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I have to confess, for at least a year after I bought this back in 1989, I thought the singer was a guy. Female vocalists fronting full-on thrash assaults were such a rarity that I had just assumed that the vocalist was a particularly psycho male with a peculiar tone, not exactly high-pitched, but unusually unhinged. In fact, at the time, the only eminent thrash act I was familiar with featuring a female wailer was Sacrilege, and there was no questioning her gender, especially since my introduction to that band was Lynda's clean feminine tone gracing Within The Prophecy. There was also The (not so) Great Kat, but I try not to think about her. Sabina's hoarse ululations were a completely different and wilder animal though, and without a band photo in my bare-bones cassette sleeve, it actually never occurred to me that there were women out there that actually sang like that. Her name should have been a dead giveaway in retrospect, but I just sort of lumped "Sabina Classen" in amongst dudes with somewhat girly sounding names like Kim Ruzz, Kerry King and Grace Jones.
What an exuberant surprise though when I played it for the first time! A complete blind buy thanks to the promise of ferocity advertized by the album cover, I was immediately steamrolled by the sheer intensity of the opening title track without caring whatsoever about the fact that I couldn't decipher what the hell "Finished With The Dogs" was supposed to be about. It's a stomping motherfucker with nasty riffage, lunatic vocals and a ripping fast punked-out chorus. In other words, it's a perfect representation of the cover illustration.
Unlike the muddier engineering job of their debut, each instrument here is mixed razor sharp, allowing the riffs to be clearly discernible, with a guitar tone hovering somewhere between Reign In Blood and Eternal Devastation. In fact, Holy Moses' style and accelerated speed feel more influenced by Slayer and Destruction at this point than the Venom and Motorhead worship of their earlier material. Uli Kusch's drumwork is also more than commendable, and it's no surprise that he had a long and illustrious career after this recording.
The true highlight of Finished With The Dogs is, of course, "Current Of Death". One of my favorite thrash anthems, the frenetic pace combined with Sabina's delirious onslaught of anguish and pure rage is an intense adrenaline rush, the sonic equivalent of a bunch of lumberjacks going batshit with chainsaws in a forest reserve. I love Sabina's throaty screeches here, and I swear that if she actually were a guy and not the fine woman she is, she'd be sporting a dick that could plug up a sperm whale's blowhole. There's also that catchy sing-along chorus, giving the track immediate memorable status, and a couple of quick, entertaining guitar solos mixed loudly with an abrasive tone.
Although the majority of these tracks are high velocity speed-fests, there's a decent amount of divergences into different terrains, with "Fortress Of Desperation" being the most notable shift in gears. Slower and borderline haunting, it's a welcome addition at just the right time to provide a bit of respite from the barrage of fast riffing.
If there's one thing I would alter regarding this album, it would be the song order, simply because tracks three and four are a bit too similar, thus "In The Slaughterhouse", a solid tune on its own, suffers from being the twin sister of the prior track. The final two songs stand out by not having the bulk of their riffs built around the open E chord, and I personally would have switched one of those with "Criminal Assault" to spread out the variety. But other than that minor squabble and the moderately dopey chorus of "Six Fat Women", Finished With The Dogs is a brassy, sassy champion of the German thrash scene that holds up today, receiving more of my attention than most other metal output from 1987.
Whether intentional or not, Finished with the Dogs completely fixes and spins around just about every quality I found lacking in the Holy Moses debut, Queen of Siam. I'm not sure if it's the new rhythm section (Uli Kusch and Andre Chapalier stepping in on the drums and bass respectively), or Sabina and Andy Classen just had a really bad year before its conception, and frankly, I don't care, because this is exactly what I want to hear and it remains their career height even after decades of continued existence. It's like night and day, really: Queen of Siam was too rigid, too plodding and average, like taking apprehensive baby steps down the corridor of aggression; whereas Finished With the Dogs is completely out of control, ruthless and the sort of album you immediately want to spin again once it ends.
