “A Girl in Glass,” “Kiss or Kill,” “When Midnight Breaks”) and Metallica (“Rain to the Sound Of Panic,” “Loveless and Goodbye,” among others) are often so remarkable they hover dangerously close to copyright infringement. Given Lars Ulrich’s proclivity for lawsuits, the opening chords to the song “Jacob Shock” could be his next legal escapade. If anything, Metallica could learn a few things from these guys as they certainly went to the Hetfield/Hammett School of Thrash Riffs. Hell, this record could have been produced by Flemming Rasmussen as it veers that close to old Metallica. Which is not to say the Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Steve Harris don’t have a case, either. The twin-guitar melodic attack explodes like Number Of The Beast, Piece Of Mind or Powerslave era Maiden. Pretty amazing.

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Again, the thing that throws it off into a wholly different genre is the self-described “screams and whispers” of singer John Pettibone. The disparity of such clean-sounding production on the instruments weighed against his insane growling is supremely contagious, but occasionally wearing, as it must be on his voice. The listener is lulled into the Maiden/Metallica vibe time and time again, that it’s simply jarring to hear the gargling of razor-blades. Yet somehow, Pettibone manages to fit seamlessly into the mix after a few listens.

Whether they are forging new ground, or marching down the Via Dolorosa of Maiden and Metallica, the results are very satisfying. It’s a wonder they haven’t been picked up by Century Media or Sanctuary. Well worth checking out.

* * * ½


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