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With one decent album under their belts (Vicious Attack) and an album cover that Fallout gamers would die for, California's Abattoir was poised to become one of Combat Records' harder hitters with their sophomore effort The Only Safe Place. Melodic and fast, but raw and heavy, they had a style which could bridge between the traditional heavy metal sect and the emerging thrash fanatics of the period. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be, and this was the band's final full-length effort, though they've reformed and still exist today.
The Only Safe Place sounds fantastic even by today's standards, I with metal albums still had a tone like this. Mike Towers' vocals were similar to John Bush (Armored Saint and later Anthrax), but higher pitched. They had a melodic body but a sharp edge that could cut you. As for the writing, it's solid if not exceedingly catchy. "Nothing Sacred" is a pounding mid-paced anthem with some bluesy influence. "Night of the Knife" is good riffy melodic speed metal with a Maiden influence. "Hammer of the Gods" is a thrashing track fit for the pit, and others like "S.B.D. (Feel the Fire)" and "Temptations of the Flesh" are hooky enough 80s anthems. The lyrics were average for the time, often meaningful, though some still hang on to the hair metal S&M aesthetic of dirty 80s metal. Despite its great mix and potential, not a lot of the tracks were memorable, but if you are into similar West Coast speed metal from the 80s (Agent Steel, Armored Saint, etc), it's certainly an album worth hearing.
Abattoir are a band not far removed from other early power/speed metal bands from America, similarities to Metal Church, Helstar, and Virgin Steele aren't hard to find. If you are familiar with those bands, then you will know what to expect here. Some fast paced heavy metal, a bit of a raw sound, over the top vocals, and shredding solos. Their singer actually sounds a bit like David Defeis(Virgin Steel) sounded around this time(eg Noble Savage) but not quite as good. He doesn't really have much of a range, or even a good voice for that matter, but he does make up for it with some attitude. The guitars are great, good riffs, good solos, quality stuff. The album has two major flaws, one is the songwriting. It's not bad for the most part, the majority of the songs are good, but they lack hooks. And in this type of music you need good, catchy riffs and melodies to make your songs come to life. The other flaw is the lifeless production, it's not bad really, but it's too thin, and there's way too much treble, the bass is lost, etc. I guess for a very obscure band from 1986, it could have been a lot worse.
The best songs on the album are mostly the Virgin Steele style speed metal monsters. Songs like "Night of the Knife," "Hammer of the Gods," and "Bring on the Damned" are seriously good speed metal. Some of the slower, mid paced songs are decent as well. "Nothing Sacred" has some of the best hooks and melodies on the album, and is easily the catchiest song on here, though its a little cheesy. "Temptations of the Flesh" has a good mid-paced driving rythym, in more of a NWOBHM style. "The Only Safe Place" is the highlight of the album, it starts off tame enough, with some slow chugging riffs but quickly launches off into aggressive speed metal. Good thrashy riffs, some great shredding, and a catchy Maiden sounding chorus. The solos and leads in this song are surprisingly very good.
But as I stated in the title, this is really a mixed bag. Pretty much half of the songs are good, and half are worthless. Two throw-away instrumental tracks at the beginning and end of the album, at least they didn't put them in the middle I guess. The album also lacks any really awesome songs that just make you say "fuck this is bad ass!" But for those of us who are fans of this type of music, it's still quality stuff.
Its interesting how much the transition from their debut album to this one reminds me of Savage Grace's move from "Master of Disguise" to "After the Fall from Grace". The emphasis on speed and innovation is still definitely there, but at the same time it does feel like a very different side of the band. Maybe its the new vocalist who led these changes, maybe not? With drastic improvements also came some changes, some for the best and some that weren't so great.
The production is superior to their debut by tenfold. My problem with the debut's production was also its inconsistency, quality seemed to bounce around from track to track. That's hardly the case here. Another major improvement is the length of this album. Its nearly twice as long as their debut, which is obviously nice.
The one change I really don't enjoy so much is the replacement of previous vocalist Steve Gaines with Mike Towers. Mike Towers manages to sound quite a bit like Chastain's original female vocalist Leather Leone (interestingly enough, this album sounds quite a bit like Chastain). He could also probably be slightly compared to Ralf Scheepers. The vocals aren't bad at all, and the chorus's here are as catchy as ever, but Towers lacks the aggression and originality Gaines had. Another thing as previous reviewers have pointed out, the 'vicious attack' and raw power they had is a bit lost here. It does feel a bit held back from time to time, and sadly some of the songs on here aren't too memorable.
