Wrathchild America – Climbin' the Walls

Well I hope you all had a great weekend, I know I did. Saturday Buke and I had a great time at the Warbringer show, but you’ll hear about that more later this week, I’m still trying to pull together the review, photos and a video interview we did with John Kevill of Warbringer. Processing video takes forrrreeeever, so in the meantime I thought I would write up one of the classic albums from my youth that far too few have heard.

While talking to John Kevill the topic of older thrash vs newer thrash came up and it got me thinking about some of the great old thrash albums from the 80s. I was in high school through the late 80s and that period was the golden age of thrash in my opinion. One of my favorite bands from the time that never got the credit they deserve was Wrathchild America.

I first heard Wrathchild America when I saw them on tour opening for Testament along with Annihilator. Testament was touring behind “Practice What You Preach” and both Wrathchild and Annihilator were touring their first albums, “Climbin’ the Walls” and “Alice In Hell” respectively. I live in Maryland now, not far from where Wrathchild America actually started, but back then I was in Michigan and I saw them play at the Royal Oak Music Theater. They blew me away live, so as soon as I could scrape up the money I ran out and picked up the album.

“Climbin’ the Walls” instantly became one of my new favorite albums. Back in those days you didn’t have the giant wall of noise production you get on some albums these days, so the music was all very easy to make out and the vocals, while somewhat snarled by singer/bassist Brad Divens, were very easily understood. And did I mention their drummer? Perhaps you’ve heard of him? A Mr. Shannon Larkin of current Godsmack fame.

Lyrically the album has a couple of get wild and party kind of songs, but a few of the songs also tell stories of horror and fantasy. The album starts off with the title track which is really just a balls-to-the-wall fast tune about getting fed up and running amok. I never thought of these guys as a devil music band, but “Hells Gates” does deal with the topic of the Horned One and the unfortunate consequences of meeting him. “No Deposit, No Return” is the odd ball in the mix where they lament getting drunk and fooling around with underage girls. It’s kind of a goofy song but still sort of catchy. Track 4 was always my least favorite track, and that is the instrumental “Hernia.”

Starting with track 5 is where things get exciting. “London After Midnight” show Wrathchild America at their most gothic sounding. I’m not sure if it is about Dracula specifically or a vampire in general (I use Nosferatu as a synonym for vampire rather than a specific one, so…) but the gist is that this vampire has been hunted through many lands and is currently feeding in London. Great tune.

“Candy From A Madman” is both cool and cheesy at the same time. On the one hand this makes me picture some crazy Buffalo Bill type serial killer (this predates Silence of the Lambs) but on the other hand it could also be a public service announcement warning kids away from strangers. The character is a greasy crazy bastard and he’ll cut you up, which he happily does by the end of the song.

The seventh track on the album is one of my all-time favorite metal songs, period. As an angst-y teen in a pre-Columbine world I too felt shunned and bullied by people in high school. This was many years before Sentenced would release the revenge classic “Vengeance Is Mine” so the track I used for fantasizing about getting my come-uppance was “Silent Darkness (Smothered Life).” The song tells the tragic tale of someone who is buried alive as part of a drunken prank and returns from the grave to wreak bloody vengeance upon his tormentors. I took this as a metaphor for the suffocating culture and cruel treatment by classmates in my small town high school. It never would have occurred to me to actually seek my revenge in the bloody fashion we see all too often on the news these days, but this song helped dull the pain of teenage life.

Second to last track on the album is a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Not sure where that one came from, but it’s a pretty decent version.

The album closer is “Day of the Thunder” which is about two medieval armies meeting on the field of battle and the senseless carnage that ensues. Lyrics such as “sadly those heroes were young, sadly nobody won” take the contemporary sense of tragedy and futility of war and place it in a historic context that just goes to show that humans have been throwing away young lives, for no good reason, for far too long. I have the greatest respect and honor for our troops, but it’s songs like this that make me mourn the fallen even more. Great song.

Unfortunately, Wrathchild America was short lived. They released another album “3-D” which took them in a more jazzy-metal direction that wasn’t as interesting. Eventually they tried to reboot by changing their name to Souls At Zero and releasing another couple albums, but I never got into anything as much as this first album. It’s been out of print for years so if you want to find it best try eBay (that’s where I got mine) and I see Amazon might have used copies for a pretty penny.