Meliah Rage: Paul Souza (vocals); Jim Koury, Anthony Nichols (guitar); Jesse Johnson (bass guitar); Barry Spillberg (drums).
Additional personnel: Bob Mayo (bass guitar).
When a band reunites with a new lineup, longtime followers tend to be cautiously excited -- they're glad to see the band reunite, but how will the new lineup compare to previous lineups? And how will the new material measure up to the older material that won them over in the first place? In the case of Meliah Rage, getting back together after a long absence proves to be a good idea on Barely Human. This 2004 release, which is the Boston headbangers' first album since 1996's Death Valley Dream, finds three members of Meliah's original 1985 lineup -- guitarists Anthony Nichols and Jim Koury and bassist Jesse Johnson -- joining forces with newcomers Paul Souza (lead vocals) and Barry Spillberg (drums). Original lead singer Mike Munro is gone, but thankfully, Souza shows himself to be a worthy replacement -- and stylistically, Barely Human isn't a radical departure from Meliah's '80s and '90s recordings. Meliah is still a loud and forceful yet melodic thrash metal/speed metal outfit along the lines of Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and early Testament, and respectable tracks like "Bloodbath," "Invincible" and "Hate Machine" give the listener reason to be optimistic about the band's new post-Munro lineup. The interesting thing is that even though Barely Human is generally faithful to Meliah's history, the material doesn't sound overly dated by 2004 standards -- certainly not as dated as '80s pop-metal and power metal bands sound in the 21st century. And that can be attributed to the punk element in Meliah's metal; like Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer, Meliah has enough punk-minded aggression to be relevant to a post-Nevermind rock world. Some longtime fans may feel that Barely Human isn't as essential as Meliah's best '80s and early-'90s recordings; even so, it's a worthwhile, enjoyably focused comeback for the New England thrashers. (Note: early pressings of Barely Human included the bonus disc Unfinished Business, which contains 1992 demos employing Godsmack's Sully Erna on drums.) ~ Alex Henderson