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By 1983, the mighty NWOBHM reached its highest splendor and I don’t mean only Iron Maiden and Saxon, a bunch of many other British acts explored new horizons and possibilities for the subgenre, definitely pushing away the previous decade hard rock standards to define what heavy metal was all about. Tank were one of those groups which refused the occultism, the technique and the sophistication of their peers to simply rock hard, taking evident influence from punk. No other band sounded that similar to Motörhead, scruffy, unpolished, fast, lacking no attitude on those fine first 2 records. Aware of the need to evolve to prevail, they offered a more serious effort on this album.
The opening composition makes it perfectly clear; Algy and co. intended to write more complicated rigorous music here. Otherwise, what’s the point of playing a 8 minute track, incorporating elements the fans could’ve never expected as harmonies, melody, extended pickin’, keyboards, bigger percentage of sections…totally unusual from a group that was gladly simple, imperfect and far from sophisticated. However, times required an improvement, a superior sound to compete with the handful of rivals around. That resolution for complexity (in their own way) isn’t that notable on the rest of the album, though “Laughing In The Face Of Death” or “Echoes Of A Distant Battle” are certainly more pretentious and professionally arranged than anything they did on preceding works. Riffs are more solid and precise, structures not that uniform, instrumental passages discreet but more elaborated, combined with Tank’s characteristic infectious choruses. Of course, the intentionally sing-along easy tunes ain’t missing, from “Hot Lead, Cold Steel” to “(If We Go) We Go Down Fighting” there’s vocal supremacy with the band getting instrumentally primitive, giving verses complete control, accompanied by that rather annoying backing choir. Inevitably, that methodology turns those titles into absolutely accessible stuff that wouldn’t have been incompatible with mainstream cheesy radio hits as Men At Work’s “Down Under”, Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen”, Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone” or Toto’s “Africa”. Particularly, “I (Won't Ever Let You Down)” is an obvious commercial attempt, kinda overproduced with Algy repeating that main line one hundred times, musically nearly as incoherent as a Def Leppard song. Fortunately, there are other heavier moments in the pack, the title-track for instance, which is quite weighty and lyrically tiring, yet amusing despite its absence of originality and direction. Singles “The Man That Never Was” and the casual “Whichcatchewedmycuckoo” start promising and slightly rough as well, sadly getting too repetitive and stagnant due to an uninventive configuration.
So half of the record is technically more advanced and meticulous, far from impressive or remarkably difficult but making a difference from previous material, for sure. On other hand, that doesn’t mean they are offering a notable riff progression or development in the level of Satan, late Holocaust, Saracen or Angel Witch. Guitar lines are still humble, generally unchanged; only defining a couple of alternative sections during the tunes, no more. Instrumental passages aren’t numerous or overlong either, but for a group like this is such a big step forward to incorporate such arrangements and limitedly versatile structures to their previously almost amateur performance. The addition of Mick Tucker to support Peter seems to be intended to increase the consistency and presence of guitar parts, occasionally successfully while other times the severe simplicity of those conventional riffs doesn’t require a 6-string combo at all. It’s not the riffing what will take your attention, those skilled pretty lengthy solos are undoubtedly reaching another level in contrast with P. Brabbs’ previous inaccurate pickin’ work. And what can we say about those harmonies, the refined melody and those cheesy keyboards on some numbers? Even the distinctive punkish nature of these guys is getting tenuous in favor of difficulty (I must insist, in their own way) and class. Lyrics are getting further into war and stuff, without leaving behind their sense of humor and jokes (“Swapiyayo”…no comments), so in general Tank are defining clearer their definitive essence, more mature and professional musically yet still incompetent in some aspects. Even though Algy & the boys are trying their best with honesty, most of titles have no continuity, inefficiently-constructed and scandalously repetitive, lacking the dynamism, charisma and grace of that unforgettable debut…
1983 also meant the fall of the British movement. The early-80’s classics turned into commercial cheesy albums big record labels intended to make cash from, pushing originally underground groups to sell out and betray their roots under pressure. Tank luckily never really attempted to become another lame Def Leppard clone, although their nature always made their music quite accessible, polite and catchy anyway. This admirable effort didn’t work out; it was much funnier when they were punkish, chaotic and scruffy instead of trying doggedly to be more technical and complex in vain. They were soon condemned to languish in obscurity a couple of minor LPs after, sad.
...And that's what I really think. Although many people hail "Filthy Hounds of Hades" as Tank's finest effort, I can't help but disagree in favour of Tank's third and fourth albums.
