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Industry giant WEA signs Holy Moses! This news was a bombshell. I was 20 years old and I was convinced to live in beautiful times. If a band, that had released such an ugly bastard like "Finished with the Dogs", was regarded as the next big thing, then there could be no doubt that the world was a wonderful place to be. Yet I must confess that I also feared that Holy Moses would redefine their style significantly. It did not seem to be an option that they released "Finished with the Dogs Part II" - and indeed, they did not do it.
Nevertheless, the musical conception of "The New Machine of Liechtenstein" was still angry and its sound was not compatible with any form of mainstream music. The band started with "Near Dark". Menacing lines, sharp riffs, high velocity parts and mid-tempo sections created a powerful opener. Sabina still did not sound like a beautiful girl, but like a hoarse witch. Inter alia due to the less aggressive production, this song did not appear as a leftover of the album's formidable predecessor. Yet in terms of quality, there was no difference between this opener and the majority of the songs of "Finished with the Dogs". Commercial aspects seemed to be sidelined. How naive! Of course, WEA wanted to earn money with the band (and, honestly, I think that's okay). They managed that Holy Moses played themselves in a popular German detective story called "Ein Fall für zwei". Their name was mentioned and they simulated a live scenario. More than a minute of "Near Dark" was broadcasted at prime time. Furthermore, the limited edition of the vinyl came with a moronic twelve-sided comic. Did I say "moronic"? Just a mistake, I am sorry. The comic had, of course, a serious political message! Sabina explained that even the smallest country of the world could have the technical possibilities to create a homicidal weapon. How could we forget this matter of course? The apocalypse was near. Insidious Liechtenstein!
The main protagonist of the comic was "Locky Popster" (brilliant pun!) and the eponymous track kicked off the B side. Holy Moses convinced with meticulously designed songs that were neither overloaded with gimmicks nor simple in any form. Thrash metal was still the name of the game. The tunes were lively and energetic, male background vocals supported Sabina successfully and the queen herself was beyond all doubt. Obviously, her charismatic vocals constituted a very important element and the production put her contribution in the right light. I have already mentioned that the mix did not reach the level of its predecessor's aggression. Nevertheless, Alex Perialas had done a good job. "The New Machine" did not lack of power or pressure, although it followed - in accordance with the songs - a slightly more controlled approach. One can say that Holy Moses had made tiny concessions to their superior contract partner. Nonetheless, they did not sell their souls and this attitude still commands much respect. No doubt, the concept of the album was a little bit ridiculous and the full-length did not really offer an adequately nightmarish atmosphere. However, the music still worked. Concise choruses ("Defcon II", "Locky Popster", "The Brood"), great bridges ("SSP") and the absence of any kind of commercially usable ballad made Sabina and the boys likeable. The vast majority of the smoothly flowing solos also left its mark. Okay, the bass guitar flirted with funk, but only for three seconds during a track of the A side. This short moment of weakness was forgivable.
Overall, Sabina's crew did not have the necessary commercial success. Surprise, surprise, WEA dropped the band promptly. Damned Liechtenstein! (To stay fair, its miniature capital Vaduz has a lot of charm.) At that time, I earned a few pennies in a record shop and I remember some malicious remarks from self-declared scene experts with regard to the failure of Holy Moses. This kind of reaction was not fair in view of the strong material of "The New Machine...". Holy Moses had walked the thin line between underground metal and industrial restrictions in a successful manner. It was just a pity that the heavy metal world domination was still a long time coming.
I'm not sure where the bus on its cover is going from, but I know where it's come from: rehab. Yes, the oddly titled The New Machine of Liechtenstein sounds like Holy Moses were suffering a hangover after the previous, astounding effort Finished with the Dogs, and this is perhaps closer to the sober tones of the debut Queen of Siam, with some pretty simple thrashing through the majority of the track list and a clean, processed sound to the guitars. However, where the debut had no real songs of worth, The New Machine of Liechtenstein is at least written well enough that it's engaging and dynamic for the majority, and thus I'd place it as a second (but fairly distant second) to the band's masterwork of two years prior.
There is no killer app here, no head splitting track like a "Current of Death" anywhere to be found, and one can certainly feel the loss, but the musicality is still in check, evident from the opener "Near Dark" with its great leads and solid riffing patterns. Sabina Classen still sounds like a blood frothing valkyrie with her wings clipped, but more subdued, as if her youthful, violent frenzy had been leeched from her in the intermittent years. Andy Classen and Uli Kusch carry the album with precision, but the guitar tone feels too boxy and over produced, more like late 80s Anthrax than Holy Moses' wild German peers. Tracks like "Defcon II", "The Brood" and "Strange Deception" plod along with reasonable force, but the album almost without exception improves whenever the band diverts to something more frenetic, like the surgical melodic dementia of "Panic" or the speedy licks of "State: Catatonic". "SSP" opens with a nice, muted blitz, but the riff patterns are somewhat lacking.
