• Radiation Sickness – The Madness Begins 1987 - 1990

    Radiation Sickness – The Madness Begins 1987 - 1990
    Released by: Negative Reaction Records
    Released on: September 11, 2012.
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    Radiation Sickness was born in 1987 in Indianapolis, the bastard love child of vocalist Doug Palmer and bass player Ryan Rollins and filled out with drummers Mike Herald and later Matt Price and guitar player Rick Callaway. In 1989 Rollins, who suffered from depression, killed himself, at which point Byron Holton was brought in as a replacement until the band would eventually call it quits in 1992. Surprisingly enough, when 2010 rolled around the band would reunite for some shows and new recordings, but this CD collection from Negative Reaction Records focuses on the eighties era material. Some of this material was released before, though it’s been long out of print, while some of it is being made available legitimately for the first time.

    So with that said, what’s Radiation Sickness all about? Grind, death, thrash and noise, that’s what, with some mid-era D.R.I. crossover thrown in to meld punk and metal in that way that seems to have peaked in the eighties but which is now sort of hip again (though it really shouldn't have ever gone out of style). Musically you can hear traces of bands like Slayer, Exodus and early pre-suck Metallica but there’s a nastier, maybe more extreme sound making up one of the layers drawing some comparisons to Overkill or less controlled underground blast metal like Napalm Death or early Death. In short though, it’s metal. Pure, unadulterated, unfiltered metal, the kind that makes no concessions to mainstream appeal or political correctness.

    Lyrically things are maybe not so surprisingly slanted towards the darker side of life. The opening track, Stop, is a plea to end violence and insanity but you get the impression as the song plays out vocalist Palmer knows that’s just never going to happen. Paid Harassment is a song about police brutality, still a problem, always a problem, while We Are All The Victims addresses the rise of pollution and the generally shitty state of the world in general. Escape To Insanity would seem to be about attempts to deal with depression while Radiation Sickness is about the worries brought about by nuclear power or more specifically, nuclear waste – a theme not all that uncommon at this point in history.

    And yet there’s a lighter, dare I say comedic side, to Radiation Sickness, even if the sense of humor on display here is more likely to offend some than amuse them. While the darker tracks tend to be intelligent, even thought provoking the lyrics for some of the other tracks are crass and flat out stupid – not to take away from them, but let’s be honest here. Ungulating Flaps is about a skanky chick’s crusty vagina (seriously) and I’d Rather Be Drinking is a song about, well, how drinking is more fun than not drinking. Heavy Metal Mama is a spoofy cock rock style take on the lovely ladies that the metal scene often saw in the late eighties. You know the type – teased hair, short denim skirts, loads of makeup; though the lyrics’ assertion that the Heavy Metal Mama in question might get wet for Geddy Lee is questionable, the song is otherwise spot on in its parody.

    The complete track listing for this album is as follows:

    The Elvis Ain’t Dead Demo (1989):

    Stop / Elvis Ain’t Dead / Paid Harassment / We’re All Victims / Rather Be Drinking / Escape To Insanity / No Future / Radiation Sickness / Heavy Metal Mama

    Bounds Of Reality 7” EP (1989):

    Sealed Away / Real Life Nightmare / Demented Love Song / Bounds Of Reality / Undulating Flaps / The End

    Live On Take No Prisoners TV – Flint, Michigan, November 1990:

    Ruthless / Demented Love Song / Disfigured Retard / Man Mad Production / No Future / Bounds Of Reality / Malignant Existence / The Other Me / Cocaine / Escape To Insanity / Ungulating Flaps / For No Apparent Motive / Sealed Away / The End

    We Are All The Victims Demo (1988):

    Radiation Sickness / No Future / Air We Breathe / Paid Harassment / Fucked Up All Day / Accidental Killings / Free To Die / Heavy Metal Mama

    Unreleased Compilation Track:

    Lucky Ones

    So yeah, if thirty eight tracks of grindy death metal madness isn’t enough for you, slap this disc into your PC or Mac and geek out over a completely bad ass PDF of vintage show flyers and photos as well as roughly twenty four minutes of vintage live footage of Radiation Sickness doing their thing on stage. On top of that, inside the jewel case alongside the compact disc that contains all of this insanity is an insert booklet containing the lyrics to fourteen songs as well as a short history of the band, credits, thank you’s and dedications and a few pieces of original vintage band art.

    To sum it all up, just as they did with their Infectious Garage Disease retrospective release, once again Negative Reaction Records have released an amazingly great package dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of a legitimately obscure and underrated band. Radiation Sickness may lack the polish of some of the bands that would follow in their wake but the tracks here more than make up for that with a vicious energy and a nasty, obnoxiously delicious sound.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Tom K's Avatar
      Tom K -
      Nice Ian! These guys are good friends of mine and have shared the stage together a few time...great guys, great band! We are planning a split 7" with them as well...
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      That's awesome Tom, small world! And I'd never heard them until Negative Reaction sent over the disc - but I definitely dug it and plan to get their latest.