Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. In celebration of our nation’s birthday (if you live in the US, anyway), this week we go all patriotic on your asses, crossover-style, with Uncle Slam’s Will Work for Food (Restless).
Our nation was founded on freedom, the freedom to do what you wanted with your life. If that freedom means being in a crossover thrash band well past that genre’s prime, so be it. If it means using a really bad pun as said band’s name, awesome. And if you want to pose on the back of the CD case thing like rejects from House of Pain, so much the better! By those criteria, Uncle Slam were the freest of any of us – and to their credit, they did all those things better than most.
Featuring former members of Suicidal Tendencies and, somewhat inexplicably, Warrior (who may be gracing these pages somewhere down the line), Uncle Slam began life as a politically-minded thrash act called The Brood. They released an album under that name, but there were like four other groups called The Brood, and none called Uncle Slam (wonder why), so they changed their name to the latter. After an okay debut (mostly notable for its cheesy cyborg muscleman Uncle Sam cover art) in 1988, they took a five-year break before returning with 1993’s Will Work for Food (and hired Ed Repka to do the album art this time around).
Their list of influences shouldn’t surprise anyone with a passing familiarity with this sort of thing – they pretty clearly listened to a bunch of Corrosion of Conformity and Testament (besides paying attention while on stage with Suicidal). Their appreciation for Testament’s legacy shows most apparently in the title track, which has echoes of that band’s “Practice What You Preach.” “Roadkill” hits as hard and direct as its name, while “Cold Fire” slows things down (relatively speaking) to give you some time to catch your breath in the pit that “Left for Dead” and “Dominant Submission” whipped up. Weirdly, their iconoclastic take on Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” is one of the record’s highlights, these guys turning that song’s proto-punk into actual punk.
Despite how much ass this thing kicked, there just wasn’t much of a market for kind of generic crossover thrash in 1993 (as evidenced by the stylistic changes their main influences went through around that time). They called it a day after one more record, 1996’s mediocre When God Dies. Still, they left a cutout bin classic behind, a blast of antigovernment aggression that you can proudly play by the rocket’s red glare.