without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Deceptive appearances do not necessarily presuppose a negative outcome, though it can lead to a disappointing result for those who immediately associate a given exterior with a particular sound. "As Death Awakes" presents itself as something other than what it is, for those who can recall the stereotypical imagery of hellish creatures or leather toting bikers adorning the album art of early pioneers of filthy, vindictive thrash metal. At first glance, it appears somewhere along the lines of the otherworldly imagery of the early to mid 90s Swedish death metal scene mixed with the pale moonlit landscapes of the parallel melodic black metal landscape of the same area. A contemporary band that would seem to be of a parallel sound if this trend of album art held true would be nearby Bavarian blackened death proponents Thulcandra. Alas, while the imagery put forth speaks of a mid 90s throwback, the musical reality reaches back a good bit further.
Deathstorm makes no secret of who their influences are, placing their musical cards right dead in the midst of the mid 80s Teutonic trio era, with a particular emphasis on the early works of Kreator. While there are always deviations in any past-worshipping endeavor to keep an album from becoming an absolute carbon-copy, at times one can't help but wonder why this band didn't dub themselves "Pleasure To Kill" given the contents of this LP. The combination of low-fidelity, analog sounding guitar mix and distant, tinny sounding drums, alongside a garbled, screaming vocal quality that lay somewhere between the mutterings of early Venom and the howl of Possessed, being middle of the road in pitch and mostly intelligible. This is basically an outright throwback to practices of the 80s in every sense, and makes little pretense of trying to be modern or seeking out any mode of polish or overt symmetry.
But in spite of the truly retro feel of this album, it does make a few leaps to distinquish itself from a crowded field of past-loving thrashers. Avoiding the trap of a number of Greek and Brazilian outfits with a heavy love of Slayer, this thing doesn't just cook from start to finish, and relies on a somewhat more archaic, NWOBHM influenced riff set that hints at a "Show No Mercy" tinge to this band's approach, not all that dissimilar from the works of Norwegian outfit Deathhammer. At times, the album manages to make a healthy usage of mid-tempo crunch, particularly on the somewhat ambitious instrumental "Nebelhexe", but it does keep things on the fast side. The lead guitar assault definitely takes on a huge Kerry King tone, wildly flying around seemingly random craziness that is a bit interesting when presented in a power trio context (think "Agent Orange", but with a lighter, older production quality). Basically everything at play here was explored in the 80s, but some parts hint that at least Deathstorm is taking some strides to diversify their sources a little.
While not quite an essential album, this is definitely a decent offering that adds to the growing pool of retro-thrashers of a German persuasion, and in this case a land a bit closer to the German culture that birthed the unfettered rage that made the style what it was. It's a bit less reliant on blood and violence than the likes of Suicidal Angels and Bywar, and presents a somewhat more mystical and archaic demeanor that is somewhat more moderated and multifacteted. Nevertheless, it isn't quite a perfect tribute to the past that it proports to love and could do with a bit more innovation and growth. At times, things get repetitive and progress a bit slowly, in contrast to the wild and frenetic character of "Onward To The Pits", which presents an equally past-oriented sound with about twice the energy and distinctiveness. But anyone who wants to relive the glory days of 1985-87 Kreator, there are definitely worse ways to get there than this.
Derivation is an uncomfortable bedfellow, but when it comes to metal music, it is also the cliched sincerest form of flattery. While I think a lot of headbangers today are far too apathetic on their quest to sniff out nostalgia for a time they either experienced (or didn't, the circumstance of being 'born too late'), often to the point that they forget that what drew them to their favorite bands in the first place was that innovation and originality they seem to scoff at, I don't have much of a problem with a band which comes along and offers a further supply of something there was precious little of in the first place. In the case of Austria's violent thrashers Deathstorm, there is little to no doubt which well they are heavily sipping from: malicious Teutonic thrash of the mid 80s, with a few hints of Bay Area's most bloody artisans from around that same period.
Kreator was what I was thinking first, largely due to the uncouth flesh ripping vocals that are highly redolent of Mille Petrozza from the Endless Pain/Pleasure to Kill era. These are truly vicious and brash, with not even the faintest hint of concern for catchiness in either verse or chorus. The lightning riff sequences also have a similar structure of hyper-accelerated punk interspersed with pints of bright but unfriendly melody that evoke a surgical semblance to Terrible Certainty, Persecution Mania and Release from Agony, though these Austrians are a lot more rough around the edges. Obviously Slayer is a factor, as is Dark Angel, but I think the former was even true of the most successful German acts in the style. Deathstorm's riff choices could be defined as 'familiar but too bustling with rage and youth to give a god damn'. Rarely as well written as their influences, but nonetheless fun enough if you're just looking to blow off some testosterone, which I'm guessing is really the point of As Death Awakes. Thankfully, the band doesn't accomplish this through mere monotony, but they actually have some varied song structures like the cleaner tinge of the guitars that open "Nebelhexe" (with the raucous phased bass-lines that commit a total freakout!)
Production is a bit on the dry side, but that's likely because Deathstorm haven't any interest in giving their music a modern, glossy treatment, since it then might lack the authenticity of the popular old school. The rhythm guitars are a bit more brazen than, say, Terrible Certainty, and they tend to overpower the crisper, tinny snares and crash drums, with a bass kick that is almost inaudible except during slower sequences. The bass guitars are fine; this is a three-piece power-trio with a live-oriented sound, and what he's playing, while not always interesting, is strong enough to support the rhythm progressions while he's barking out his blood curdling rasps. There aren't a lot of money shot riffs here when taken individually, but the Sodom-like mid paced breakdowns make you wanna mosh like it was 1987, and the faster material is filthy and manic enough that it keeps the ears affixed through a sizable chunk of the content. Some of the lyrics feel as if they've just been lifted and rearranged from old Slayer, Destruction, Kreator, and so forth, but then a lot of these re-thrash groups don't exhibit much creativity in that department.
Overall, As Death Awakes is a bloody nose, a broken bone, a case of road rash that I found efficiently abusive enough to appreciate, and certainly something that chasers of sound-a-likes for Pleasure to Kill, Darkness Descends and other comparable records would find appropriate amidst their questing. But just don't go into it seeking something capable of a truly lasting impression/concussion, because a lot of growth is still necessary for Deathstorm to really make their mark on this already flooded scene of rehashes and loyalists. Also, really loved the cover art to this one, even though aesthetically it doesn't seem consistent with the music. But, hey, it beats another gas-masked pizza thrash mascot, pitchfork-wielding devil, grim reaper or wolf riding a motorcycle.