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Band brings new life to thrash metal

Shannon Frye has a reason to be angry again, and he attributes it to all those dudes in the girl pants.

"Everything goes in circles," the shaven-headed drummer for Las Vegas metallers Avenger of Blood notes, arms jutting out of a black vest. "In the ’80s, there was the whole glam thing, with poofed-up hair and the makeup and the girl clothes. Now look at it, the makeup, the girl pants, it’s all coming back."

And, perhaps as a result, so is glam metal’s inverse: leather-wrapped thrash metal, complete with bullet belts, perma scowls and lots of songs about nuclear annihilation.

"You have to have some poverty and war going on to have good thrash," Avenger of Blood singer/guitarist Eric Greaney says with a chuckle from the living room of the south-side home studio where the band is tracking its second full-length disc, "Death Brigade." "Republicans have to be in power to have good thrash metal."

Greaney’s joking, but there’s some truth to what he says: Thrash was always the most socially conscious of metal’s many escapist-minded subgenres, and the music hit its creative stride in the early to mid-’80s.

In recent years, however, a slew of retro-minded throwback acts such as Municipal Waste, Dekapitator and Rumpelstiltskin Grinder have resuscitated the thrash ranks.

Formed in San Francisco in 2003 before relocating to Las Vegas, Avenger of Blood — rounded out by guitarist Marc Flores and bassist Shawn Loureiro — are scene lifers who are starting to benefit from the renewed interest in the genre.

"When we started out, we’d have to either open up for or play with death, grind or even power metal bands, now, any city we go to, there’s going to be a local thrash metal band there," says Greaney, a thin guy with long black hair and a coarse, piercing singing voice. "The first show we played here was with some pretty big local metal bands, and I think there were about 18 people there. Now when we play, there’s 100, 150, 200 people sometimes."

Having become one of the top Vegas metal draws, Avenger recently signed a deal with Los Angeles-based boutique metal label Heavy Artillery Records, home to rising cult thrashers Merciless Death.

The band won over a following in the metal underground with its 2005 debut, "Complete Annihilation," which is rooted in the Germanic thrash tradition, with acidic vocals, swarming, suffocating riffs and mortar-fire drums suggestive of seminal bands such as Destruction, Sodom and especially Kreator.

"It’s on purpose," Greaney says of the band’s Teutonic leanings. "Look at a band like Slayer, ‘Reign In Blood,’ that whole album is German-oriented, including some of the concepts for the songs, the whole military feel. That’s what thrash metal is supposed to be."

And these dudes should know, as they’re nothing if not purists, doggedly breathing new life into a genre posited on death.

"Maybe 10 years go, I might have thought, ‘I’m not sure how far this music can go,’ " Greaney says. "But now, doors just keep opening."

Jason Bracelin’s "Sounding Off" column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 383-0476 or e-mail him at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com.

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