If you've got the 2005 reissue then you'll hear a few live renditions of "SSP" and "Lost in the Maze" which are in my opinion better than the studio versions. Hell, "Lost in the Maze" live even sounds like a female-fronted Pestilence, with Sabina using van Drunen styled, gorged throat guttural vocals. Pretty cool, but the studio track seems deflated somehow. The New Machine of Liechtenstein is a decent thrash effort, make no mistake about it, with some smart writing and a nice thread of man vs. machine in the lyrics, but the human catapult that was Sabina Classen circa 1987 is just not put to good enough use, and the songs are in general more plodding and slower paced, lacking that vital, violent burst which comprised one of the greatest German thrash albums of them all. They created a tall shadow to stand in, and stand in it they would, for the rest of their career, but at least there is something comforting and solid about this corner of the dark.
First of all, I'd like to say that I am surprised that nobody before me took the opportunity to review this fine album on this website. Well then, let me be the first to recommend this album to you, because in my opinion, not one single European band ever succeeded in making a better Thrash album than this one, not even Kreator with 'Coma Of Souls'.
Okay, I may be a bit biased, because Holy Moses is my favorite European Thrash band, but I'm dead serious when I tell you this album is one of a kind. While everybody knows Holy Moses for their brutal and effective mixture of Thrash Metal, Death Metal and a punk-ish attitude, the band obviously opted for a more "Bay Area"-approach on 'The New Machine Of Liechtenstein'. An approach that is very much of my liking.
What does that approach mean then? Basically, the playing is even tighter, there is more room for guitar solos, the song structures are a little more complex, there's a little more variation between the songs and the whole thing is just slightly better than anything else Holy Moses has ever done. It's very hard to put the whole thing into words, the music speaks for itself, but since I'm a reviewer, I can't get away with it that easy!
Even though it's hard to pick a few highlights from such a spectacular album, one of them is crystal clear to me. 'Def Con II' is in my opinion the best song Holy Moses has ever made. People who consider Jon Schaffer the riff master should check this song out and they will come to the realisation that Andy Classen is just that. Although lots of riffs of this song are based on the same theme, they change around a bit on the rhythmical part and that makes the whole song interesting. Not to mention that there are changes in the song itself anyway, just check out that half-time part with that beautiful guitar solo in the middle of the song. Now that I've mentioned one...there are some great solos on this song (and all throughout the album). Andy shares them with a guy called Thilo Hermann this time and they all kick ass.
'Panic' is a strange song for Holy Moses. It starts out with some twin guitars, something Holy Moses hardly ever uses. The whole song has a progressive feel due to some odd changes, but the "flow" of the song is never lost. Bass player Tom Becker even does a little Funk bass part on this song. With that, he was the first bass player who ever did a Funk part on a Thrash Metal album, a matter of only months before OverKill's DD Verni did that on 'Nothing To Die For', something he is still very proud of. That might explain why he is credited with "bass and funk bass" on the original album. Drummer Uli Kusch also really shines on this song. Quite a surprising song, but a very good one without any doubt.
Another highlight is the track 'SSP (Secret Service Project)', a song which works incredibly well live, which may partly be because of the catchiness of the chorus. Sabina Classen's versatile grunts stand out in this song somehow, while the rhythm guitars are tight as ever. 'SSP' is a typical Euro Thrash song, but is something special because the execution of the whole song is so superb, that I still can't understand how they pulled that off. Once again, Uli Kusch's drumming is outstanding, especially during the intro. Seriously, what the man does on his bass drums, toms and ride cymbals in that intro is unbelievable. You'll probably still found yourself yelling along to the chorus days after you heard it on this one.
Closing the album is also a rather atypical song. 'Lost In The Maze' is notably slower than all the other songs on the album. That is absolutely no problem, because it makes the song a nice midtempo headbanger. Midtempo Thrashers can be really killer and this one is definitely a good example of that. Maybe it's because of Andy Classen's palm mutes that the main riff of the track has such a nice punch. And even though the bass sound on the entire album is very good, it stands out on this track, because it's really got the low, creeping sound here. It's quite clear that Holy Moses had the same producer on this album as OverKill at the time (Alex Perialas), the bass sound is quite similar. Back to the song then. When the song speeds up a little in the middle, there's a part which is probably much to a mosher's delight. And Sabina once again shines in this track. Another standout one!
Although the four tracks I have just mentioned are my personal highlights on the album, they are only just slightly better than the other songs. And the others contain several highlights as well. Just check the guitar solos on the opening track 'Near Dark' or the oh so cool intro to 'State: Catatonic'. This all combined with a great production by Alex Perialas makes this the perfect European Thrash album.
Bottom line is that when you like Thrash, you should really check out this album. Everyone who calls himself or herself a Thrasher should find something of his or her liking on 'The New Machine Of Liechtenstein'. I know I did! If you truly want to experience the greatness of Holy Moses, I personally think this album is the one to do that with.