EXTREMA – Headbanging Forever

EXTREMA – Headbanging Forever

The roots of this Italian thrash/groove outfit actually go all the way back to the time of Metallica’s "No Life ‘Til Leather" when Diego Colombo and Stefano Bullegas formed Killdozer renamed Extrema in 1986, having replaced Diego with Tommy Massara. To date, Extrema released 7 albums, including "Headbanging Forever", now enjoying the expert promotion of Jon Asher and Asher Media Relations. Extrema is pure ferocious thrash in the vein of Testament and Anthrax with some Corrosion Of Conformity and Lamb Of God mixed in, and it is when they deviate from the rather rigid thrash regimen that they are at their most effective, which, unfortunately, is few and far between.

When you consider that Extrema has been around for as long as Slayer’s seminal "Reign In Blood" (RIB) album (with which, notabene, they share a certain characteristic), you immediately ask "how come I’ve never heard of them?" Could it be because the band was outshined by the Bay Area, The Big Four and Teutonic thrash and the likes, inactive at the height of groove metal popularity (1996) and came back around the time metal was slowly getting back up after being knocked down by alternative/grunge (1999)? I mentioned the similarity to Slayer’s third album and what I meant was that most of the material is good thrash without anything particularly standing out, but the exceptions, where the artist takes some risks experimenting with pace and structure are excellent, memorable and have marks of instant classics. While it opens up, like Slayer’s "RIB", with an excellent hook-laden thrash anthem (The Call), already the second track through roughly half of the disc is just good by the numbers thrash, nothing to scoff at but nothing to write home about, either. We may grab a pen during the title track because of the memorable main riff but won’t start writing until the very good "Believer" (featuring unexpected Morbid Angelesque riff), where the single, yes, single guitarist Tommy finally deviates from the pace and structure and we are actually writing like madmen during the favorite "Invisible", the track heavily Anthrax-ian, and, even though the remaining two tracks are not as exciting, we keep writing because Tommy keeps the same trend of life’s spice – variety, all the way until the end.

Don’t get me wrong: "Headbanging Forever" is very true to the title and the spirit of thrash. It is a ferocious tour de force where Tommy duels himself (!) Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman/Kerry King style (Borders Of Fire) or the way Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine/Marty Friedman did in the early 90s (everywhere, most notably on "For The Loved And The Lost"). Drummer Francesco “Frullo” La Rosa leaves no stone unturned with fills and rolls worthy of Dave Lombardo, Gabri Giovanna’s bass lock step with it (Border Of Fire, The Shutdown). All this is more than emphasized by Tiziano Spigno’s Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity) meets Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister (Motörhead) abrasive vocals, aided by excellent production. With all those superlatives it’s just too bad that when Extrema does take risks they do it so late in the game.

In the great era of thrash metal numerous bands were left behind, even the ones who have been there from the start, but the fact that many of those bands have either softened up or ceased to exist, at least three things stand out about Extrema: the sheer ferociousness and relentless of their attack after over 30 years of existence as a band, the quality of the riffs and solos, and that they expertly emulate two bands who today are even better than before: Testament and Anthrax and they can enhance these thrashings with a Prong-ish melody here, Black Sabbath-ian slow down there to keep things fresh and varied although they only do it on handfull of tracks. Imagine what they could create with a little more experimentation in-between the carnage consistently throughout.