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The debut full-length from the German thrash metal band Pessimist, “Call to War,” is an immensely enjoyable and polished effort from this young a band to perform such spirited old-school German-styled thrash and shows plenty of signs of becoming one to watch in the future.
As a running feature throughout the album, and being most prevalent in the opening half, is the absolutely devastating guitar riffs employed here, which are tinged with that dirty, grimy sound in the production that signals prime 80s-era German thrash to the fullest. Heavy, crunchy and definitely flavored with a destructive attitude, the riffing onslaught on display is a true assault on the senses as the production keeps the guitars front-and-center in the mix and the volley they throw off is enough to level a small village, such is their crushing impact. They even manage to stuff the songs with an impressive array of riffs that are downright memorable as well as being virtuosic solo displays, indicating a band with an intense amount of talent yet to be explored fully which would be fun to watch for in the years to come. Make no mistake, this isn’t a series of whirlwind progressive displays or what would be considered technical in any sense, but they serve their purpose fully and are all the more enjoyable for doing so. In addition to this stand-out guitar-work, the dirty vocals add to the whole picture and really give this an identity all its own with a rabid, vicious snarl that suits the lyrical themes and tone of the music nearly perfectly while not only staying true to the vocal style of the genre but also giving them a unique identity amongst themselves. Complete with thunderous double-bass drumming and a groovy, slinky set of bass-lines this here is some primo thrash that’s far better than expected to come from a band this early in the game.
Now, stylistically, the second half here isn’t all that much different from the first half and features a majority of the same features, from the stellar guitar riffing to the tight drumming and the snarling vocals, but the band does allow themselves the room to explore select virtues within the format. There’s passages within select songs which include such features as acoustic guitar moments to aid a layer of light and brevity to the situational carnage and mayhem surrounding the fray, and the atmospheric moments are certainly worthwhile. As well, the band crafts a rather impressive full-length instrumental full of twists, turns and repeats as the riffing never stays consistent and the song feels as though it could’ve been a regular track. However, the biggest difference in the two halves is the quality of the songwriting, with a clear and discernible ability to tell that the better songs are placed up at the top of the album while the weaker and clearly-less-interesting efforts are on the back half. Most of this is due to the songwriting rather than the performances, as the songs in and of themselves lack the spark of their preceding songs, coming off more like rehashes rather than being individual, unique tracks as the repetitive nature of the songs becomes apparent. This is certainly not a true flaw in the album, as the tracks can be enjoyable for some, but the somewhat subpar writing is apparent and drags it down rather than any sort of issue within the record.
Quite frankly, most of the songs here are stylistically similar and don’t really break the mold all that often. The explosive opener ‘Trommelfeuer’ is a crunchy, groovy old-school German styled thrash with multiple tempo changes, commanding riffing and an impressive solo to bring about its intentions right from the start. Almost as impressive is the multi-faceted ‘The Massacre of Nanking,’ initially starting as a propulsive thrasher with grooving drums that contains some enchanting melodic interludes at the half-way point of its epic-length running-time, yet never forgets the chugging riff-work and features the most bombastic solo on the album amidst a sea of eerie backing vocals that are outright unnerving. However, instead of the expected break after such an onslaught of thrash, the band whips up the charging ‘Infernal Death,’ which is just absolutely vicious and intense with more chaotic soloing and destructive pacing that doesn’t leave a space to breathe throughout and comes as a sharp surprise for those looking for the break. After an acoustic instrumental interlude, the title track’s tight riffing with lock-step drumming, gang backing vocals and furious soloing leave a great impression as does ‘Son of Satan’ with its intense riffing and charging tempo with fantastic drumming.
Afterward is where the album dips slightly with the two lackluster tracks, first with ‘It's Time to Fuck (with Hate),’ as despite some charging riffing with bombastic drumming and an impressive acoustic interlude, this all feels like rehashed territory on the album already as the same tone in the riffing becomes familiar throughout and the same tone and pace are still present. Add to that the fact that this comes complete with a lame intro that adds nothing to the song as a whole and it feels quite jarring and all-over the place. The same could be said for ‘Death by Torture,’ which despite the grooving main riff really just lacks any sort of staying power compared to the other tracks here, and it’s mid-tempo pace is somewhat at fault in comparison to the more intense material here that doesn’t give this one much of a chance. Album closer ‘Another Day in Mania’ is a saving grace of an instrumental that’s quite impressive overall, but the fact that despite a real running time of over five minutes there’s a mostly useless hidden song at the end of fifteen minutes of silence, and it’s not even really worthy of inclusion as a bonus track in any sense which really makes the whole experience confusing and frustrating, hardly the tone to set for final conclusions.
