Character ensemble driven science fiction writing hardly retained water previous to the successive generations influenced by Wilmar H. Shiras‘ late-in-life ‘coming of age surrounded by mediocre fools’ novel ‘Children of the Atom’ (1953). Written by Shiras during her later-in-life attendance of a Catholic university the theological implications within are essentially the central dogma used by the Catholic church to uproot folks from ‘inferior’ belief systems as the converted begin to believe they (much like the characters re-echoed in every X-Men comic book reboot) were not created equal, hold special gifts, and are indeed superior to the ignorant masses. The major takeaway that pop culture ran with since the early 1950’s couldn’t be more divergent from what Shiras intended as super heroes no longer moralize, internalize, and highlight the useful revelation of cross-generational understanding among clear differences. It is a lesson that the children of the 90’s could only have learned subliminally through the one-two punch of a classic Saturday morning X-men cartoon; A tale of alienation, racism, and genocidal tyranny. For folks like me ‘Children of the Atom’ represents the first actually good 2D fighter to come from the CP System II arcade hardware before Street Fighter Alpha took over as the big cheese. No doubt Oulu, Finland based black/thrash/punk band Bonehunter are largely referencing the classic novel on their third full-length since forming in 2011.
Across countless demos and split EPs with bands like G.I.S.M., Barbatos, and Sabbat the band’s sound developed from raw black metallic punk towards a combination of black metal and what I’d consider crossover thrash metal. Call it ‘devil metal punk’ or ‘satanic thrash punk’ you’ll get the idea pretty quick when spinning any of their three albums. Bonehunter‘s first ‘era’ between 2011-2015 was decidedly more hardcore punk forward whereas the material since has seen a Toxic Holocaust-esque tightening of thrash and black metal elements. It isn’t necessarily ‘Beat the Bastards’ but a Gehenna or Midnight level approximation of that ball-breaking, coked-up and swinging style. None of this should be a surprise if you’re already familiar with last year’s ‘Sexual Panic Human Machine’ as ‘Children of the Atom’ iterates and refines Bonehunter‘s now established sound.
There are few surprises here for the initiated but I wouldn’t suggest you’re getting the same album twice and if anything ‘Children of the Atom’ finds Bonehunter at their most energetic and capable in terms of performances. I’m still not entirely convinced that their apt black metal focused songwriting is as viable (er, memorable) as their Motör-punk side but “Demonic Nuclear Armament” and most of Side A finds the band intent on incorporating more blackened thrash than ever. This incorporation works best when the band goes just a little off-kilter on “Black Star Carcass” where I felt like I got a bite from every part of Bonehunter‘s filthy TV dinner. My favor for Side B is helped quite a bit by the black metal version of fellow Suomi Spiritus Mortis‘ “The Man of Steel” a cover from an album that is surprisingly now almost a decade old. It more or less illuminates the skeleton of this Finnish band’s approach as they take classic heavy metal as inspiration for their own mix of black metal and old school punk influences; “Devil Signal Burst” reinforces that thought once more before ending the record.
‘Children of the Atom’ is the sort of album I am please with but never particularly thrilled by despite conjuring reference to the Exploited, Spiritus Mortis, Midnight and G.I.S.M. with one ~35 minute album. The whole package is pretty incredible with a timelessly badass illustration by Joe Petagno and plenty of solid riffs throughout the spin but the full experience didn’t have a ‘wow’ moment that pulled me back in for closer listens. It might not have had a ton of staying power with me but I couldn’t talk shit about it for a minute because they’ve absolutely improved beyond ‘Sexual Panic Human Machine’. For preview I’d highly recommend “Black Star Carcass” and “Demonic Nuclear Armament” to get a feel for Bonehunter‘s sound.
Oozing with green ichor. 3.75/5.0
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