Mass Punishment – Proving Grounds Volume 1

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Dewar P.R./self-release

Buy the MP3 HERE

Review by Rick Ossian

On first listen to Mass Punishment‘s full-length debut, the first thing I thought was that I am looking forward to Volume 2MP are a four-piece thrash metal band from Howell, New Jersey.  They consist of Eric Laurino, who is the vocalist and ‘pointman’, Chris Spartan, guitar gunner and vocals, Scott Ferguson, bass gunner and vocals, and Brian Donat, drum gunner and vocals.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure how well a ‘military’ thrash band would go over – not only with other listeners, but particularly with myself.  I thought it would be awful!  I shall now proceed to tell all of you how wrong I was.  Incredibly wrong, to say the least.  Have a listen and you won’t be disappointed, trust me!

There are some more regimental moments, if you will.  For example, In To the Fire is mainly a soldier radio-ing in for air support, from the sounds of it.  The Infantryman’s Creed is a spoken word bit that is basically what it says it is, fully equipped with creepy-cool guitar intro and background tunes.  Eye of the Storm is a brief, dirge-like number that is one part doom and gloom, mixed with one part heavy, slamming thrash.

Of course, the latter of the numbers mentioned above is the main direction of the work done here.  Proving Grounds is chock-full of heavily slamming, busy-as-hell drum work (a bit heavy on the double bass drum here and there, but what meaningful thrash doesn’t have a bit of that in it somewhere?), Sabbath-on-speed guitar licks and heavy, powerful riffing, big booming power chords, ranting, vocal-chord shredding/singing–all the things a growing heavy metal fan needs to be happy!

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On further listening, some tunes begin to stand out, particularly the opening juggernaut, 300 Miles to Baghdad.  There is a heavy sort of rap/rant vocal intro, followed by heavy, military-precision thrash.  ‘We’ll bring war/we’ll bring hate/we’ll bring death/we’ll bring terror‘, bellows Erick – simple lyrics, simple vocals, you might say?  NOT when you listen, trust me in that!  Sure, there is some repetition, but again, this is thrash metal we’re dealing with.  There are times when repetition is the order of the day, like it or not.

Lion’s Den starts things off with a heavily thrashing, galloping intro.  Everything is being seriously shredded here, including the vocals.  MP obviously take a no-holds-barred approach to their jamming.  At 1:50 there is a shift in the vocal territory, then some HM chords/riffing thrown into the mix between 2:00 and 2:30.  Brian (drummer) is very busy again here, doing some amazing drum work that is worth the ride by itself on this particular tune.  More repetitive vocals (I HATE YOU several times)/‘fucking hate you now/hate you too/you know you can’t hide.  The title is also shouted at us a few times towards the end.  If I was going to be critical about anything, it would be that you don’t need to scream your message to be understood.  It CAN be helpful, at times, and here it fits!

The Desert Rogue begins life with another creepy, foreboding guitar intro.  Not sure why, but I really like when a band does this.  It reminds me of one of my all-time faves, Black Sabbath, I guess.  Must be why I enjoy it so much.  But I digress.  There are some straight vocals here also, and VIOLINS, of all things.  They work, but I can’t say how.  This tune almost sounds like it could be a different band.  MP do that again later on, as we shall see/hear.  At four-and-a-half minutes in, we are slammed with a shift, back to the heavy riffing and shredding vocals, with some cool stabs/fills with wah towards the end.

Ground Pounder features, alas, another of the creepy-cool guitar intros.  Fingerpicking is repetitive but good.  The drums come in about a minute in, along with children chanting.  We are slammed at about 1:20, and by the way the straight vocals mentioned above make another brief entry – they don’t last long, however, and before we know it, we are marching: ‘Left, right, left’, hollers Erick.  SEVERAL times, of course, to kind of suck us into the scene.  Brian the drummer is, again, very busy.  Drummer alert!

Blood Dirt features the seriously heavy, Sabbath-on-speed riffing/chords mentioned above.  This is a true onslaught on the ears, particularly in the vocal department.  We get some upshifting/downshifting later on but the style remains basically true to form throughout.

Your Nightmare includes some considerable guitar-squealing at the outset, but there is no doubt that we are listening to another heavy duty slammer here.  The drummer is again very busy, and even gets a moment or two to shine at the end.

The closer, Line of Departure, does everything we’ve already heard again, only heavier, faster and more urgent.  It is a very much in-your-face delivery, as well, nothing short of intense.  I love the Sabbath-style feeling I get from the riffs, the chords, the intro.  Again, Sabbath on speed!  Broken record again, I know, but the drummer is extremely busy here.  We get some more repetitive lyrics (lost count on how many times we got SENT TO HELL!).

Mass Punishment, at the risk of sounding dramatic, are not for the feint of heart.  I know I may have said this before, but I really mean it this time!  If you don’t have a strong stomach and an open mind, then Mass Punishment may not be your bag.  If you think you can handle it, then give them a listen!

****/5

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