Let's start by talking about Sabina Classen, who sounds like she's completely on fire. Outside of Nicole Lee's impenetrable, metallic bite on Znöwhite's underrated masterwork Act of God, this is the single best performance by a female vocalist on a thrash album. Ever. She takes the froth and growl of Queen of Siam to entirely new plateau. Honestly, was someone punching the woman when she was recording this, repeatedly in the gut and face? Was she on fire? Poisoned? I can't think of any other reason a human of the finer sex could produce such sounds, but I'm glad she does, because she spearheads this record with conviction bordering on insanity, easily the equal of any of her German male peers: Schmier, Mille, Tom, I love you all, but you have nothing, and I mean nothing on this fucking performance. I hate to break out the gender card, but why...seriously, why can't we have more of this in extreme metal? Why are we forced to suffer the Disney soundtrack swooing of Cristina Scabbia and Tarja Turunen, when this is a distinct possibility?
But Sabina's not the only Classen who has undergone some sort of evolution here, because Andy is also on point, firing up scores of intense riffs that are not only catchy, but incendiary. There are single songs here with more dynamic fluency and punishing polish than the entirety of Queen of Siam. "Current of Death", one of the greatest European thrashers of them all, is 100% manic thrust, slathered barbarian woman vocals and they even throw in a hooky, wailing 'ah oh eh oh' in the chorus. This is the very definition of bristling, unstoppable thrash metal. If I were to close my eyes right now and dream of a future in which raving hordes of bullet belted, denim jacketed savages were dancing on the ashes of Lil Wayne fans after nuking their polluted cities, this is the soundtrack. Two and a half minutes of explosive paradise, and it's not alone here: "Criminal Assault", "Finished With the Dogs", "Corroded Dreams", "In the Slaughterhouse" and "Military Service" all have the same blazing axe, bass pummeling momentum, with riffs to spare and Kusch having a conniption on his kit the entire time.
But Holy Moses are not just some trick pony, and the album also presents some slower to mid-paced fare with more hooks to hang your weary bones upon. "Fortress of Desperation" weaves a brief narrative and a resonant, distant melody into its gradual escalation. "Six Fat Women" is an angry charger which must revolve around some personal encounter with a bevy of unpleasant obesity, with lyrics a little more poignant that one might fathom. "Life's Destroyer" is almost inescapable, enthusiastic bombardment thrashing which immediately urges fists into the nearest faces available, with a fantastic acceleration in the bridge. "Rest in Pain" is the most laid back track on the album, almost a swagger chaotic thrash/blues piece where light synths and Sabina congregate prior to the incredible burst in the median.
In all, there might be a half dozen individual riffs here that slightly miss their mark, so it falls ever so shy of perfection, but what a fun brush that is. The production is immense, not sounding a day old by today's standards, with a no holds barred roughness that could peel the remaining paint of a scrap field of rusting motorcades. The lyrics are actually quite good for the majority of the album, more insightful than nearly any other band out there of this type (at least for its day). Even the cover image and album title just bleed the voracious qualities that this album enjoys. In my opinion, the only other 1987 German thrash effort surpassing this was Kreator's Terrible Certainty, and that only narrowly skates by on the strength of its manifold, multiplex riffing schemes. Finished With the Dogs certainly sounds better and has better vocals. Sadly, despite the album's relative obscurity, Holy Moses set themselves up so high here that every future album could only disappoint. But let's be real, even having one of these in your career is a feat worthy of the most inflated envy.
Yes, after the somewhat dull but decent speed metal debut Queen of Siam, Holy Moses return with a furious thrash monster. Finished With the Dogs has it all! Well, no high pitched screams obviously, but a relentless thrash assault nonetheless. And there’s much more to enjoy here than just their classic song ‘Current of Death’.
‘Current of Death’ is pretty much the only song on which it seems Sabina Classen actually sings from time to time. But it doesn’t go much further than the melodic ‘ohohohoho’ section on the chorus. The rest of the album: the rawest female thrash vocals possible. One step further and it’d be death metal.
The average pace of the album is high. The polka is all over but there are plenty of breaks to keep things interesting. And Kusch’performance on double bass is outstanding. Yes, Uli Kusch. The guy from Masterplan Helloween, Gamma Ray, Mekong Delta and many more. More than just an able musician you’d agree.
