• Emil

In Retrospective ...

CYCLONE TEMPLE - "I Hate Therefore I Am"

4/1991 Combat Records

Year was 1991. Midway thru my high school years. After the quasi fall of the communist regime in my birth country, Romania, at the end of 1989, access to everything “western”, music, movies, TV, fashion, lifestyle, etc, was becoming rather easy. The music market was suffocating under the amount of bootleg tapes coming in from Poland and other ex-Eastern Block countries, CDs were somewhat available, so they were relentlessly copied by music enthusiast, Hollywood (and not only) movies bootlegs, with dubious provenience now stacked atop ever present VHS tape players in every household, acid washed denim, fluorescent colors and high-tops everywhere … and due to the fast proliferation of cable TV, access to dozens of entertainment channels was available for a nominal fee. Needless to say, MTV ruled my world. Being an absolute “sponge” for music from a very young age, I spent countless hours watching music videos. Sunday nights were the best: at midnight (local time) the MTV Europe aired the best show for all things rock and metal: The Headbangers Ball! Anchored in Europe by Vanessa Warwick, the three hours show was my source for new music and interviews. The show’s “Triple Thrash Treat” segments were dedicated to the most extreme styles of metal, and that is were I first encountered the American thrash metal band, CYCLONE TEMPLE. More specifically via their music video for “Words Are Just Words”, a song lifted from their 1991 debut album, “I Hate Therefore I Am”.

At the dawn of 1990s, thrash metal was at an all time high. Kreator, Megadeth, Sepultura, Slayer, Testament, Annihilator, Anthrax, Exodus, Destruction, just to name a few, all had new stellar, mature releases. The release of Metallica’s self-titled album (aka “the Black Album”) in the summer of 1991, facilitated a place in the mainstream for the harder edge bands, as well. Moreover, starting around 1991, changes in concept, lyrics and tempo, were becoming evident in the world of thrash metal. Mid-paced songs found more and more space on records, war and nuclear terror themes were discarded in favor of socially oriented lyrics, perhaps ordained in advance to the sterility that the world of rock & metal was about to face shortly.

This evolution trajectory was clearly the case for Cyclone Temple and the release of their debut effort. “I Hate Therefore I Am” was a thrash metal album ahead of the curve at the time of release in 1991. This “dare to be different” album was either, ignored, dismissed by the thrash metal fans, or embraced by the very few that actually took the time to listen. The changes that were taking place in the music industry around that time made things worst: the band receiving very little support from the label in promoting the album. Not a singular case, far from it. Cyclone Temple arrived at the scene at the worst time, right at the beginning of the thrash metal falling victim to the more modern, unpolished sounding grunge fad, forced into mainstream by the music industry. “I Hate Therefore I Am” was released by Combat Records, in April of 1991. Soon after, Combat Records' parent company Relativity Records was bought out by Sony BMG. Sony shut down Combat Records soon after buying Relativity. All went down in flames … mind you, not a blaze of glory …

Who are Cyclone Temple? Cyclone Temple started life as Znöwhite (1982 - 1989), a thrash/speed metal outfit who have been credited for helping pioneer thrash metal in and around Chicago. After vocalist Debbie Gunn left Znöwhite for health reasons, the three remaining members, Greg (Ian) Fulton (guitars), Scott Schafer (bass), and John Slattery (drums), recruited singer Brian Troch, from the local Chicago band Hammeron, to fill the position behind the microphone. Together, they performed for a brief period of time as Znöwhite, but after signing with Combat Records they decided to change the name of the band, officially surfacing as Cyclone Temple, circa 1990. The band released only one album, “I Hate Therefore I Am”, in this formation. Frontman Brian Troch left right after the album’s support tour ended. The band went on to release an EP, “Building Errors in the Machine” with singer Marco Salinas and, in 1994, with a third new singer, Sonny DeLuca, a full-length titled “My Friend Lonely”, before forever disbanding.