The band becomes a quartet with the addition of Mick Tucker (ex-White Spirit) and suddenly everything got bigger. The rockin' attitude stays in the back, but Tank here becomes a fucking monstrous machine of intense and epic heavy metal.
After the keyboard intro, everything explodes with "Just Like Something From Hell", an epic monster of more than 8 minutes, and it doesn't stop until the insanely fast "Laughing in the Face of Death" that makes you arrive breathless at the half of the album.
At this stage it's obvious that something has changed in Tank. Mick Tucker's presence is more than obvious as the guitar work has become really impressive, combining terrific riffs as in "This Means War" and excellent soloing that takes Tank's music to an awesome new level.
Things get a bit worse now with "If We Go (We Go Down Fighting)" and "I (Won't Ever Let You Down)", both looking back to the rock 'n' roll vibe of previous albums and without the memorable choruses of the rest of the tracks in the album. Fortunately, the guys manage to write another incredible closer in the form of "Echoes of a Distant Battle" that leaves you thirsty of another Tank experience...
Originally written for Ample Destruction 'zine
By this point Tank were still too good to ignore but losing ground in the metal world. A decent second album Power Of The Hunter came after their classic ’82 debut Filth Hounds Of Hades, but failed to capture any serious level of audience for the boys. Now expanded to a foursome (extra guitarist) the war thunders on, quite oblivious to the lack of play they were facing. But this is a slightly different Tank, one with a touch more weight and less desire to write short and sharp numbers. This could be an issue, but fortunately Algy Ward and his ranks had their game face on, writing seven sturdy and metal plated anthems that do the band’s legacy proud.
The loudest and proudest of those anthems is the amazing title song, one of the finest tunes ever in metal’s pantheon, a tough and true cry of determination written with ten pounds of guitar thunder stuffed into a one pound bag. Just unbelievable. The same goes for “Laughing In The Face Of Death,” and the sing-a-long of “(If We Go Down) We Go Down Fighting.” Closer “Echoes Of A Distant Battle” is also blessed with the war worn bullet belt riffage and steady pace we know and love Tank for, the album’s cause being helped by a dry and up front live sound. The band’s fortunes would cloud further from here, although some decent recordings would still some from ‘em. And would you believe it? They’re back and in good form these days, so please get on the internet and throw some love their way, will ya? There’s a good sod.
TANK's third full length called "This Means War" is the best one they've ever recorded... yet. It's very hard to describe the sound of TANK but a little hint is that they're not very far away from Motorhead, little more punkish metal with simple, but catchy, riffs, simple songstructures and a vocalist that sounds somewhere between Lemmy and Gene Simmons, still with a very unique voice.
On to the songs:
The album starts of with "Just Like Something From Hell". The intro contains some cool synth leads and then turns over to the fast main riff with a high pitched "AAAHHH" by Algy Ward. The verses are good and chorus is just awesome, the song is over 8 minutes long and withholds many great guitarsolos shifting between Mich Tucker and Peter Brabbs. Fucking excellent. 10/10
Second song is "Hot Lead And Cold Steel", which is little slower compared to the first one. This is a decent song with some good riffs, but it gets a little repetetive and boring sometimes, especially the chorus. The best thing with this song is the catchy pre-chorus and the mid section with the solos. 6/10
Third song is the title track that starts of with a catchy intro riff and then leads into a great mid paced verse, pre chorus and then the chorus - "Do you know just what this means... WAR" This is a very good song with, as always, awesome solos. 9/10
The B-side starts off with "Laughing In The Face Of Death" which raises the tempo once again with some great riffs, pretty fast vocals and a great chorus. This songs reminds me a bit of the faster Accept songs with the double bass drum and song structure. 8/10
"(If we go) We Go Down Fighting" starts with a cool bass intro soon joined by a cool riff, this song is equal to "Hot Lead And Cold Steel". Mid paced, good pre chorus and then boring chorus, but then again outstanding solos and a slower mid section that is very good. 7/10
"I (Won't Ever Let You Down)" is a very catchy tune with some singalong-alike chorus. Good riffs, especially the riffs right before the chorus. The song speeds up a little during the solo and then returns to the chorus then fades out (like most songs on this album). 8/10
The last song is "Echoes Of A Distant Battle" which is in overall a good song with some few downs. The lyrics is very well written and describes the heat of a battle. The riffs is very good with galloping verses. The outro has some strange drums and very strange choir vocals, i have no idea what they're singing or why they're there at all. 8/10
This album, or any TANK album, does'nt offer much variation, most of the songs are mid paced, fades out and lyrics about war. I still think that each song brings something good to the album, some songs could bring more and be better but it's still a very good album well worth buying.