For the most part, this is a pretty impressive debut from a band that’s a lot better than it should to be this devastating and destructive this early in their career. While the second half here is of somewhat lesser quality than the first in the songwriting department that leaves them without the bite of the top half, sonically this is purely enjoyable and competent thrash that follows along the German template quite accurately yet allows for an identity within the masses that feature a similar sound, and if the songwriting can get a little tighter and refined this can be an impressive band in the mix as this clearly shows them to have a handle on injecting melody at the right times, knowing how to throw curves into songs to allow them to remain vital and impacting as well as being clearly skilled performers in their own right so this bodes well for the future of the group. This is heartily recommended to aficionados of German thrash or just plain pure thrash fans in general.
I almost feel ashamed that this is the first review for this. How the fuck did we manage to pass by such a violent release? This probably could be the best thrash album of 2009, along with Kreator's "Hordes of Chaos" and Paradox's "Riot Squad". No wonder why germans are in the top list of every year's rank for metal.
This sole album is what war-thrash should sound like: aggressive, raw and like it was forged in Hell itself. It all starts with "Trommelfeuer", a mid-paced tune with repetitive, yet entertaining riffing all around. Oh, and the mid part.. The solo and the war siren in the mid part might be better than everything that was written that year. Well, ok... Probably not. But it's amazing. One of the highlights, by no doubts.
After you've been shot repeatedly with an AK-47 in the first cut, this teutonic monsters take you again with "The Massacre of Nanking", a slightly slower tune, but again repeating the destructive manners of the first one. Again the soloing here is eargasmic. These guys really know how to play. And I mean THEY REALLY DO.
But what they do after you've been contaminated with these two amazing tracks? Do they slow the pace? Fuck no! They give you yet another massive destruction weapon with "Infernal Death", a fast-as-hell song with a growling pretty much bordering with death metal. In fact, one of the highlights on the whole album is Schweitzer's voice, but we'll get to that later.
The next song on the track list couldn't be more accurately named: "Prelude (Arm for War)", and it's exactly what it is. An acoustic instrumental, calming things down a bit and giving you the chance of taking back your air. It is only there to prepare you for another of the highlights, the title track. However, the song that might be the shiny armored on this one is "It's Time to Fuck (with Hate)". Holy shit! It's not just the sexy moaning on the beginning, or the savage drum work, or the piercing riffing, or the amazing classic rock interlude at the half. It's everything, united in one almost five minute package, pretty much like a grenade ready to explode.
From here, the quality descends just a tiny bit, becoming slightly repetitive on "Death by Torture" and on the epic instrumental "Another Day in Mania", but nevertheless, these two being amazing tracks.
As mentioned before, this album takes a golden star on the lead vocals. They're full of anger and wrath. Schweitzer's voice sounds a little bit like Petroza's own but thicker, darker if you might. The lyrics, as if it's not obvious yet, are all about war, death and such. Pretty much what Sodom's "M-16" did 8 years before, but not focusing on a particular event. The production, as well, is clean and polished. But in a good way: all the instruments are in there, and are audible (the bass work in some tracks is just incredible), but it doesn't sound artificial or canned like some new retro thrash acts out there.
I have to repeat me again in here: this is one the best thrash albums of 2009. It's fresh, but has enough to remind the good old days. It has melody, but it's violent enough to rip your eyeballs out with it's bare hand. It's definitely a must get it.
The only thing that I don't get is the "hidden track" at about 14:30 on the last cut: an 8-bit tune of "Infernal Death". This is supposed to be on YouTube, for amusement of fans, but... What the hell! It makes a wicked ringtone so, granted.
If you could get your hands on this, don't ever let it go. It's amazing thrash, done properly. Hopefully, these guys are going to pick up their guns, still blazing, and shoot all around just for the fun again with a second work. And, believe me, I'll be the first in line for the slaughter.