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The fifteenth studio offering from German thrashers Tankard, “A Girl Called Cerveza,” is proof positive in the band ability to write exceptional aggressive thrash with tons of melody and interesting arrangements, and shows that intensive liver damage may not be a bad thing.
As is to be expected in a great Tankard album, the band has stacked the first half with all the great songs. These are all filled with an endless series of impressive riffs, charging paces and technical drumming that has remained the band’s hallmark for nearly their entire career, and that’s remained the case here. The songs here are just straight-up no frills aggressive thrash that contains hints of guitar melodies that has been their style for several years now and is still on full-display here in the more up-tempo numbers, several of them even going so far into the melodic riffing to sound power metal-ish at times but the band still stays so firmly rooted in thrash those are brief spurts to spice up a song rather than remain the norm, and soon enough the thrashing mayhem and charismatic vocals come back into the spotlight to remind you it’s Tankard, and that they’ve been doing this for as long as they have makes the band that much more impressive.
The second half is pretty much in the same regard as the first, which is filled with the same qualities in high-speed riffing that falls within the thrash quarter but is injected with far more melody than the average thrash band to almost shift into a power/thrash group at times such is the potent melodies flowing through these tracks. As such, they have less energy and manic intensity as the first half, which isn’t as chaotic as that makes it seem like, and rely a lot more on tempo changes and variations to get their message across. That’s accomplished in varying degrees on these tracks which gives it a little more of a hit-or-miss feel as the more traditionally-influenced thrashers come out on top while the more melodic fare tends to be more scattershot overall.
Opener ‘Rapid Fire (A Tyrant's Elegy)’ is a typical charging thrasher with splendid soloing and groovy riffing that showcases the melodic tendencies more than any other song on the album, but it’s up-tempo pace makes for a rousing opener with tons to love about it. The title track is just infectiously melodic with plenty of energy and more charging riffs that make it rank among the catchiest singles of their career and a bonafide classic in their career. More greatness is found in the vicious and charging ‘Witch-Hunt 2.0,’ a chaotic thrasher with plenty of energy and an abundance of catchy riffing that evokes far more old-school thrash than power metal and feels like an effort more at home on the first three albums than their more melodically-leaning recent offerings and gets a lot of love that way. Even better still is ‘Masters of Farces,’ a raging up-tempo thrasher with more of an old-school thrash feeling in the riffing and propelled by a furious drum-attack that lends even further to its traditional thrash workouts and overall is the fastest, most aggressive they get on the album and generates four solid, high-standard efforts in a row to start with. It can’t last, and the good-times stop somewhat on ‘The Metal Ladyboy,’ a potentially-intriguing duet with Doro Pesch that has the melodic riffing down-pat and an up-tempo pace but doesn’t hold the attention as well as it should considering the talent involved, which is somewhat disappointing.
The impressive ‘Not One Day Dead (But Mad One Day)’ is highly enjoyable with lots of great riffing in a traditional thrash atmosphere and shows some fun influences from their past in a pretty solid track. The charging thrasher ‘Son of a Fridge’ is one of the best of the lot with lots of injected melodies that recall the slight power metal influences mixed together with plenty of true thrash madness and an overall hilarious vibe to make for another fun effort. The band does get a couple of glaring problems though in back-to-back tracks that has a lot in common where there’s aggressive riffing and plenty of speed and aggression throughout but a decided lack of intensity leaves them both lacking as they seem to stray too far from the traditional thrashing found here to really matter. ‘Metal Magnolia’ is the better of the two by virtue of a more aggressive riff but that’s merely splitting hairs. It gets back on track with stalwart closer ‘Running on Fumes,’ yet another old-school charging thrasher with tons of aggression, technical drumming and blasts of energy in a full-throttle package that lends itself to a total overkill of an ending track and ends on a real high note.
Despite a few missteps here, it’s highly enjoyable to see the band continuing on this late into their career still delivering the quality thrash they’ve been known for. There’s no reason why the band is still this much fun and enjoyable this deep into their catalog, and yet with a few new tendencies like injecting moments of power metal into a traditional thrash effort that still retains every ounce of vigor, intensity and aggression they started with years ago, and now looks to be continuing the third stage of their career in spectacular fashion. No longer is the band content to pounding that beer bottle over your head into submission but now decides to take it easy and let it mellow, yet still show up to fight when it calls for it. Blessed with a strong production and killer songwriting skills, this is aptly demonstrated with a rousing, enjoyable effort that’s more than welcome in the collection of any true Tankard fan, and belongs in the home of all thrash fans as well.
