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LETHAL
LETHAL
Programmed / The Arrival
(Marquee Records)
63:29min

Anybody knows that the 1980s were the most creative and progressive decade of Heavy Metal. The genre developed from the old days of the NWOBHM to a gigantic scene with lots of sub genres and sub scenes. The US of A had a leading role in the whole evolution of Metal, since Speed, Thrash and Power Metal were dominated by bands from the so called “land of opportunity”. Later, mainly the Power Metal bands were filed under US Metal, a term that has become a trademark as well as sign of quality. Of course there were a myriad of bands back then in the US. While most of them got lost in time, some became well known, some became a legend and some gained a reasonable success. LETHAL from Hebron, Kentucky (not to be mixed up with the Swedish Thrashers that started out in 2004 - Frank), were one of the latter. They somehow were late bloomers, maybe due to the fact that they came from somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Founded in 1982, it took the band five years and a few line-up changes to release a first sign of life. “The Arrival” was the name of a four-track tape that was unleashed upon the underground. Despite the fact that the tape received good critics, it took LETHAL three more years to get a deal with Metal Blade and release a first album. The result of this collaboration was called “Programmed” and received good reactions as well. Yet, the success was not as good as expected. It seems to me that LETHAL simply were too late with this debut, since even Thrash Metal was already dying again and Death Metal just took over. The Metal press, at least here in Germany, didn't help either, since the comparison to QUEENSRYCHE was a little helpless and kept (maybe not only) me from buying this album when it was released. It took me six more years to discover “Programmed”. When I listened to the album for the first time, it took me only seconds to realize that I found a real gem of classic US Metal. The comparison to QUEENSRYCHE, taken back then, wasn't that wrong, at least the very early output of the Seattle five piece has some parallels to the sound of LETHAL. But the five piece from Kentucky was way better, since they perfected the melodic, progressive and powerful style of Metal. Each of the ten songs are outstanding examples how Power Metal the American way had to sound. The two guitar players Dell Hull and Eric Cook (R.I.P.) were a perfect match and fired leads, riffs and harmonies of the best kind like bullets. Tom Mallicoat's high pitched voice fitted perfectly to the guitar works and the rhythm section of Glen Cook on bass and Jerry Hartman on drums laid a base to great songs with fine breaks and good grooves. The album already starts very fine with the grippingly starting fast paced 'Fire In Your Skin' and the break laden title track. 'Plan Of Peace' is a song that a lot of Cleveland bands would have killed for, the semi ballad 'Another Day' shows a brilliant Tom Mallicoat and 'Arrival', the only demo track that found its way onto the album, is another killer. But that's just a harbinger of the nearly unbelievable B-side of the album. 'What They've Done' is simply one of the best songs in Power Metal! More in a mid-pace, this songs features anything I love about this kind of Metal. And the oppressive atmosphere of this song always gives me the creeps. But the following 'Obscure The Sky' is nearly as great. Bazillions of musicians will give their right arm and both feet for a chorus like this! 'Immune' starts of like a ballad, but after a little bit more than a minute, this one picks up speed and develops into another real killer hit. With 'Pray For Me', we find a fine acoustic ballad that paves the way for the final grand deed 'Killing Machine', that impresses with some of the best lead guitars in Metal. And thus ends an album that is nothing less than a (final) milestone in US Metal. Thanks to the Brazilian company Marquee, this killer album is available again. And in contrary to all other versions to date, this one features the songs from the 1987 demo tape “The Arrival” for the first time. The first two of these four songs alone are worth getting the CD if you already have the album yet. The opening 'Land Of The Free' already showed the potential of LETHAL and would have fitted perfectly to the songs on “Programmed”, even though it is a little more progressive. The same goes for 'Just Before Dawn', a song that was lost for too long. The name giving 'Arrival' in its early incarnation shows the progress LETHAL made in the three years that passed between this demo and the album. Imagining this progress for the other demo tracks, I really get a little sad that there are divine offerings that never got recorded... Only the final 'Tomorrow's King' was a little weaker and couldn't keep up with the rest of the band's material. A point of view shared by the band, since they took the opening section and used it for their masterpiece 'What They've Done'. To finish up the story of LETHAL in brief: they lost their deal after only one album, changed the guitar player (David McElfresh replaced Dell Hull) and appeared again in 1995 with a terrible EP called “Your Favourite God” that curried favour with PANTERA and their clones. Despite this not well appreciated record, LETHAL recorded another full length called “Poison Seed” a year later and finally got ship-wrecked with a wannabe Grunge Metal album before splitting up. Ten years ago, LETHAL reformed but did not release any new songs yet, maybe also due to the death of Eric Cook in 2012 (at least they did some phenomenal live shows, including an unforgettable one in our home town Bremen, together with Cleveland Power / Thrashers DESTRUCTOR, which was nothing but breathtaking! - Frank). But their only real legacy, “Programmed” and “The Arrival”, lives on. www.facebook.com/lethal.ky, www.marquee.com.br

Thomas Meyer

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