ViciousRTo say Vicious Rumors are back implies they have been away, which in fact they haven’t. So I’m not saying it. Vicious Rumors have never split up y’see, though for some of those years since their impressive debut back in 1985 it has basically been guitarist Geoff Thorpe keeping the name alive. Larry Howe is still in there though (having been absent for a couple of albums around the Millennium) pounding the skins like that debut was just a few years ago, plus on/off recent guitarist Thaen Rasmussen is back in the ranks once more.

Past line-ups of Vicious Rumors could be a bit ‘revolving door’ at times, but the current line-up has been solid for three years now and “Concussion Protocol” marks the Vicious Rumors studio debut for bassist Tilan Hudrap and vocalist Nick Holleman. Nick is one full-on METAL vocalist, similar in style to Mike Tirelli (Messiah’s Kiss, Holy Mother etc.), so with this similarity (and although Vicious Rumors need no comparisons), the whole vibe has a similarity at times to Holy Mother, given the array of fabulous double-kick speed metal on offer here! To long-term fans who have experienced Vicious Rumors’ various guises, this is an album full of the energy and guitar work of the “Digital Dictator” era, which should please many, but coupled with a modern aggression and of course crisp production. I suppose that as this is a band that helped create the very essence of what American Speed Metal was in the 80’s, you would expect nothing less.

There’s a varied selection of high quality and accomplished Speed Metal tracks on offer here (not a ballad in sight!), but for me it’s those double-kick driven, guitar solo-littered power tracks that steal the show – like ‘Every Blessing’s A Curse’, ‘1000 Years’ and ‘Chemical Slaves’ – though if you want further examples of fabulous lead-guitar, you can’t go far wrong with the dynamic groove of ‘Last Of Our Kind’. The title track manages to cram all of the above in with more besides!

So can it be said that Vicious Rumors are “back” when they have never been away? Well, they’ve had a few…experimental albums (and line-ups!) in their time, brought on by changing musical attitudes and Thorpe’s desire to explore greater horizons, but surely THIS is the kind of album fans of the band want. The class, experience and energy on display here shows a rejuvenated band with a line-up that is really gelling and pushing the Vicious Rumors name back to where it should be – long may it continue. With Flotsam and Jetsam finally finding their feet again, Metal Church resplendent once more with Mike Howe and now a sterling album from Vicious Rumors, 2016 is turning out to be a damn fine year for classic American Speed Metal!

(7.5/10 Andy Barker)