WORDS: TOM COLE

There is another world in which this article exists, where Riley Gale still lives, and the trajectory of their career is a little easier to project. More than just a promising metal band, Power Trip’s output is incredibly strong, taking classic elements of thrash and hardcore and streamlining them to their most destructive elements. Their songs, crafted with a characteristic thoughtfulness, are fiery and destructive, a call to arms which runs against the grain of escapist metal’s engagement with politics.

Their sophmore release,2017’s sophomore Nightmare Logic exploded them, but they’d already hit the scene with the tightly-wound Manifest Decimation in 2013. This entry into their canon is a little rougher but displays exactly the qualities that elevated them so effectively to superstardom; their blistering re-focussing of crossover thrash away from goofy parody, their focus on tightly-coiled songs that explode into furious burts of energy, and the commanding charisma of Riley.

There is another world in which this article exists, where Riley Gale still lives, and the trajectory of their career is a little easier to project. More than just a promising metal band, Power Trip’s output is incredibly strong, taking classic elements of thrash and hardcore and streamlining them to their most destructive elements. Their songs, crafted with a characteristic thoughtfulness, are fiery and destructive, a call to arms which runs against the grain of escapist metal’s engagement with politics.

Photo: Angela Owen

“THERE IS ANOTHER WORLD IN WHICH THIS ARTICLE EXISTS, WHERE RILEY GALE STILL LIVES, AND THE TRAJECTORY OF THEIR CAREER IS A LITTLE EASIER TO PROJECT.”

Their sophmore release,2017’s sophomore Nightmare Logic exploded them, but they’d already hit the scene with the tightly-wound Manifest Decimation in 2013. This entry into their canon is a little rougher but displays exactly the qualities that elevated them so effectively to superstardom; their blistering re-focussing of crossover thrash away from goofy parody, their focus on tightly-coiled songs that explode into furious burts of energy, and the commanding charisma of Riley.

The production of all their material wisely moves away from a dim facsimile of the 80s greats and is presented as a full-throated, modern assault. In doing so their sound changes dynamics, increasing the presence of the bass without relying on a constant stream of double pedal to keep the momentum moving. Much of their sound was slower-paced than their frantic cousins and more in line with sludge giants like Eyehategod, with the ferocity of modern hardcore acts. This was solidified in Nightmare Logic, which presented a modern record clearly written in the thrash tradition but ferocious, thoughtful lyrical calls to arms and braver tangents (such as a leftfield electronic section) that gave the record a modern flavour.

When discussing thrash it’s interesting to consider how the genre interacts with nostalgia. Aside from some retro bands who’ve managed to make a success out of revisiting the genre (Municipal Waste & Iron Reagan go hard and write bangers), the thrash revival of the early 2010s was characterised by a lot of hero worship and costumery. This was fun – absolutely – but acts like Evile, Gamma Bomb and Havok paled in comparison to Power Trip’s violent re-imagining. At the time a lot of articles pontificated on what counted as “real” thrash, and the merits that they brought to the genre. In the cold light of 2020 there is little hand-wringing about authenticity; no-one suggests that Power Trip are anything other than 100% earnest, because this is etched into every fibre of what they do; simply, it’s clear they love the genre, and they love it enough to siphon off all the bits that work and use them to create a more pointed, crushing version.

Without relying on nostalgia, Power Trip feel refreshing, firmly out from the shadow of older metal bands. An essential part of this was Riley Gale’s character as a thrash addict and political commentator who went beyond the left/ right split of the culture wars, espousing his empathic politics and heartfelt fascination with literature and philosophy in numerous interviews. His erudition was an essential part of Power Trip and by presenting himself like this – approachable, affable, curious and kind – he embodied a better model of behaviour and attitude for metal fans, at a time when many felt adrift.

This passion is expressed in the fiery lyrics, which are extremely timely for the current era. These are thoughtfully constructed, Riley showing himself to be an excellent placer of lyrics for maximum percussive force. An enormous part of their appeal is their affability, and as a result their greatest lyrics are the most straightforward. This is particularly clear in hooks like “If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” Taking personal responsibility for the nightmare of current living is a marked step away from the escapism of 80s thrash, and the straightforwardness hammers the message home.

“wHEN discussing thrash it’s interesting to consider how the genre interacts with nostalgia…”

The production of all their material wisely moves away from a dim facsimile of the 80s greats and is presented as a full-throated, modern assault. In doing so their sound changes dynamics, increasing the presence of the bass without relying on a constant stream of double pedal to keep the momentum moving. Much of their sound was slower-paced than their frantic cousins and more in line with sludge giants like Eyehategod, with the ferocity of modern hardcore acts. This was solidified in Nightmare Logic, which presented a modern record clearly written in the thrash tradition but ferocious, thoughtful lyrical calls to arms and braver tangents (such as a leftfield electronic section) that gave the record a modern flavour.

When discussing thrash it’s interesting to consider how the genre interacts with nostalgia. Aside from some retro bands who’ve managed to make a success out of revisiting the genre (Municipal Waste & Iron Reagan go hard and write bangers), the thrash revival of the early 2010s was characterised by a lot of hero worship and costumery. This was fun – absolutely – but acts like Evile, Gamma Bomb and Havok paled in comparison to Power Trip’s violent re-imagining. At the time a lot of articles pontificated on what counted as “real” thrash, and the merits that they brought to the genre. In the cold light of 2020 there is little hand-wringing about authenticity; no-one suggests that Power Trip are anything other than 100% earnest, because this is etched into every fibre of what they do; simply, it’s clear they love the genre, and they love it enough to siphon off all the bits that work and use them to create a more pointed, crushing version.

Without relying on nostalgia, Power Trip feel refreshing, firmly out from the shadow of older metal bands. An essential part of this was Riley Gale’s character as a thrash addict and political commentator who went beyond the left/ right split of the culture wars, espousing his empathic politics and heartfelt fascination with literature and philosophy in numerous interviews. His erudition was an essential part of Power Trip and by presenting himself like this – approachable, affable, curious and kind – he embodied a better model of behaviour and attitude for metal fans, at a time when many felt adrift.

“the future is currently unknown, but power trip’s legacy lives on as a high watermark for extreme metal.”

This passion is expressed in the fiery lyrics, which are extremely timely for the current era. These are thoughtfully constructed, Riley showing himself to be an excellent placer of lyrics for maximum percussive force. An enormous part of their appeal is their affability, and as a result their greatest lyrics are the most straightforward. This is particularly clear in hooks like “If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” Taking personal responsibility for the nightmare of current living is a marked step away from the escapism of 80s thrash, and the straightforwardness hammers the message home.

There is another world in which a similar article exists, where the conclusion lists the new albums they are sure to write, the shows they are sure to play on, their continued exploration and growth easy to trace. With Riley’s passing in August, the future is currently unknown. But Power Trip’s legacy lives on as a high watermark for extreme metal, as a model for metal that’s not tied to constant nostalgia, and for how we should trat our interests and each other.

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