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Kublai Khan were another of those one-shot thrash hopefuls of the 80s to feature the former member of a more successful band. A small amount of buzz, a single album, and then nothing. In this case it was Greg Handevidt, an early member of Megadeth, who performs both guitar and vocals on this release.
Annihilation is not so bad though. It has that rough and rugged, dirty speed metal aesthetic which a lot of bands are emulating these days on principal alone. "Death Breath" is a pretty exciting tune, you can hear a little Celtic Frost in the opening riff, then pure Bay Area-style speed not unlike Death Angel. "Mongrel Horde" opens with a pretty cool melodic thrash riff, then the band breaks into some blistering speed. Handevidt's vocals are pretty demented, and the manly backups give the impression of...well...an American thrash band trying to emulate a mongrel horde! The breakdown at the 1:20 mark is sick and would have created some great mosh pit memories. "Down to the Inferno" again reminds me of Celtic Frost with its classy descending into chord pattern, but the lead is extraneous and the rest of the song is fairly weak. "Liars Dice" is a nice exercise in sheer filth and speed, and the epic "Passing Away/Kublai Khan" has more than enough bang for the buck. "Clash of the Swords" is a mean spirited shredder with some killer riffs, it is likely my favorite tune on the album. "Battle Hymn (The Centurian)" begins with a very awkward 'Hello' before transforming into another flurry of venomous speed dirt.
To many, the album will sound like crap after all these years, but if you're a little less demanding than the average corn fed Dethklok nutter you will appreciate the raw production for what it was. Hell, half the metal bands around today are trying to emulate this primal naughtiness, whereas back in the day it was just a lack of budget. Annihilation is a decent record for its time, and despite some thin drumming and a weaker tune, purists may derive some enjoyment, especially those who worship Kill 'Em All or Killing is My Business.
When I first had to face this album I thought I could have been a brutal thrash one. I don’t know why, maybe it was for the cover artwork or the release year and when I read the reviews for it, I realized it was a sort of a way between the speed metal and the classic thrash. I was very curious also because this album received different opinions and I wanted to check it by myself. I found it and I decided to give it a review for those who, like me, were curious, in order to give a decent and sincere opinion.
They could be not the most well-know act in this genre but since the opener comes, we can already taste their power at the instruments. The production is not very good, especially for the guitars tone, that is a bit low in volumes and with a strange distortion, reminiscent of the very first Bathory but with less black/death touches. The tempo is already quite fast, especially if we take the bass drum as example. The riffs are compact and we can also find a very good solo in the middle section. It’s fast, always a bit melodic and shredded. It lasts for very long seconds and soon we return to speed and the good combination of speed and thrash metal elements.
The vocals are quite raspy but also quite melodic. They can be seen as a far more polished Becerra style, but often the tonality is similar, while during the high peaks we can hear elements from early Artillery (Flemming Rönsdorf). The fast riffs on “Mongrel Horde” are supported by very good up tempo parts and here the influences from Artillery are much more present, both for the instruments and the vocals. The solos are once again very fast, good to me and they can be found on every song here. “Down To Inferno” is an example of this, while the tempo is quite mid-paced this time. The song is not the best and sounds quite lame on these parts.
“Liar’s Dice” is definitely faster but average in ideas and compactness. It lacks on memorable parts, while the drumming is always remarkable on the double kicks. By the way, everything sounds normal and not that powerful. For example “Passing Away-Kublai Khan” is a far more complete and well-developed track. It has everything: fast restarts, shredded solos and dramatic, gloomy breaks. The vocals are even more evocative and the drums sections are always precise. “Clash of the Swords” has inside more speed metal elements, from the riffage to the drumming. It shows some good mid-paced breaks too and it’s instrumental.
The last “Battle Hymn (The Centurian)” has high pitched vocals and fast parts but everything is just normal. I don’t know if the production damages a bit the violence and the assault of the songs, but here there’s nothing memorable but just goodish. The album flows quite normally and it’s a bit boring too in some parts. The songwriting and the structures are not that solid and they lack in variety. All in all, a simple and quite harmless thrash/speed album that can be listened once every year more or les, but nothing more. It has goodish moments but the rest is too boring.
Kublai Khan... a band hardly anyone has heard off and a band I'm pretty sure nobody cares about. I found out about this band from an Englishman thrasher friend of mine. I found the name, Kublai Khan, to be pretty damn unique. Seriously, what kind of a band would name themselves after a Mongolian ruler? So, I decided to check these guys out. I quickly find out that Greg Handevidt was in Megadeth for a few months. I hate Megadeth (I can feel a moderator removing all my points as I write this haha) so I immediately thought this album would suck. But hey, I'm open minded so I gave it a shot and fell in love with it.
Death Breath is the opener with a nice cheesy song title. It's a fast thrasher with a sing along chorus and killer solos. Mongrel Horde follows the same formula and is an awesome song as well. Down To The Inferno is the only boring track on this album. It's a mid-tempo tune with few riffs that all sound too similar to each other. If the song was faster and the riffs had more variety, then it'd be a different story. Liar's Dice is more of a speed metal tune. It's fast and it kicks ass. Passing Away/Kublai Khan is the highlight here. It's a speed/thrash metal onslaught filled with killer solos and killer riffs. 2:30 into the song is a short acoustic break... seconds later... THRASH!!! 3:40 in comes a drum break followed by a bass break and then back to the fucking thrash! The song continues thrashing on until the end. Clash of the Swords is a 3 minute instrumental. It's decent but nothing special. It would've been better with vocals. Battle Hymn (The Centurion) ends this album following the formula of the first two songs and yes this track kicks ass as well.
This is a very good speed/thrash metal album. However, it has its negatives. The production is bad. The guitars are raw and flat sounding. They're also low in the mix. The drums are loud in the mix which makes the guitar harder to hear. Aside from the poor production, the only other fault with this album is Down To The Inferno. If you can get past the bad production and one mediocre song, then you will find this to be one very enjoyable speed/thrash album willed with great riffs and fantastic solos...
It's hard to screw up speed metal, but it is easy to just go through the motions and make an album that really doesn't give much to the genre, especially for 1987. Greg "I was in Megadeth for three days" Handevidt is the main guitarist on here, and it's pretty obvious why Dave Mustaine fired him - the riffs are decent but generally sameish over the whole album, and the leads pretty uninspired.
It actually starts off kinda strong, but then goes nowhere... Death Breath has a dumb title, but is a cool song. Mongrel Horde, also known as Fall To Your Knees, isn't bad either and has a nifty thrash break... then the rest. Well, again, it's not bad, just nothing really overtly memorable. Some cool solos but the riffs are generally forgettable. Down to the Inferno rides the same riff for about five and a half agonising minutes, and also has a grating chorus to boot.
So, in conclusion, it's just yet another album out of many. If you like 80s speed metal with the occasional thrash bit - i.e. if you're me - you'd enjoy it. I give it a spin every once in a while.