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Bonfire of Angry, Technical Metal Vanities - 99%

bayern, January 13th, 2017

I consider Flaming Anger one of the ten greatest speed/thrash metal acts in German metal history, the only outfit from this top ten with just one full—length released. The band had largely won recognition and respect due to their demos from the mid/late-80’s, their only official release arriving quite late as a really good, but posthumous afterthought. I would perhaps place them in the top five, but in order to do that I first need to track down this mythical “Biosphere I”, this elusive Atlantis of German metal, reportedly having graced the ears of very few occultists and sorcerers…

Back to more tangible reality: this band have all the rights to be considered German metal’s best kept secret; without their contribution there may have not existed the inspiration and the drive which later spawned the finest moment of the 90’s metal scene, the German technical/progressive thrash metal wave of the early/mid-90’s. Their importance is probably as big as the one of Deathrow, The Angers also equalling their more renowned compatriots in terms of quality nearly every bit of the way. Well, they couldn’t produce a grandiose full-length in the spirit of “Deception Ignored”, but their underground output can qualify as another compelling “deception” any time.

Flaming Anger were also there with the pioneers in the early years, their first demo dating back from 1986. At this early stage they were bashing with vigour fascinated by the great prospects that were sparkling on the horizon, not very interested in displaying too much complexity from their arsenal. Two years later the fanbase is befallen by “Fall of Phom Penh”, the demo title a clear indication that a change in style has occurred, and also an allusion to another act oriented towards The Orient (Mekong Delta, for the less initiated). Ralph Hubert’s gang already suggested the new, more serious direction the scene was going to take with their intriguing debut a year earlier, and it wasn’t before long that the others followed suit: Destruction, Deathrow, Living Death joined the new progressive/technical carnival without second thoughts.

The old wolves were shedding their skin with a few young ones lying in wait, full of ambition and beaming talent. Flaming Anger were by far the most gifted batch of the newcomers, their consummate skills putting them heads and shoulders above the other rookies like Paradox, Vendetta, and the Belgians Target. Alas, they somehow failed to reach the coveted official release which became a dream come true for all the other mentioned acts.

Back to “Fall of Pnom Penh” (with an introductory twist): it never became clear whether all these acts had gathered some time in 1987, most likely in Ralph Hubert’s “alchemical” metal laboratory, and had decided to shift the scene towards the technical/progressive bio… sorry, stratosphere, by also sending a few spies on the other side of The Atlantic to stir a similar “rebellion” (Voivod, Realm, Toxik, DBC, Savage Steel, even Annihilator if you like). Whether they had also decided to keep some hidden, “flaming” weapons lying in wait in the underground, again is not known. What the annals of metal history tell us is that this demo was released in May, 1988, four cuts closing on just over 20-min. The title-track leads the pack following an awesome, sinister acoustic intro, unleashing a cannonade of fast-paced guitars before the guys start changing the times and tempos abruptly this dazzling rifforama soon topped by the rigorous vocal exploits of the man named Frank Wittke, not a very versatile performer by any stretch, but feeling confident enough to insert his brash semi-clean tirades on a regular basis also helping himself with the casual banshee-like scream. That same opener continues with the pleasant surprises in the middle where the band serve a stupendous portion of schizoid rhythms later only heard on the Atheist first two albums.

“Lunatic’s Revenge” comes marching in a volcanic stomping manner this thundering stride made more intricate later with several violent fast-paced “skirmishes” which leave to make room for another slab of twisted vortex-like riff-formulas the speedy dominance restored in the second half not without the help of an audacious virtuoso lead section. “Endless Dreaming” may indeed put you to sleep indefinitely with its calmer balladic beginning, but the rude awakening is just around the corner with super-fast strokes abundantly provided on top of the next in line complex rhythmic labyrinth with echoes of Atheist again; Shrapnel-like leads invade again mid-way to add to the inordinate intricacy of this grand composition which also offers something like a spat shouty chorus. “Tantalus” is a violent basher reaching proto-death parametres early before a puzzling mid-break alleviates the situation for a bit; expect more elaborate riff-patterns later on, played quite fast as well the band wrapping it on with in the most tantalizing, invigorating fashion.

