After a seven year split, Brisbane punk-rockers Speedlab made their triumphant return to music with …
To hear Pete Alexander speak you’d never assume him to be the vocalist for a gnarly thrash band. After Burner, the love child of Chris Debono and Jay Allan, former members of Identity Theft and The Kill respectively, along with Alexander and Bodyjar bassist Grant Relf, have committed to producing a seasoned sound that’s palatable to all–in their self-titled debut album, thrash has taken a turn for the nasty.
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And yet Alexander is such a softly spoken dude that to compliment him means to be met with a bashful chuckle and a gentle ‘thank you’ – one wonders where the grit and grind on the album comes from.
After Burner isn’t your typical long hair windmilling thrash … Well, it is, but there’s something that’s come anew in this volume of tunes, likely because of the different backgrounds and experiences of the band’s members, though the sound isn’t without the influence of their peers. “I guess the music is classic but like, Chris is heavily influenced by Metallica and the old type thrash but we’ve also been in punk bands–I’m probably more punk–that’s why the vocals have that extreme of punk and hardcore.
“Black Flag, I love all that stuff, even newer bands like The Bronx and stuff. I guess that’s why it sounds the way it does.”
Something about After Burner’s individual experiences brought together in this line-up has caused a massive creative thrust, though trying to put a finger on that touch of magic triggers a pregnant pause in Alexander. “All of our bands at some point in time, whether it was Identity Theft, Fuck … I’m Dead, or even Bodyjar, there was always a slight metallic influence.
“But this, I guess it’s always been something we’ve wanted to do but never got around to doing. It’s very rooted in that classic thrash, it’s almost like we’ve gone back to that but brought it into a current day sound.”
After Burner is a firecracker and will leave scorch marks in its wake. “This is definitely the brainchild of Chris,” says Alexander, “He wrote the whole album, all the music. He got together with Jake and they started jamming again with Grant on board, and then there was me.”
It’s only since the start of the year we’ve been able to play with Frenzal Rhomb and King Parrot. Even [playing] with bands quite different to us, it’s all been really good in that regard; metal, punk, rock bands, we’re definitely about doing that.
[ Pete Alexander ]
It’s hard not to pick up on the overriding theme of being big and bad. With words like ‘morbid’, ‘crashers’, ‘colosseum’, the album screams a massive boldness and to then open this Pandora’s box of noise, the beat matches the message. “There are a couple of songs, Castle Crashers and Under The Ice, I picked up where Chris left off on the lyrics,” says Alexander.
“Sometimes I get a vibe for a song, nut that out and go from there. The others, I sort of take an idea, even just a sentence that Chris put forward, but I try to make it as broad as possible and not talk about the same thing all the time.
Alexander talks of Debono’s work a great deal and how the rest of the band meld with his vision. Ultimately, Debono isn’t just the mastermind of After Burner but he’s the fuel in the fire of everything. “He’s definitely the driving force–he started up a label [Riffbear Records] so he could put out his own records and he’s very hands-on. He’s very driven.”
The After Burner family extends beyond the four immediate members, the band going to the trouble to acknowledge Sam Johnson at Holes and Corners studio who recorded the album, and mastering engineer Alan Douches–After Burner isn’t just about the four of them, it’s about everyone who’s in love with the music. “I like it, too, when bands incorporate other bands around them and people off the label, it’s always a cool vibe,” says Alexander, “That whole cool thing of helping each other out, and it’s why we do it.
“You go out, meet with other bands, play with new people, it makes it exciting and interesting.”
For their new video for single Under The Ice, After Burner got to play with plenty of people, cameos made in the clip by members of Mindsnare, King Parrot, Frenzal Rhomb and The Exploited’s Big John to name just a few. Thrash metal is definitely getting a lot of love. “I didn’t realise until the end there were so many different heads!” says Alexander. “Once again, Chris teed it up. He goes out to a lot of shows, he’s friendly with a lot of people and he asked all these people to appear in it–it was a really quick turnaround, maybe ten days. He got right on top of that!”
In having these rockers make their cameos it only goes to show that the After Burner family always has its arms open to more members from all areas. “It’s only since the start of the year we’ve been able to play with Frenzal Rhomb and King Parrot. Even [playing] with bands quite different to us, it’s all been really good in that regard; metal, punk, rock bands, we’re definitely about doing that.
“I think it makes it more interesting for the listeners and those who rock up to the shows, to see more diverse bands on the bill, and we love it.”