Overall though this album is a very good. The intro track has that generic wind blowing in the background, but it also brings in some great guitarwork and sets you up for one of the best tracks on here, Bring on the Damned. Just like their first track on their debut (the track Screams of the Grave), this song comes at you like a stampede and explodes with its extremely catchy chorus. The fourth track sounds a bit too much like Chastain though, and possibly a bit too happy, not to mention the synth's here are a bit silly. The tracks after this don't really stand out too much either. I'd say it really picks back up with Temptations of the Flesh, coming off a little faster and tougher than the previous tracks. This quality seems to continue for the rest of the album, and the final track Night of the Knife definitely stands out as one of the best. Starts off with some great shredding and gallops away like something you could have heard on their debut.
In the end this is another great album from the obscure Abattoir, and sadly it would be their last full length album. Its different compared to their debut, but at the same time this is still something you'd only find underground. If you really like Savage Grace's "After the Fall From Grace", Chastain, and other obscure 80's speed/power metal bands you'll probably enjoy this one. Overall I may prefer their debut over this, but I'm giving them the same rating because of the drastic improvements with the production and for the length of this album being twice as long as its former. Definitely worth hearing for the fans.
this is a power-metal album, and anyone (see unfortunate reviewer below this one) thinking it's the second coming of the Motorhead-meets-the-first-Agent-Steel-LP "Vicious Attack" will be at least surprised, if not disappointed. It's not nearly as raw, not nearly as lovingly underproduced... it's what you'd call a "more mature" release, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If you want to know what this sounds like, think Heretic with Mike Howe. Okay, something a bit less obscure. Take that first album and mix it with the first WASP, complete with the big catchy melodies and total stereotypical "80s" sound, and add a pinch of early Jag Panzer. Seriously, this album is just about what you'd come up with if you were asked to name a typical "80s metal" release.
Well, is it good? Yeah, it actually is. The production is a step up from the previous album, and the songwriting is more developed, compared to the first album, with more subtle twists as opposed to relying on a single "bash your fucking face" ideal. For a good example of this, see "Nothing Sacred" with its multiple mood changes especially around the chorus. There's nothing wrong with the first album, and nothing wrong with this one either... sometimes you just need your necrocunt knifed in half, and sometimes you need the occasional time to think.
Back to Hell is a real burner, Temptations of the Flesh is something Blackie Lawless would be proud of, and the first track is magnificent, especially with that intro. I have no idea which band member had some classical training, but that introduction is my favourite of anything I've ever heard on any metal album, ever. Yes, that includes The Hellion.
We've come to the stage of our lives where there are two places you'll find this album... either on dusty vinyl for 50 cents in some back-alley record store, or on your favourite mp3 sharing space. In neither case should you pass it up. It's not a "ZOMG ETERNAL CLASSIC" like Ample Destruction, but it's solidly planted in that second wave of bands whose career should get at least a passing mention.
After the raucous debauchery of Vicious Attack the speed and thrash metal fraternity awaited this release with bated breath. The expectation of something very special was afoot, but unfortunately it didn’t materialise. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Abattoir’s second release. It contains all the trade marks associated with them, e.g. catchy songs, decent solos, and well thought out songs. The problem is it’s just too nice to be an Abattoir album. Vicious Attack did exactly what the title says and I reckon Abattoir decided to play it safe and try a more commercial affair but aim to keep the heaviness intact. They didn’t really achieve either as each song passes by without a nod of the head. On repeated listens this does get better and is standard metal fodder but nothing memorable. The change of vocalist, who albeit is better overall, just isn’t ferocious enough to make these songs more brutal. Every song on this release is comparable to those on Vicious Attack, but thrashers and speed metal freaks will be disappointed in the lack of overall intensity. The standout tracks of Bring on the Damned and Night of the Knife are quality metal songs and straight metallers might actually get this and consider it as an undiscovered gem, but I reckon the album is doomed to metal mediocrity. Playing it safe is not necessarily the best option in metal.