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Darkness might not have been one of the better thrash acts to emerge from the 80s German scene, but at its height, they would at least keep themselves busy, with three albums in three consecutive years. Death Squad had been a pretty obvious amalgamation of the major German bands like Sodom and Kreator, but its followup Defenders of Justice, also through the ill fated Gama Records, does see the band veer off into a more laconic style I'd equate more with the run of the mill American bands that were choking up scores of upstart independent labels and the weaker slots on the rosters of renown. In short, while its predecessor might have suffered from a bit of redundancy among the German outbreak, this album is quite openly mediocre.
The major reason for this is the mix of the vocals against the backdrop of the riffs. Olli's tone here is nasal, bland and frankly sounds like he was bored knocking out the tunes in the studio. It's not terrible, and he'll spin on a little added aggression through "Battle to the Last", "Locked" or the charging closer "Predetermined Destiny" where the gang shouts compliment him, but its far from the inspired performance, and could easily be interchanged with the vocals on any of a hundred mediocre thrash or crossover records. The music unfortunately does not fare much better: competent execution, loud and pumping bass lines, and a whole slew of fast and focused riffs that just go nowhere. Rarely, if ever is there a truly evil or effective series of notes being slung across the strings, and this really adds to the dulled impact of the record.
A few tracks try to build some depth, like the flowing, clinical "Caligula" or the relatively equal paced titled track "Defenders of Justice", but the guitars are merely passable, and never catchy, easily lost beneath the lead and backing vocals. It's almost a shame that the guitars weren't just louder, because some added force against Olli would have rendered this slightly entertaining, as opposed to just another record you could toss in the bin while stroking yourself to any of the superb offerings in the year of 1988, whether they be ...And Justice for All, Punishment for Decadence, or superior German fare like Tankard's belligerent beer swilling epic The Morning After, or Vendetta's Brain Damage. The few moments of manic, razor bliss that promise the hints of Destruction, Sodom and Kreator so prevalent on the debut are vastly outnumbered by unappealing transitions and an album that feels as if it were being put out to pasture before its time, and the Monty Python reference that opens "Predetermined Destiny" is fruitless.
Ok thrash metal friends, do you know or remember Darkness from Germany? No??? Bad thing! This group is one of the most overlooked things in thrash that, back in the 80s, released two great albums. “Defenders Of Justice” is one of these two. We are so blinded by groups like Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and many others, that we forgot about this one that surely deserves more attention and respect.
I found this LP in a second hand shop and I immediately bought it. This group is pure energy. These tracks are pure thrash metal in German way. The up tempo and the excellent refrain on “Bloodbath” are a piece of underground history. The production is in pure 80s style but very good and heavy; the guitar sound is always solid, followed by truly characteristical vocals. They are similar to scratches on the wall. Great. “Inverted Minds” is well balanced with an almost speed metal refrain.
The bass work on “Battle To The Last” is truly pounding while the song is more focused on classic metal riffage and quite fast tempo. The vocals here are fucking great. “Caligula” features great lead guitars works and chorus with some more melodic passages. To describe the absurdity of the war we have the great mid paced “They Need A War”, with the speed growing during the refrain while a track like “Locked” could destroy a skyscraper.
The title track has a mid paced beginning with always excellent bass sound. Then it turns to up tempo with catchy sounds and vocals. “Predetermined Destiny” is the pure thrash assault at the end of the album. The fast parts are perfectly and wisely alternated to some long and more melodic mid paced ones.
All in all, this is a true, sincere and old fashioned piece of thrash that must be rediscovered and cleaned up from the dusts of time.