Varga were a thrash/heavy metal band out of steeltown Hamilton, Ontario. They gained some exposure with their debut album "Prototype" with videos on Much Music and even made it to the ears of BNR Metal Pages which, for me, speaks volumes. I'll start with the band's Demo tape which I "borrowed" from my Stepbro and made a copy for myself back in highschool. It's a 5 song cassette of brilliant thrash metal. The production is great (my copy is terrible and wearing out) and the metal is comparable in quality to early Metallica, Death Angel and the riff monsters Exodus.
"Evil Drifters" is an epic mid-paced thrasher, "Money Talks" is a dark look at fame and fortune with some delicious lyrics and brilliant solo work and "No Man's Land" is a killer tune that's dark, epic and very visual. Side 2 starts with the global warning "No More Clean Air" that speaks volumes coming from a band out of a Steel manufacturing City and the ever delightful and cheesily fun thrasher "Shark Attack" which is a blistering assault. My favourite track, though all are brilliant is "Money Talks". It's unique in style and is a nice blend of mid-pace riffing and pummelling thrash. This demo is Varga's best work in my opinion and I'm sad my copy is suffering from overplay.
Varga, after a few years, finally secured a record deal and released their debut "Prototype". It was around this time when I read an interview with Joe Varga (bass/vocals) where he mentioned that he had an affinity for hip hop and that it influenced "Prototype". I was dreading the outcome, but soon discovered that Varga was definitely rooted in Metal. "Prototype" is more traditional Heavy Metal with uses of electronics that add an industrial feel. The album begins with "Unconscience" which is mid-paced metal both hooky and melodic and is followed by their video hit "Greed" which is a little faster but still chunky. These both have a very industrial sound. "Wawnah Mere", "Thief", "Film At Eleven" and "The Strong" are all standard Heavy Metal tunes in the power metal mold with "Thief" featuring a blistering thrashy outro. Good tunes, but not a lot of staying power.
The stand out songs are "Self Proclaimed Messiah" which is crushingly dark and disturbing and close to death metal in brutality. "Goodbye Boogaloo" is a fast playful instrumental. "Freeze Don't Move" is a delicious blend of Ministry and Public Enemy's "Bring Tha' Noize (featuring Anthrax)". Joe Varga drops his wonderful gruff thrash style vocals and makes an attempt at rapping (I think), but the tune is catchy and garnered the band more notice. The bonus version Krash's psycho mix is bass heavy and more industrial. "Cast Into The Shade" is a great dark power metal tune and a close second for my favourite. However, that title goes to "Bring The Hammer Down" which is the thrashiest song on the album with superb riff work and a great blend of electronic sounds and metal.
During my college years Varga released their second album "Oxygen". It was also when I found out my best friend is a cousin or second cousin to guitarist Sean Williamson which meant that at my second concert of theirs at Mustang Sally's, I got me some autographs and he got a free shirt ... jerk ... ah well, I did get pummelled in the mosh pit though! The sound on this album is more industrial, with a heavier influence of electronics and bass guitar and far more groove oriented metal.
"Healer" opens the album with a slow groove laden number that doesn't forget how to be heavy. The bass guitar has taken a step forward with a quality much like Joey DeMaio's of Manowar. "Closed", "Follow" and "The Passage" are similar in groove and hooky rhythm. "Needlestack", "Underneath" and "The Den" are slower and heavy with stylistic influences like fiddles in "Needlestack", ethnic flavouring in "Underneath" and Egyptian stylings on "The Den". This adds a unique edge to the album. "Follow", "So Real", "Words" and "Red Ribbons" are faster more metal sounding songs with touches of electronics.
Special mention should go to "Skeletons" which brilliantly mixes classy lounge jazz and brooding heavy metal. The versus' are slow loungey music with poetic lyrics and a chorus that surges with a dark inner turmoil that's brutally heavy and surprisingly melodic. A wonderful mixture. My favourite track is "The Passage" for its ridiculously catchy riffs and its poetically dark lyrics. A fine example of Varga's blending of heavy and groove music.
Varga really started to get their sound nailed down on "Oxygen" and they were developing an interesting style. Gone are the thrash roots and epic song structures, but they found a more accessible sound without compromising their heaviness. This, unfortunately would be their last effort, but at least I've been able to enjoy a couple of their shows and all their albums. I just have to find a way to preserve what little quality I have left on their thrash classic demo tape.
Coming up, I'll be moving back into some extreme metal bands starting next with the highly underrated Twin Obscenity and following with the brilliant viking/folk metal masters Moonsorrow.