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Firstly, the somnolent monster on the cover did definitely not reflect the musical vision of Living Death. I guess the cover artist just did not have his best day. However, the tempestuous band presented itself very differently. "Metal Revolution" was a pompous title, but there was also a grain of truth in it. Living Death took part in the German speed / thrash metal revolution. Not to mention the more or less unique vocals of Toto Bergmann. His shrill screaming, high-pitched cawing and rattling laughter divided the scene in Living Death fans and haters. His singing approach could not be compared with that of any other German thrash vocalist. Without having an impressive vocal range, he performed vigorously. As if that were not enough, Toto (and, of course, the remaining band members as well) profited from the solid sound. The band had evidently learned from the mistakes that had been made during the recording session of its debut. As a consequence thereof, "Metal Revolution" was on an equal footing with the simultaneously released albums of comparable bands.
The running order of the songs was debatable. After the very exciting A side, the second half of the full-length failed to meet the previous standard. The B side did not lack of solid compositions. But it was striking that its pieces did not develop a long term effect. The tracks could not fully compete with the energy of "Killing Machine" or the ghostly atmosphere of "Screaming from a Chamber". But in terms of the musical approach, the guys from Velbert had composed an album with an homogeneous overall appearance. The predominantly fast-paced tunes demonstrated that the band focused on the underground without being interested in reaching a wider audience. Already the beginning of the torpedo-like "Killing Machine" with its edgy riffs, the drum rolls and an elongated scream of Toto scared off the average consumer (also known as Iron Maiden fan). So it could happen that a lot of long-standing metal heads probably missed the most traditional track of "Metal Revolution". Equipped with a robust rhythm, the heavily pounding "Rulers Must Come" proved that the guys of Living Death were familiar with albums such as "Balls to the Wall". The experiment worked. Not least because of the ironclad chorus, the song did not pale beside the neighbouring highlights. Among other things, both "Grippin´ a Heart" and "Screaming from a Chamber" glittered with their intensive endings.
From today´s perspective, "Metal Revolution" appears as the necessary and logical step between the insufficiently produced debut and "Protected from Reality", the pinnacle of the band´s discography. But this view ignores the reality of the mid-eighties. Back in 1985, nothing was logical. Any kind of master plan did not exist. Everything was in motion and the iron newcomers just played the style they loved. The youthful sound mixed naivety with recklessness and aggression with velocity. These ingredients lent the majority of their products a very special charm. Find out while listening to "Metal Revolution" - and do not care about the cross-eyed monster.
This effort is one of the five catchiest speed/thrash metal effort ever created. Its appeal has reached all the way from the mid-80's to the present day without losing anything from its impulsive, spontaneous charm. Seldom can a speed/thrash metal album make you stand up and jump around singing along with the band right up to the end not caring whether you know the exact lyrics. The catchy side of the band's style was already obvious on their raw, naive, but strangely compelling, debut which, if for not much else, introduced this unique hellish banshee of a singer, Thorsten "Toto" Bergmann. Listening to him singing abour love (another pretty characteristic feature of the band) in the mid-80's, many dames and damsels around Europe and beyond must have had their hearts molten (and also gripped!), the man screaming out heart-rending love lines under the incessant speedy guitar barrage to a fairly "romantic" effect. I'm pretty sure there must have been quite a few grooms out there at those times who were hesitant whether to invite Mr. Bergman to sing a few lines on their proposal day to enhance the atmosphere, pouring emotions over their prospective bride, which would either bind the new couple for life, or would split them apart like the South and the North Pole.
This album was a major step forward for the band, both music and vocal wise, without sacrificing anything from their initial prime direct, charmingly flawed, approach. With a much better production, a much more expressive guitar sound, and a much more confident Bergman behind the mike, it threw a steady bridge between the more speed metal-based style of acts like Helloween, Running Wild and Warrant, and the more aggressive thrashy delivery of "the holy three" (well, you know them!). Sharing both the more proficient execution of the former, and the more intense riffage of the latter, "Metal Revolution" sat comfortably in the middle, and the band could have been just fine occupying that niche if the guitar "wizards" (not at that time yet) Frank Fricke and Reiner Kelch hadn't at some stage decided that they had to produce some of the most puzzling, complicated musical landscapes on the scene both with their main band and Mekong Delta...
Anyway, for some this effort remains the band's finest hour, so well conformed with the tastes of the time, that even the shaky debuts of Kreator and Sodom, or Running Wild's already repetitive and clumsy "Branded & Exiled", released around the same period, couldn't come anywhere near its inspired, simple but fairly effective, sure-handed approach. Singing along with, and also trying to imitate the apocalyptic semi-screams/semi-shouts of Bergman must have been a favourite pastime for many a speed/thrash metal fan in the mid-80's, the infectious choruses of "Grippin' a Heart", "Rulers Must Come", "Screaming from a Chamber", and even the radio-friendly closer "Deep in Hell", ripping the air on quite a few festivals around Europe at the time. The Fricke/Kelch "duels" are still at a more basic stage, producing nothing intricate, just bashing with vigour and passion, getting more lyrical on occasion on the slower, more laid-back material. Bergman is in full swing all over sounding like a more aggressive and hysterical version of Udo, and it's probably the last time when his performance would overshadow the other musicians having in mind the more engaging musical direction the band took just a year later.