It’s not until the fifth song ‘Fortress of Desperation’ that the band slow down a bit. The song is an omen of what would happen on their next Liechtenstein album. Slow and midpaced technothrash with an eerie atmosphere. After that we have the half slow/half fast ‘Six Fat Women’ which has a lot of S.O.D.-ish riffs and touches on the crossover side of Tankard even but effectively sung into a Holy Moses song by Sabrina.
On ‘Corroded Dreams’ the band really start to pick up pace again and effectively thrashes on. The catchy sing-a-long chorus ‘Life's Destroyer’ is yet another memorable part of the album. But then if you think the album will now stay ‘just’ great towards the end, we’re confronted with another absolute highlight. ‘Rest in Pain’ combines the aggression and speed of the first half of the album with the diverse technotrash on ‘Fortress of Desperation’, resulting in a wonderful blend no thrasher should live without! And if people thought some riffs are interchangeable, think again. The riffing is the centre point and highlight of ‘Military Service’. Andy Classen didn’t become a household name for nothing!
There’s so much happening on ‘Finished With the Dogs’, it’s still fun to listen to after all these years and still sounds relevant, energetic, dynamic and diverse without losing any aggression. A marvellous album!
When Holy Moses debuted with 'Queen Of Siam' in 1986, they were a Thrash-ish band, slightly remniscent of Venom's sloppy kind of upgraded NWOBM. With a female singer who did grunt-like vocals. 'Queen Of Siam' was an okay album, but nothing really special. Nobody would probably have suspected that a year later, they would release an absolute killer album.
'Finished With The Dogs' forgives them for every mistake made on the debut. What Holy Moses does here is bordering on the incredible. From beginning to end, the album is a vicious Thrash fest executed with precision, energy and a shitload of aggression. Sabina Classen's vocals have gained aggression and sincerity, Andy Classen has turned into the absolute top of European rhythm guitar, only equaled by Kreator's Mille Petrozza, and forms a great team with the drumming of Uli Kusch. To say the least, 'Finished With The Dogs' is an enormous step in the right direction.
The opening title track is a powerful punch in the face right away, the mayhem doesn't need any time to build up in little pretty intros and such, it just starts at the same time the track starts. The song is a killer Thrasher with a raw, punky attitude and it's hard to sit still to. Apart from Sabina's kick ass screaming, Andy also does a great job on the vocals in the chorus. I have a hard time keeping up with the words in the chorus, but he does it very, very well.
When that song is over after less than two and a half minutes, there's not much time to breathe, because that's when 'Current Of Death' starts, one of Holy Moses' most popular songs. It's probably one of the few popular Thrash songs ever to come from Europe, but it's rightfully one of them. The tempos are high, almost bordering on insanity, and so is the quality. The sing-along part of the chorus probably has its share in making it a popular one too. And even though Andy Classen mostly stands out as a rhythm guitarist on this album, his guitar solos on this track are absolutely great.
The rest of the album is killer too. A few tracks are a little less memorable than others, but that is nothing else than normal on an album. Standout tracks to me are the two I have mentioned before, the bang-your-head-or-die riff fest 'In The Slaughterhouse', the crazy 'Six Fat Women', the video hit 'Life's Destroyer' and the closing re-recording of 'Roadcrew' from the debut album, which is vastly superior to the original version in terms of precision, production and instrumentation.
Most of the album goes by at high tempos, but the slower songs, such as 'Fortress Of Desperation' and the intro 'Corroded Dreams', add a diversity to the album which it screams for. I doubt if the album was as interesting without those parts.
So here's what you get: high quality European Thrash Metal at sometimes insane tempos. If that is something of your liking, I see absolutely no reason for you to not buy 'Finished With The Dogs'.
