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After a disjointed Living Death released the decent but indisposed World Neuroses in 1988, there was a parting of the ways which saw the band's shrill harpy Thorsten Bergmann emigrate towards the muddied, hideous waters of their ill-fated new project Sacred Chao. Joining him were guitarist Fred and drummer Atomic Steif. But the brothers Kelch were not yet finished with their legacy, and decided to acquire a new drummer and frontman and give it one last go. To that extent, Killing in Action is not a horrible misstep: it's a reasonable, angry thrash album that is less quizzical than its predecessor, but a reaction to the new vocalist Gerald Thelen will be mixed. He's basically a half way mark between Bergmann's unhinged keening and the caustic bite of Accept's Udo Dirkscheider. Seriously, if the band had just courted 'The Man' himself to step in for this album, it would have sounded like this.
Musically, I'm not sure if the band had ever sounded as pissed off as they were here. The ten tracks are all dense with riffing and a steady rhythm section, but then, the band have traded in some of the precise, curious streaks of notation that branded their previous albums. Assaults like "Hearteater" and "Polymorphic" are simply bristling with belligerent guitars and they throw quite a lot at the listener, but there is little to no sticking accumulation of ice. Perhaps the best track on the album is "Die For (For What We Lie For)", where a tangible, morbid little thrashing death riff winds wonderfully below Thelen's dirk-like delivery, and though the chorus is one you can hear coming from a mile away, it does not fail the verse. Other than this, you can hear a lot of traces of the band's better efforts like Protected from Reality or Metal Revolution, but the songs just have so much less impact.
In fact, this is basically just a less interesting alternative to Protected from Reality, with that same perceptible darkness which I wish had at some point been carried out into its logical perfection, that I had always prayed might happen for Living Death (though I won't rule out a miracle from the recent reunion). The band was never able to manifest a masterpiece, and it's a shame. There's a lot going on with Killing in Action, and it's got some swagger to it, like a bar brawl in some shantytown in a post-nuclear devastation landscape. The new singer was no 'Toto', but he clearly wasn't bad. In the end there's just nothing here that solidifies the deal. All things end, and so too, did Living Death, or did they...