It's a weird thing to read a press release about a metal band from San Diego that says, right off the bat, San Diego isn't really known for its metal talent. It's not that it isn't true, but the fact that Metal Blade Records—a prominent national label that has released albums by the likes of Slayer, Celtic Frost and Candlemass—acknowledges the city's low profile in heavy music while boosting one of its very own is a strange bit of cognitive dissonance. The talent is here, of course, if not nationally known. Cattle Decapitation is San Diego's most prominent export as metal goes, with Author & Punisher not far behind. And of late, bands such as Beira, Deep Sea Thunder Beast and Eukaryst have been making some splendid noise.

Poison Headache, a death metal outfit featuring Wovenwar's Phil Sgrosso, already has a bit of a leg up, given that the trio's members have been in the game for a long time. And, for that matter, they've got one of the biggest metal labels backing them. It turns out their brand of crusty, crunchy, pummeling metal and hardcore is uniformly strong out of the gate.

True to classic death metal and hardcore ethos, Poison Headache's debut is brief at only 27 minutes in total, and that pummeling certainly goes down at a dizzying pace. Of course, when you're going for maximum impact, why waste time on drawing out verses, choruses or intros that work much better when concentrated to be their most potent. That closing track "Discloser" actually crosses four minutes makes it feel like a marathon, considering it's by no means slow, quiet or restrained.

Poison Headache work just fine in small doses, however. The 98-second "Pity the Backseat" roars furiously, yet harbors some interesting melodic transitions in its second half. Similarly, the two-minute "Benumbed" opens with a gothic swirl of guitar, slowly ascending in its instrumental psychedelia toward a pounding climax. But it's on the Entombed-style death 'n' roll of "Hail, Colossus" and the Discharge-influenced d-beat crust of "Sin Eater" that Poison Headache are at their best. I won't venture to guess what this album will do for San Diego's metal reputation, but it's a step in the right direction.


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