Going back to my first encounter with the band via the music video for “Words Are Just Words” - even from that shorter, edited version, I immediately sensed that the band was stylistically “different”: clean, more melodic vocals, socially oriented lyrics, huge riffs, Spanish guitar interludes and great tempo variations throughout the song, culminating with the fast-paced, pure thrash patterns in the second half of the song. Luckily, a couple of months later, I was able to record (from the MTV broadcast) the song’s audio to tape, and by the end of the year, I managed to somehow get a poor sounding bootleg copy of the entire album. Fast-forward another three years, upon moving to Los Angeles in 1995, I found a copy of the album on CD, in the “used” bins at Tower Records on Sunset Strip, for 99 cents! Score!

A certain change in the rock & metal scene was in a way inevitable, circa 1991. Glam metal, after ruling the TV and radio waves for at least half of a decade, was supplying mostly overproduced and without any substance records. Thrash metal lost some of its edge, and demoralized, with or without merit, a certain number of fans. (Obviously there are exceptions to those rules in both camps.) Death metal was in a very strong developing stage, however, mainstream outlets where not going to have anything to do with the style. Fortunately, it continue its development and expansion, and gain true underground recognition. And so did black metal, at that point in time in its second wave, consolidating more fans worldwide. That left a few big names, that were still lucrative for the labels, to release albums with a softer edge, similar with Metallica’s self-titled effort, or in some instances, a harder edge, leaving glam behind. For example: Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind” (a true heavy metal effort) was released in June 1991 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Pantera released its sixth record, “Vulgar Display of Power” in February 1992, considered to be one of the most defining groove-metal albums, Megadeth’s 1992 “Countdown to Extinction” (also a heavy metal record) became the band's most commercially successful album, Bon Jovi completely departing their glam metal roots to release a straight forward, blues leaning, hard rock album, “Keep The Faith”, at the end of 1992. Please forgive my digression …

At that time, in 1991, Cyclone Temple’s forward thinking effort, pointing in a new direction and exploring outside the norm, went unrecognized. Overlooked. I mostly blame it on the timing: if released a couple of years earlier, but perhaps most beneficially, later, I think the album could’ve gained different traction among listeners. “I Hate Therefore I Am” was rather fitting for the transition between the old decade (80s) and the new decade. The technical association with Metallica’s late 1980s material, or the likes of Forbidden’s 1990 “Twisted Into Form”, is not far fetched. However, Cyclone Temple pave their own path musically, adding, among other things, an array of groove-metal elements to the mix. Perhaps a big departure form the era’s standards was the album’s lyrical content, focusing entirely on social issues (humanity, mankind, greed, religion, racism, poverty, etc), and coincidentally these lyrics are as fresh and relevant today, as they were twenty-eight years ago. Another clear departure was on the vocals field: Brian Troch having a better range than most singers in the thrash metal realm (at the time), and a much more soulful, yet powerful delivery. Another attribute that worked for Brian was the melancholic trait present in his vocal delivery, while still maintaining proper grit. This was something that, more or less was surfacing musically with the new wave of alternative rock/metal, that was gaining popularity at the time: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, etc. Guitarist Greg Fulton contributions to the overall sound of the album are praise worthy! Greg was perhaps one of the finest rhythm guitarist on the scene at that time. A thrash riff master! His guitar tone and playing precision are among the best I’ve heard to this day! Backed by a very well defined sounding rhythm section, allowing Greg’s riffing and picking capabilities to truly shine. With John Slattery drumming accuracy anchoring the sound, and providing well performed pattern and fills, and bassist Scott Schafer rounding the lower bottom aggression with his fluid licks and basslines layering perfectly with the guitar riffs, the band goes thru countless tempo changes, alternating constantly between beautifully executed slower, epic ballad like passages, and frantic, rapid-fire, yet very well defined, extended power sections. All words and music on this album, were written and arranged by Greg Fulton.

I wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone whom missed it the first time around, or wanting to revisit a forward thinking, well written, produced and executed, yet underrated thrash metal album. The album was reissued a couple of times in the past with limited runs, but unfortunately it is not available for streaming on Spotify. Enjoy the music!

The music video for " Words Are Just Words", as aired by MTV's Headbangers Ball in 1991:

© 2019 by Emil Chiru

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