"Metal revolutiion" in its literal application was hardly on display here, but the period was not very demanding back then, and Living Death were a perfect fit into the speedy, merry-go-round, picture with their unpretentious uplifting delivery with a genuine catchy potential, seldom captured so spontaneously before or after. For those who got (and still are) enamored by their progressive/technical infatuations, which started very soon after this effort's release (remember the "Back to the Weapons" EP), and have never tried their early output out, would be advised to "sink", at least for once, into this cool slab of the good old speed/thrash, and try to learn a trick or two from Mr. Bergman and Co. about how to "grip the hearts" of women, and more.
Not only were we treated with a Speed Revolution courtesy of 1985 and Vectom, but also a Metal Revolution thanks to Living Death. Thankfully, this is the superior revolution, and a step up for the German band as they matured into a more aggressive sound, still ripe with the speed and traditional metal of their roots, but harder hitting as thrash truly entered their borders. If you were one of the few exposed to their Watch Out! EP, you knew what to expect. Thorsten Bergmann has improved dramatically, no longer sounding so loose, foolish and disheveled, but rather a sonic, screaming weapon not unlike the master Udo Dirkschneider of Accept. The band also acquired a new drummer in Andreas Oberhoff, who would spend only a few years with the band, but provides a more solid foundation.
Metal Revolution is one of those records that begins mediocre at best, with "Killing Machine", in which the showcase is really Bergmann's more 'restrained' wailing, and then "Grippin' a Heart" doesn't quite build momentum, a savage but average speed metal piece with a half decent chorus. "Rulers Must Come" rocks a little harder, mid paced power/thrash metal with howling vocals, but it's not until the slower "Screaming from a Chamber" that the album really begins to shape up, with Bergmann shifting between a lower, growling register and his typical wails, and the band developing a deep, constant groove that casts an effective, dirty and mean atmosphere not unlike early Rage. The snappy, speedy "Shadow of the Dawn" and "Panic and Hysteria" are both quite good, and one wonders why these weren't use as the lead-in tracks. "Road of Destiny" has a greater sense of melody, and while the finale "Deep in Hell" isn't great, it at least returns to the street metal sound of "Watch Out!" or "Screaming from a Chamber".
While I enjoyed Vengeance from Hell despite its glaring flaws, Metal Revolution is simply better on all accounts, another step on the ladder of evolution that would characterize this band's entire career. It's almost, but not quite as entertaining as Protected from Reality, which is a more serious thrash effort with tweaked songwriting. The mix sounds good. The vocalist (finally) sounds good. And the riffs follow suit. It might have put a better foot forward, as the first few tracks seem to be the weakest of the lot, but if you can survive that 8 minutes you'll be in for a stronger forecast, and truthfully one of the best they've released. The band's saber toothed undead Viking mascot beckons you from the cover like an Uncle Sam recruitment drive, but this time out the music is possibly worth enlisting to hear.
Things would start to pick up for Living Death after the release of their first album. They recruited Harald Lutze as their permanent drummer and set about touring, most notably for well-known German metallers Warlock. Lutze's tenure in the band was short lived as before the end of the year he was replaced with Andreas Oberhoff. In 1985 they released the Watch Out! EP, which apparently showed a progression from their older style. Later that year they followed up with their second full-length effort Metal Revolution.
This shows Living Death progressing towards a more aggressive form of thrash, although there are still traces of their older style still present. Their newfound aggression is immediately apparent on the Accept-on-crack opener Killing Machine. Following this is Gripping A Heart, which is vaguely reminiscent of some of the faster material on their debut. The band slow down for a couple of numbers, Rulers Must Come and the brutally grinding Screaming From A Chamber, but everything else is pretty much more aggressive speed/thrash metal. Oberhoff fits well into the lineup, providing fast-paced beats a plenty, along with a particularly fill-happy approach at the slow tempos. Frank Fricke and the brothers Kelch team up together to put forward a rather thick wall of sound. The riffing seems to have changed, becoming more energetic and intense, varying from quick speed metal to thunderous slow chunky riffing. A good summation of their styles can be seen in Road Of Destiny, which while being mostly fast-paced speed metal, shows the band experimenting with slower sections and twin guitar lines. The biggest change in the band's sound however is the vocals. Thorsten Bergmann has ditched the weak vocals that plagued the debut and instead employs a high pitched and ABRASIVE screech which has become something of a trademark for him. Some people will prefer this over his previous delivery, some will HATE this new approach, and others will just dismiss it as substituting one kind of shit for another. He does sound like his old self at times during Deep In Hell, but for the most part he has forsaken that style completely. The production here has improved tenfold over the debut, with the guitars a lot more prominent in the mix and sounding beefier. There is some bass presence here, though it's mixed in a manner that it combines with the guitars to create a thick wall of sound (this could be due to Dieter Kelch's rather inactive playing style). The drums are mixed evenly, with the snare in particular sounding quite nice. Thorsten can be heard well, although at times he is lost under the guitars, particularly in Road Of Destiny, where he is almost inaudible (not that it's a bad thing to some people...).
This disc is an important step in the evolution of Living Death, hinting at where their sound would eventually progress to. In the process they have churned out some rather energetic and enjoyable speed/thrash metal. Any fans of this sort of metal (think: Accept) would be well served to check it out.