In the 80's there was a few prolific metal bands fronted by women; Warlock, Lita Ford, Heart and then there was Holy Moses. Finished with the Dogs was their follow up album to their 1986 debut Queen of Siam once again on Aarrgh records and more recently re-released (in August 2005 with touched up art, added liner notes etc on Armageddon with 4 bonus live trax from FWTD recorded earlier this year). Holy Moses were signed to Warners shortly after this release but that was an ill fated union possibly based more on the fact Sabina hosted the popular “Mosh” video show than on the merit of the band. Whatever the motivating reasons of executives, what we have here and now, is salivating German thrash metal with strong punk undertones as was common at this time - raw, brutal, neck breaking metal.
Unfortunately the name Holy Moses faded in time as their success waned, this album proved to be their strongest and one of those highly influential thrash opuses that is oft overlooked. At the time of release it was a revered onslaught that challenged the now "celebrated" German thrash stars. Like all thrash, it was never their intention to deliver
anything other than just that, some thrashing tunes. However, they did offer something totally unusual and unheard of at that time – Sabina Classen.
As I mentioned earlier, women fronting metal acts was not uncommon but with a woman delivering bloody hoarse death metal poison plus throw in some insane screaming and wailing to boot, you've got originality in 1987. Simply put this record owned back in its day; of course in 2005 this style is a little dated (note: I am reviewing the original release
NOT the re-release which apparently received a good work over in Castle Studios). Let alone the fact that this band was almost forgotten in the ceaseless barrage of entries of new bands all playing faster and tighter than ever before.
Remarkably, you will discover after all these years that Holy Moses still sound every bit as rabid and relevant as before, the thrash faithful should rightfully eat this up. Sabina's metal comrades efforts are every bit as crucial as her own with Uli Kusch (who would one day join Gamma Ray) on drums battering his kit intently between Andy Classen (Sabina's hubby, not her brother as many originally thought) destruction of the fretboard, while Andre Chapelier (who only appeared on this album) inserted the spine of Moses with his bass work with many stand out moments.
Finished with the Dogs: no fucking gay intros just straight into the thrash, with a million words a second punk chorus, Sabina sounds totally sick, innards getting split and playing off the male group shouts of “dogs”, “fear” etc.
Current of Death - very somewhat technical death thrashing piece that also screams punk, the violent melody sticks in your head along with the chorus - Current of Death!
Fortress of Desperation - sporting an extraordinarily doom laden riff (think Sodoms darkest moments) chugging and chipping away at the depths of your spirit, backed with brooding bass guitar accentuated by some clean snare hits that slowly squeeze the life out of you – the title speaks a thousand words. Fortress starts with some spoken word and evil laughing before Sabina kicks in with the main verses.
Six Fat Women - incites a moshing response with the guitars grooving away before the double bass lunges forward pushing us headlong into crazyland and people start jumping off the stage! SFW has a wailing guitar solo and is studded with a catchy chorus that will stick in your head like a piece of shrapnel, sharp, bloody and excruciatingly painful.
Rest in Pain – a seriously bluesy riff in here dripping with Classen cool and whispered vocals until the speed metal chorus kicks in, RiP proceeds to get even more thrashier.
Corroded Dreams – awesome string off thrash riffs that build and break into the one that makes you run to the front of the stage, bang your head and/or fist (you know the one that after a few bars the ride cymbal starts ringing away guaranteed to induce moshing mania).
Military Service - fairly brisk piece song (not as short as Current of Deaths lean 2.32min) and opening with riff capable of making even Destruction green, its used to great effect a number of times throughout the song and a dive bombed guitar solo that’s more about making you smile than being a show pony (Andy was later to be highly sought after producer).
So there you have it, Holy Moses; another German outfit in a roller coaster of excitement that exponentially holds some killer cuts for those who're interested delving a little deeper into the archive of thrash metals heyday, beyond the familiar classics. Fans of Arch Enemy or Opera IX (1992-2001 era with Cadaveria at the helm) might be interested in checking out this pioneering female death act although Holy Moses would share more common ground with the rawness of Opera IX than the polished sound of AE but don't expect much more similarities between them.
That said Finished with the Dogs is Holy Moses crowning moment if you only hear one Holy Moses record make sure it's this one. FWTD is up with Kreator's "Pleasure to Kill" or Sodom's "Persecution Mania" rest in pain!