Whiplash – The Roadrunner Years

The Roadrunner Years Album Cover Art

Whiplash – The Roadrunner Years
Cherry Red Records
Release Date: 22/07/22
Running Time: 
Power and Pain: 34:00
Ticket to Mayhem: 36:00
Insult to Injury: 37:00
Review by Paul Hutchings
7/10

“You know that you’re dead when your nailed to the cross” screams vocalist Tony Portaro at the end of “Power and Pain”, the debut album from the legendary cult US thrash machine that is Whiplash. If that doesn’t confirm what you’ve just been listening to, then maybe a visit to the head clinic is prescribed. 

This smashing three CD set from Cherry Red Records captures not just “Power and Pain” but also the follow up albums “Ticket to Mayhem” and 1989’s “Insult to Injury”. Always a cult band, for those whose desires in the mid-late 1980s was for it to be harder, more aggressive, and extreme, Whiplash were the mutts. Founded in 1984 by guitarist/vocalist Tony Portaro, the three albums are all worthy of a listen, although the crazed speed/thrash style which rages on the debut and part of the sophomore stand out, music that suddenly has become very much en-vogue with the blackened thrash movement. 

Signed to Metal Blade, and with their eighth album, “Old School American Way” rumoured to be on its way either late 2022 or early in 2023, what better time to dip back into the thrash pond of 1986. “Power and Pain” is of its time with nine tracks of savagery and frenetic speed metal with charred edging. The frantic pace of classic opener ‘Stage Dive’ belies the heavier raging that will erupt as the album progresses, such as the Metallica/Exodus tinged ‘War Monger’ which appears to have fused ‘Phantom Lord’ with any number of tracks from “Bonded by Blood.” It’s still a fabulously thrashy number, and alongside ‘Power Thrashing Death’ combines influences of the time with their own take on things, and proved that the band could mosh tunes with the best. It’s the sinister ‘Nailed to the Cross’ with its ball breaking introduction that really brings the dirt under the nails – a bizarre hybrid of Venom and Twisted Sister, if this was released today the metal world would be wetting its pants. And there is also the matter of subtle backing vocals provided by Pete Steele and Louie Beateaux (Carnivore) and Vinnie Stigma and Rob Kabula (Agnostic Front).

“Ticket to Mayhem” maintained the chaos, with an even more blackened and devilish style. With new drummer Joe Cangelosi taking over the skins, Whiplash provided another 37 minutes of explosive thrash. Kicking the shins with the muscular rager ‘Walk the Plank,’ it initially appeared that the high-speed tempo and power that was present on the debut was also racing through this album like electricity. Portaro never claimed to enjoy singing but his aggressive and raspy delivery works with the gnarly, gritty tracks. 

Whiplash also took on board some of the changing styles of the time, and provided a total contrast with ‘Last Nail in the Coffin,’ a much calmer, measured song; in fact, it’s bloody awful and as an attempt at slowing down the tempo demonstrated the weaknesses in their song writing. Whiplash was much better going full bore, such as the pulverising ‘Drowning in Torment.’ Although “Ticket to Mayhem” contains some solid songs, the impression overall is that the band were struggling to match the raw power of the debut. The songs are not as cohesive, veer away from the real nasty sound on “Power and Pain,” and whilst there are some solid tracks much of the album presents as inferior in quality, even though it’s still worthy of a listen.

Move forward to 1989 and Glenn Hansen joined the band and took over the vocal duties, allowing Portaro to concentrate on guitar. From the opening bars of ‘Voice of Sanity’ on “Insult to Injury” there is a broader sound to the band with Hansen’s traditional melodic voice suiting the band’s more power metal style – Whiplash had moved towards the classic metal sound of Manowar, Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road with a side helping of Helloween and Iron Maiden. “Insult to Injury” is an album of variable quality. ‘Essence of Evil’ switches between the heavy metal of Metal Church and the speed metal of Exciter in a raging bull of a song. Elsewhere the tracks work in the main but this certainly isn’t the album that fans demanded. ‘Witness to the Terror’ for example, draws from Agent Steel with its technical elements, but Hansen’s singing remains an acquired taste. Overall, it’s not that difficult to see why Whiplash packed it in shortly after this album. By 1989 it was dated and whilst now it is certainly more enjoyable to listen to, one can imagine that at the time, fans would have been somewhat disillusioned. 

The three albums here are inconsistent, with “Power and Pain” head and shoulders above the other two.  Of note, Tony Scaglione who drummed on the album was sufficiently impressive to fill in for Dave Lombardo on the “Reign in Blood” tour. As the three albums that Roadrunner released, they do stand as a moment in time for a band who, for a moment, threatened greatness. 

TRACKLISTING:
Power And Pain 
01. Stage Dive
02. Red Bomb 
03. Last Man Alive 
04. Message In Blood 
05. War Monger 
06. Power Thrashing Death 
07. Stirring The Cauldron 
08. Spit On Your Grave 
09. Nailed To The Cross

Ticket To Mayhem 
01. Perpetual Warfare 
02. Walk The Plank 
03. Last Nail In The Coffin 
04. Drowning In Torment 
05. The Burning Of Atlanta 
06. Eternal Eyes (Last Nail In The Coffin, Pt.2) 
07. Snake Pit 
08. Spiral Of Violence
09. Respect The Dead 
10. Perpetual Warfare (Reprise)

Insult To Injury 
01. Voice Of Sanity 
02. Hiroshima 
03. Insult to Injury 
04. Dementia Thirteen 
05. Essence of Evil 
06. Witness To The Terror 
07. Battlescars 
08. Rape Of The Mind 
09. Ticket To Mayhem 
10. 4 ES 
11. Pistolwhipped

LINE-UP:
Power and Pain
Tony Portaro – vocals, guitar
Tony Bono – bass
Tony Scaglione – drums
Peter Steele and Louie Beateaux (Carnivore) – backing vocals
Vinnie Stigma and Rob Kabula (Agnostic Front) – backing vocals

Ticket to Mayhem
Tony Portaro – vocals, guitar
Tony Bono – bass
Joe Cangelosi – drums

Insult to Injury
Glenn Hansen – vocals
Tony Portaro – guitar
Tony Bono – bass
Joe Cangelosi – drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.