Despite the glaring lack of an evil, fire-snorting frontman, instrumental thrash trio GasHead avoids the kind of cliches that plague most aggressive-metal acts -- everything from overemphasizing Satan to celebrating global annihilation. Instead, the Fort Collins-based outfit injects its headbanging with humor and occasional Latin-flavored inflections. "Benediction," the album's opener, defies convention with an unlikely swing beat and a brooding narrator who toasts the album's guiding light (a hero named Atomic GasHead) with a round of Molotov cocktails. From that point onward, the boys shred in spades, showcasing six-string shootouts between lead and rhythm guitarists Mike Lopez and Derek Maness, while hide-beater Nate Scofield conducts a double-kick clinic. Polished production by local luminary Dave Beegle fleshes out a relentlessly heavy batch of tunes that hark back to the first wave of crunchy metallurgists Megadeth and Testament. Paying homage to Joe Satriani and Steve Vai (along with Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, during "Into the Glass"), GasHead more than compensates for any absence of a bile-spewing leader. Stripped down to the basics, this stuff still packs a punch.


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