Socialized Hate

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Atrophy's 1988 debut, Socialized Hate, clearly illustrates just why the Arizona thrashers were handed a recording contract by metal powerhouse Roadrunner, while simultaneously explaining why that wasn't nearly enough to make them a household name. Superficially, the band had plenty going for it; their exceedingly competent musicianship allowed them to easily replicate the technically grounded ferocity pioneered by such thrash metal giants as Exodus and Anthrax, while their diverse and often thought-provoking lyrics took in most all of the usual subjects of '80s metal. You know what they are: the paranoia of war and impending apocalypse ("Best Defense"), the hypocrisy of organized religion ("Preacher, Preacher"), social concerns like drug addiction ("Chemical Dependence," "Urban Decay"), and even that requisite "don't take it all so seriously" comedy track in "Beer Bong." However, if you tried digging a little deeper, there wasn't much of anything that Atrophy could truly call their own, only a vague semblance of their influences, digested and regurgitated in almost workmanlike fashion. Yes, the band boasted more eloquent wordplay than many peers on some of the above tracks (plus the intriguing serial killer psychoanalysis of "Product of the Past"), but vocalist Brian Zimmerman quickly revealed himself to be a serviceable but emotionally limited disciple of Steve "Zetro" Souza, only lacking his distracting yet distinctive histrionics. And even though guitarists Chris Lykins and Rick Skowron formed an admirable rhythmic and soloing tag team with which to drive the entire Atrophy bullet train forward, their blistering fretwork often overshadowed the desperate need for more memorable songcraft. Most telling and importantly, the two components of music and lyrics rarely synched up to deliver irresistible results, perhaps coming closest on the album's clear standout, "Killing Machine," but this was hardly enough to differentiate the band from so many, similarly solid but unspectacular (and therefore long-forgotten) thrash outfits of the period.

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