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The altar of olden aggression. - 75%

hells_unicorn, May 6th, 2013

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.