Bad Karma - Death Has No Calling Card
Shadow Kingdom Records
Thrash Metal
11 songs (57' 15")
Release year: 2017
Shadow Kingdom Records
Reviewed by Andy

As the 80s grows smaller and smaller in time's rearview mirror, bands that were worthy of notice that nonetheless slipped through the cracks still occasionally come to light. Such a band is Boston's Bad Karma, a Big Four contemporary that released demos in 1985, 1990, and 1999, but stayed under the radar despite appearances at metal festivals up to the present day. The demos' re-release by Shadow Kingdom, in the form of a single-album compilation, showcases all of this material.

Surprisingly, almost every song has aged well, and the production on the demos is similarly good, nearly studio-quality -- at least for the 80s. Frontman/guitarist Alec Dowie's voice reminds one of Chuck Billy's from early albums: A rough shout that avoids any of the occasional whininess that James Hetfield's vocals had. The eight-minute Shadows of Yesterday is especially epic, going far beyond the obligatory introspective ballad track that thrash metal groups seem to have been legally required to put on all their records, but Tame the Beast also stands out as a fierce NWOBHM-style thrasher, bearing some resemblance to a Satan song.

The guitar work on the songs is even more impressive when one considers that Dowie is doing some rather demanding riffing, required of his half of the guitars, with literally one hand tied behind his back. In 1985, a motorcycle accident permanently disabled his strumming hand, leading him to develop a playing style that used only the left hand. The band's music, which -- like many minor 80s thrash bands -- at least partially follows Metallica's style changes over its own career arc -- shows few changes in the showcased demos, with 1990's Capitol Punishment showing a leaning towards more ambitious songwriting. Nor did the drop in popularity of speed and thrash metal faze the group. Even at a time when all the major thrash bands had significantly changed their sound, usually for the worse, the 1999 demo shows no change in direction. If anything, Bad Karma's screaming-guitar cover of Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies shows a band covering 70s hard rock with their original 80s sound, rather than attempting to adapt to the world of groove, grunge, or -- God forbid -- nu-metal, which was just then getting popular.

Bad Karma still hasn't released anything but their three demos, but since more than one Shadow Kingdom retrospective has been followed by a new album from a resurrected metal band with a cult following, listeners can still hold out hope. Until then, Death Has No Calling Card provides a complete introduction to an excellent and often-overlooked band of the 80s thrash heyday.


Killing Songs :
Shadows of Yesterday, Tame the Beast, Capitol Punishment
Andy quoted no quote
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