It’s a great pity that this is a very short effort sounding like a promotional piece for the guys’ future exploits; there’s so much thrown at the listener that the latter may actually get enough from this demo alone, and may temporarily satisfy his/her hunger for bewitching technical metal. There’s only the hissing echo, which accompanies the guitars, that may be considered a slight drawback; everything else is pure perfection showing for the first time how technical thrash can be played at very high speed only matched by Toxik’s “World Circus” a few months later although the Germans’ approach is more flamboyant and more diverse. Moments of both Deathrow’s “Deception Ignored” and Sieges Even’s “Life Cycle” reach a fever speedy pitch, but they are additions to the complex tapestry rather than a guiding tool. Here compromises with the fast play are very seldom made, a very dynamic delivery which Paradox tried to apply on “Heresy” a year later, albeit in a more linear, less flashy manner. The sudden manic tempo transitions without any warning were later turned into a major “weapon” by Atheist again with whom the Germans also share the penchant for spiral-like mazey rhythmic accumulations.

The band wasted time trying to find an interested label after releasing this demo independently, a futile search which fortunately didn’t disillusion them as in 1991 they were ready with their third coming, “Humaniced”. The hyper-active delivery from “The Fall…” was put under control, but few would complain listening to another bold statement of intent these four new tracks gracefully moving towards the progressive thrash arena with echoes of Toxik’s “Think This” and Watchtower’s “Control & Resistance” with a more accentuated melodic flair. Alas, the times were hardly ripe for technical variations on the good old thrash, and the Flaming Anger camp went quiet. However, it turned out that the guitar wizard Marco Stutzer couldn’t stay inert and passive, but quickly assembled another formation, Frantic, with which he continued further his exploration of the technical/progressive metal spectre with three demos released, the style being more elaborate and less clinical classic speed/thrash with a tendency towards more sweeping speed metal arrangements, fitting very well into the wave of talented technical/progressive outfits that had swept Germany at the time.

“First Love Gathers no Rust”, as people say; Stutzer never forgot his old “flame” Flaming Anger, and their love affair resumed after Frantic folded in the mid-90’s. His efforts finally paid off as the band reached the coveted official release stage this time with “Biosphere II” in 1997. If one has buried his/her hopes for another exemplary psychotic shredding ala “the Fall…”, then there are absolutely no reasons why he/she wouldn’t enjoy this varied progressive/technical roller-coaster which combined the more restrained approach of “Humaniced” with the more melodic power/speed metal elements from the Frantic works. It had a little bit for everyone, and sounded as though the guys might as well reach the mainstream with this more accessible recording…

Nah, the metal business industry has never been the most logical branch of the entertainment world, so after achieving the full-length dream the band were finally prepared to part ways for good. The tireless Stutzer carried on, in league with the other guitar player Volker Rummel, and founded one more outfit, Daily Reign, with a purer, less aggressive, progressive metal sound. Reportedly still active, the band only have one demo released (“Rain”) in 2002. Rummel must have lost his patience waiting around for things to happen cause he was seen for a while with the groovy post-thrashers The Very End later in the new millennium. Stutzer… Stutzer is biding his time as of now, probably pondering over what exact shape his anger should take this time, and under what musical form it should be best represented. My personal suggestion would be to finally make this legendary “Biosphere I” available to the masses; that way he should by all means be able to match the very high models from the past.

Not as good as the next demo - 69%

UltraBoris, September 9th, 2003

This one is not quite as consistent, though it is similar. There's one really brilliant song that combines the awesome choppy riffs and the quirky sense of melody, and that is Endless Dreaming. That song is second-demo quality.

The rest. Pretty decent tech-thrash. Imagine something like ITP or Symbolic Death, except a bit catchier and with shriekier vocals. Not the complete mindfuck that is Watchtower, but kinda close in overall tone - bass comes out of nowhere to be prominent, time changes everywhere, you know the drill.

Indeed, this demo gets better as it goes on, as the best two songs are Endless Dreaming and Tantalus - Fall of Phnom Penh and Lunatic's Revenge are also decent, though at times an exercise in "wait, WHAT is the next riff?!". It's worth getting if you can find it.