without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Thrash metal and the Wild West. Two birds of a feather. In fact, I'm honestly surprised they hadn't collided earlier than this. At least not to the extent found in the output of Desperados (later exchanging the final 's' for a 'z') the project of one Alex Kraft. Some might know the guitarist from Tom Angelripper's solo band when he wasn't busy with Sodom. Why, Tom himself has sharpened his spurs for this debut, saddled his horse and strapped his pistols for this debut, The Dawn of Dying, and you'll find his very distinct vocals all over this high-falootin', six-shootin' concept album., which somehow, despite its absurdity, manages to not insult either the audience or its source material...
Thrash metal and the Wild West. They could have been joined better, but for what it's worth, I will take this. The album plays out like a classic Western, opening with crickets in an open prairie, then an ascending instrumental with guitars, pianos and distant percussion, before the swagger of the cowboys begins with "Gomorrah of the Plains". This is your basic mix of thrash and traditional heavy metal, lots of simple mutes but glazed over in atmosphere and melody appropriate to the fictional, historical realm the band's thoughts are dwelling in. Nothing really to write home about, but there are better songs which better utilize the bells and whistles and general atmosphere, like "Dodge City", "The Dawn of Dying", "Devil's Horse" and "Gone With the Wind", the last of which is like a Southern cousin to "The Saw is the Law". Several of the tracks go further into the traditional country/blues of the setting, with pumping, fun bass lines in "Jumpin' Down the Running Train" or the rock anthem "My Gun and Me", but it all fits in surprisingly well together.
I would point out that the actual thrash core of this band itself is not very interesting. I couldn't count a single riff here that would raise my hackles in a positive frenzy were it not for the dressings of the thematic, theatrical instrumentation. Without these dynamics, The Dawn of Dying would be a tremendous bore, even with Tom Angelripper on for the ride. But when it all comes together, it's hard not to smile at the band's intentions. Obviously, by nature this sort of project seems silly, but the Germans don't fuck around with it. The lyrics are pretty damned crazy, in fact. Which begs the question: why is it that it took a group of Europeans to come up with this? We should have had dozens of cowboy thrash bands already...and no, Agony Column and Pantera don't count. First they beat us with some of the greatest films of all time (directed by an Italian), and then the damn Germans beat us to quality Wild West thrash. It kind of stings inside, but The Dawn of Dying helps me bear the annoyance like a full swig of whiskey.
This has got to be one of the most original pieces of music ever created. Heavy metal since its very inception has seen so many flirtations with several different concepts, but Onkel Tom of Sodom fame decided to resurrect the magic of Sergio Leone styled 60’s Western movie themes alongside keeping the very essence of Heavy Metal intact. The result of this experiment works real well and certainly deserves more recognition than it does. No one would have really expected someone like the Sodom frontman to go one notch down on the speed as opposed to his earlier creation and eventually create something as incredible as this.
To start with, the production job is perfect and makes the presence of every instrument felt. The musicianship is tight and precise with all the musicians delivering the goods. As far as the vocals are concerned, it’s a split job between Tom Angelripper and his producer/guitarist Alex Kraft and both of them fulfill the requirements singing like a couple of bounty killers out on their horses. The atmosphere throughout the album is bound to take you back in time to the untamed west of the late 1800s. On a personal experience while listening, I could see images of salons, horses, cattle ranches, sheriffs and even goods trains getting robbed by bloodthirsty outlaws.
All the songs on this record are good and the arrangement helps their cause even further. There are speedier moments with tracks like “Gomorrah Of The Plains”, “The Devil’s Horse” and the absolutely astounding title track. The slower tracks like “My Gun And Me” and “Desperados” infuse a lot of spaghetti movie styled riffs making them an absolute pleasure to listen to. There is also a cover of the epic cowboy song “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” with Uncle Tom doing the lead vocals in his signature raspy voice and eventually doing a whole lot justice too. Happier tunes such as “Oriental Saloon” and ”Rattlesnake Shake” do the balancing act real well.
Overall, I am not quite sure of how many folks this album is going to appeal to. Considering that Angelripper has created something totally different from Sodom, this might not be something for hardcore listeners of unrelenting thrash metal. Contrary to that, if you like your Spaghetti western movies and also your regular heavy/thrash metal and would want a unique combo of both, then this is definitely tailor made for you. Sergio Leone would have certainly wanted to get his hands on this, had he been alive.
Desperados might just be the only band that can truly call themselves Wild West Metal. From start to end, the whole album could be used in a spaghetti western, from the gunshots in Dawn of Dying to the jolly tunes in Oriental Saloon.
Angelripper has great vocals for this, sounding like a raspy old cowboy, something in between Clint Eastwood and Billy the Kid. While he is not a great singer overall, with little reach on the high or low sides, I wouldn't change him for anyone else. He suits the job.
While every instrument that doesn't belong in the west has a rough edge that sets the mood, the true Wil West atmosphere comes from the good use of banjos and harmonica's, especially in my favorite, My Gun and Me. This song deserves some extra attention, and for nothing more than the jolly tune and excellent sing-a-long value. Yet it keeps that Western edge, and I just love it.
If you like westerns, this is definitely worth checking out, and even if they're not your thing you might find the atmosphere on this album a nice break from the regular metal.
Recommended tracks: My Gun and Me, The Dawn of Dying, Dodge City, Desperados