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With a cover image like this one, and a credible, exciting album title like Helleraser, I was fully expecting to have my boots shoved down my throat by Reckless Tide's sophomore. Their previous effort, Repent or Seal Your Fate was not entirely void of a curious, modern spin on thrash that incorporated groove metal, varied clean vocals and melodic death influence, but it was lacking intensity and riffs in the long run. Unfortunately, while Helleraser improves upon the production values of that album, and has a half dozen quality guitars scattered about its playtime, it also highly emphasizes the flaws of the debut, with all manner of horrid, generic groove rhythms and radio friendly emo chorus parts that make me want to hurl the morning's coffee straight out my nostrils in disgust.
First, the album opens with some weak songs like "Vicious Tide - Chapter I", which is nothing more than generic groove/thrash mutes akin to Pantera or The Haunted, and then it becomes even more Pantera/Down with "The Preacher" and its bad rock & roll adornments. "Corrupted" opens with a more aggressive, if mediocre fast thrash rhythm but then throws it away on a cheesy Biohazard-like chorus, stealing the thunder from the more gruff vocals being used in the verses. But even more of a crime is "Kleemähendeäbte", a 'reckless' attempt at comedy which opens with some sort of mock-up of pop, then bursts out the most amazing riff on the album...after which it makes some sort of joke on death metal and proceeds to derail itself into covers of "Drunken Sailor", Monty Python's "Lumberjack Song", and other nonsense. What a fucking stupid idea this is, to trash such a promising guitar so! Did someone actually think this contained actual humor? Because it doesn't.
Later on the album you have a few pieces like "House of Cards" and "Entesterone" which are actually fairly reasonable stabs at a sort of melodic death/thrash pop in which there are some actual catchy vocal lines (clean or otherwise) in the chorus. But it's already far too late to find salvation for this scatterbrained trainwreck of an album, and even these have some faux pas like the metalcore sounding death grunts in "House of Cards" that destroy what might otherwise be a Tim Aylmar (Pharaoh) styled chorus with some melodic layering. Helleraser does sound like a million bucks, with clear and distinctly mixed vocals, a decent guitar tone for modern thrash or death metal, but it methodically squanders all of its strengths on pathetic bullshit that makes Repent or Seal Your Fate positively charming by comparison. I realize the idea here was to capture a wider audience than simple thrash or death might have allowed, but its modern and accessible flourishes are poorly scattered to the four winds of forgetful, abysmal composition.
Nowadays, one can see a lot of bands with two lead singers. I often wonder why, most of the time, the difference between the two singers is minimal. Reckless Tide from Hannover, Germany also has two lead singers. But let’s be honest...Andrew Troth and Kjell Hallgreen do sound very different from each other. Still I ask myself why they didn’t give one a guitar or something, but the position of both the singers is justified. As for every band member. ‘Repent Or Seal Your Fate’ (2004) was a good album, but ‘Helleraser’ shows an improved Reckless Tide in every aspect.
Speaking of the two singers, it seems like Kjell Hallgreen – the melodic singer and deep grunter – seems to have more lines on ‘Helleraser’ than he did on the debut. To me, that is an improvement, because I like his vocals. It fits the generally better melodies on the album really well. There are some very nice trade-offs with Andrew Troth – the shouter and grunter – as well. But the rest of the band is in optima forma as well.
Reckless Tide basically plays melodic Power Thrash with a modern production, but also a traditional feeling. Comparisons to Kreator, Testament en Exodus are easily drawn when you hear the guitar riffs and the melodies and choruses have an Iron Maiden-feeling every now and then. Fellow German Thrashers Dew-Scented have loaned the band Hendrik Bache for a few guitar solos and Annihilator-legend Jeff Waters is also playing a guitar solo, in the opening track ‘Vicious Circle’. Susanne Swillus and Oliver Jaath seem to be riff masters rather than solo virtuosos and that suits them just fine. They write some killer riffs anyway! And underneath that, there’s the stellar drumming of Kai Swillus and the bass work of Henning Pfeiffer, whose humor is an important element for the band too, as proven in the weird, but incredibly funny ‘Kleemähendeäbte’.
For a lot of old school Thrashers, the modern production might be a bit of a turn-off, but I advice those people to, for one time in their lives, not be so conservative and check out the great songs on this album. For there are a lot of them to be heard here! Checking out ‘Evolution’ would be a good tip for old schoolers. The riffs and melodies in that particular song will make you feel like the eighties have never ended. That and the instantly infectious chorus (with “Exodus – their thrust” seeming more than just a slight hint to their influences) make the song claw it’s way to the back of your head rapidly.
The love for Thrash Metal is also expressed in the killer track ‘Extesterone’. This is one of the songs to which Hendrik Bache contributes a solo...and a great one if you ask me! The lyrics to the song, as well as the music, leave you with no mystery: this band loves Thrash Metal and wants to show that! ‘Extesterone’ is quite representative to their sound and maybe that’s why a line from the chorus is quoted in the CD-inlay: “Depth boosting Thrash Metal”.
My personal favorite is the track ‘Symbiont (Welcome To My World)’. The old school riffs are all over the place and the breathtaking chorus is the best I’ve ever heard from a German band. That is actually quite funny, because there are dozens of Power Metal bands focusing on exaggerated choruses and now there’s a Thrash band that actually is able to shine with an amazing chorus, which is beautifully sung by Kjell Hallgreen.
Other favorites include the tornado of kick-ass riffs which is the closing title track. The track causes Kreator to feel the hot breath of these six German madmen (well...five madmen and one mad woman...) in their necks. Once again: an amazing chorus. After that, there’s a bonus track of which I really don’t understand why it’s a bonus track. ‘C.H.A.O.S.’ is probably a bit atypical with its hypermelodic riffs and vocals and its Whitesnake-ish sex lyrics, but it’s so damn catchy! Maybe the atypical feel of the song is the reason why it’s a bonus track, but I personally think only ‘Symbiont’ is as good as ‘C.H.A.O.S.’.
Also slightly atypical is ‘House Of Cards’, which has a slightly poppy feel. Susanne Swillus, who wrote the song already expressed her doubts if the song would work on the web site of the band, but really, the song just makes sense when you hear it. It’s not by any means worth less than any of the other tracks on the album.
With a number of new great bands as small as in the Thrash scene, it’s wonderful to see (and hear!) that there are still bands like Reckless Tide. Fans of the genre can hardly go wrong with an album as complete as ‘Helleraser’. I have no idea if Susanne Swillus and Oliver Jaath will be the new riff heroes like Jeff Waters and Gary Holt once were, but if they go on the way they’re going now, I think they deserve it.
And through this way, I’d like to end my review on a bright note. As long as there’s bands like Reckless Tide and Altered Aeon around, hope for a Thrash Revival will always be more than justified. Reckless Tide...lead us the way!