Some would say that Thrash Metal was on its way out circa 1993, but it sure as hell didn’t resign itself to go quietly, and this final testament to the legacy of the famous Bay Area scene via VIO-LENCE is all the proof that is really needed. At worst, it functions as an uneven compromise between the glory days of “Oppressing The Masses” and “Eternal Nightmare” with that of the emergent half-Thrash/Groove sound, which Robb Flynn had yet to be fully taken over by. Whether the band decides to slay at full speed or take the gradual build up towards a few mountain peaks, the sound on here is still pretty far removed from the mushy, down-tuned mess that would dominate “Burn My Eyes” and a number of other hypnotic albums where Grunge elements had latched themselves onto the guitars and vocals like a malevolent parasite.
While bearing in mind that this was actually recorded a good bit before the official release, there is definitely a noted influence of some trends that became even more pronounced by ’93. The songs have slowed down a bit, even more so than the moderate scaling back from the previous album with regard to its own predecessor, and at times take on a somewhat PANTERA-like feel. A single listen to “Killing My Words” and “Atrocity” show a familiarity with “Cowboys From Hell” in the groovy drum work and soloing style. In fact, the most drastic change present here is that the lead work has been mellowed out into something much more melodic, restrained, and lacking the initial Slayer-inspired madness that has typified the style for much of the 80s and continued to show a lot of influence in Death Metal circles.
But for the most part, this album is more informed by the scaled back nature of albums along the lines of “Souls Of Black,” “South Of Heaven,” and to a small extent “The Black Album.” Instead of cutting heads for the entire duration and attempting to out riff every other band that came out of San Francisco between 1984 and 1988, the songs tend to have a more epic character and only occasionally revert back to the glorious madness of days past. The two obvious examples are the ones with the quirky two title labels that were probably an idea borrowed from early BLACK SABBATH. These songs are consistently heavy and menacing, but only kick up the aggression for a little while, climaxing with a reference back to the frenzied speed of 1988 in a few quick bursts. Many cite this slowed down character as clashing with Killian’s heavily percussive shout, but his work on here is adequate, suffering maybe in the sense that he doesn’t pull off that gritty melodic yell quite as well as James Hetfield does.
The stalwart old school fanatic who wants his Thrash utterly relentless and faster than the speed of light does have some representation on here as well. The common favorite is the violently jarring mix of gang choruses and percussive guitar shotgun blasts in “Twelve Gauge Justice,” which is probably the closest to an authentic musical representation of what a handful of vigilantes taking on an army of street gangsters would sound like. “Colour Of Life” ups the ante even further with a shorter dose of rapid fire riffing, almost revisiting the triumphant spirit of “Serial Killer” off the “Eternal Nightmare” release. In fact, either one of these two songs is just as worthy of the mid to late 80s glory days of Thrash as any song I’ve heard from that era.
Ultimately, “Nothing to Gain” should probably be treated more as a 1991 release than a 1993 one, given that the sound is ultimately more tuned in with that year and it was around the time that this was finalized. It doesn’t quite have as many riffs as “Time Does Not Heal,” nor does it succeed in being as catchy as “Souls Of Black,” but this was a superior direction to the somewhat less than stellar musical compromise that was “Countdown To Extinction,” let alone the complete abandonments of the genre that were “The Black Album” and “Sound Of White Noise.” Don’t let the year of release or the fact that Robb Flynn’s name is still in the lineup fool you, this is far removed from the age of mediocrity and failure that was soon to follow.
(Online March 20, 2011)