VARGA – Prototype (1993 BMG)
Joe Varga and crew started off as a Toronto-area thrash metal band. There was a thriving thrash scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and Varga’s contribution were songs like “Mad Scientist” and “Shark Attack”. They released an indi album (cassette only) called Multiple Wargasms. As the 90’s progressed, Varga established a prototypical industrial metal direction, something perfectly mundane today, but hip for the time. Like some bizarre cross between thrash metal and ZZ Top, Varga attempted to bridge the gap between machine and man. They signed to BMG and got David Bendeth to produce them, who had just worked his magic with Sven Gali.
Varga’s major label debut was called Prototype. As promised, it boasts a mixture of metal and industrial. Live drums, guitars and bass mix are augmented with samples and loops. People I knew referred to them as “Ministry Lite”, and that is as apt a description as any. While Varga embraced technology, it didn’t seem fully incorporated into the music. The songs are, for the most part, metal tracks with samples and effects added for embellishment. Varga took the unusual step of listing everybody that inspired them in the credits. Metal outnumbers industrial bands by 12-2. Pornography had more influence on Varga than Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, according to this!
That said, when it works, it works. “Greed” is a prime example. Had it been a typical fast-forward thrash metal song, it still would have been good. The electronics and looped rhythms turbo-charge the whole thing. “Freeze Don’t Move” seems built around the loops, and features rapping and a sung chorus. Hearing it today, I think “Hello, Linkin Park!” But there was no Linkin Park in 1993. These two tracks were the singles, and they are easily the best two songs on the album. Additionally, “Freeze Don’t Move” was remixed and extended by somebody called “KRASH” (all caps). The original is all you need, but the remix is included as a CD-only bonus track. (Quaint concept today!)
Prototype clunks and clanks along, not like a finely tuned streamlined machine, but more like an older model with a rattle under the hood. The musicianship is fine and dandy; Varga did not forsake guitar solos and there are several hot ones to choose from, not to mention diverse moments of instrumental brilliance. The issue is that the rest of the material sputters inconsistently. “The Strong”, “Unconscience”, “Thief”, “Self Proclaimed Messiah” and “Wawnah Mère” aren’t bad, and “Bring The Hammer Down” is pretty metallic. None are memorably solid throughout; they just boast great parts here and there.
Recommended for metal historians and fans of the industrial metal sound.