Here goes another double-barreled review, this time for no other reasons than these two records arriving in the mail together and both getting under my skin instantly.
There are no bones made about this being another 80s throwback in both attitude and approach - just look at the name and artwork. But the serious chops displayed in relentless short bursts that explode out of Worse than Dead ensure that it's not just a hollow trip through now very familiar nostalgic territory. The songs get straight to the point with a rapid fire succession of hooks and mini-breakdowns you can easily grab hold of, while the unexpected transitions grab your collar and knock you senseless from riff to riff. Tony Foresta's unmistakable vocal delivery cuts loud and clear over the festivities as he rages furiously, not about partying and horror movies, but about gun control and nutters preaching the end of the world.
Nonetheless, there is still a snarling sense of humour present throughout the album (they titled the sole instrumental track "I Ripped that Testament a New Asshole"), and Iron Reagan are clearly having a riot playing this stuff. Put simply, this record bangs, and wants to be played again.
From the outset, it feels like there's a vacuum sucking you into the middle of the music, which is both a sign of the top-notch recording job and a reflection of the desolate aggression Baptists capture. The all out pounding of drums batters indiscriminately and vindictively from the near side of the beat, while the devastating bass adds stomach churning weight to the songs' constantly driving momentum. The guitars usually hang back a bit, free to tear between neck breaking chainsaw riffs, controlled feedback and quirky, noisy lines that amplify the brooding sense that something bad is happening. And to round it all out, the astonishingly bitter vocals spit out every ounce of disdain that could possibly exist in each syllable of each lyric, which is especially evident in the "slow" track, "Soiled Roots".
Put that all together and you end up with a remarkably brutal record that has enough breathing space to highlight the band's unique characteristics without trading off any of their music's intensity.