How would you like to wake up next to that? In case the cover art wasn’t quite indicative enough, another glorious, inherently fun, endearingly drunk day has dawned. Yes, the inebriated adventures of Tankard continue in this, their 16th (!) album, A Girl Called Cerveza, as Gerre and company charismatically pound out another strong showing of tight, groovy thrash, an audible shot of rye to chase the lingering taste of technical wankery, soulless wigger-stomp deathcore, flower power, and whatever else is inevitably clogging up the arteries of the metal world of late. Make no mistake, Tankard have once again come to thrash, showing up to the party with a smile and a couple cold 30-racks, inciting all around them to party ever harder. Seriously, if the heartwarming antics of the title track don’t lighten your mood, you need to stop taking yourself (and life) so seriously. That’s just all there is to it.
Tankard have long been a favorite of mine, eclipsing even Sodom to stand with the likes of Kreator and Destruction as a defining band in my personal trifecta of Teutonic thrash. Like seemingly every potent 80’s act, their mid-era efforts were sometimes lacking, but unlike the terrifying abortions loosed on the world by many other popular acts, that’s all they were, never dipping beyond mediocrity. They also never compromised integrity to try to fit in with the times, like Slayer’s nu-metal shit-heap Diabolus in Musica, Metallica’s controversial Black Album, Metallica’s Creed-stained ‘Load’ of country metal, or Metallica’s… oh, you get it. Lately, though, the band have stepped up their game with some very strong releases (Beauty and the Beer being priority), a trend of solidity that continues with A Girl Called Cerveza, an unyieldingly fun romp through scenarios of cheeky alcoholism and the a strong set of riffing ideas.
While it’s a given that Tankard will never attain the level of belligerent mayhem of their first 3 defining albums, it seems they understand that, and that’s not the goal here, to their absolute credit. Indeed, the band’s sound continues to be chunkier and more relaxed than the almost punk-tinged, youthful fury of yesteryear, taught and fraught with a comfortable refinement. This maturation (if one could ever really call Tankard mature) in no way dulls the blade the band wield like a broken ale bottle, and their continued charisma is not only amazing for a band of their longevity, but serves to batter the absolute fuck out of the younger bands trying to make a name for themselves with this style (Municipal Waste, anyone?).
A Girl Called Cerveza, despite a lot of variety in theme, remains first and foremost a thrash album, setting up 10 strong tracks framed around Andy’s riffing. The general sound is not one that will surprise, as it adheres pretty closely to the archetypes of thrash, and the driving simplicity that has been a hallmark of the band, but it works well within these boundaries, tastefully integrating a few new subtle influences, with no cause to champion beyond getting you to pound that beer and bang that head. Sure, the tempo of the delivery varies, and there are some awesome leads and solos, but the consistency is one of fast-paced, hair-whipping frenzy, and it’s balanced enough with mid-paced grooving so as to ever feel repetitive. While the album’s tonal disposition is pretty much in constant thrash mode, Tankard’s lyrics are not solely centered on the finer things in life, a practice that has helped keep them from feeling like self-parody as the years roll on.
Opener Rapid Fire is a very memorable, high-energy number that pertains to the trappings of entitlement, power, and nationalism, with a ridiculously infectious chorus. The titular second song is also addictive, and is about a girl that tricks Gerre and steals all his beer. That bitch! Witchhunt 2.0 is a rallying cry against cyber-bullying, of all things, and there’s even a duet track with Doro entitled The Metal Lady Boy…. I’ll leave the thematic content to your imagination on that one; suffice to say, what happens in Bangkok, you better damn well hope stays in Bangkok. Other highlights include Son of a Fridge (…), which starts out in the Tankard equivalent of a slow Danzig song, though it picks up pretty quick, the self-affirming mosher Not One Day Dead, and raging closer Running On Fumes, a portrait of apocalyptic doom… or, rather, a show without beer. But what’s the difference, really? I enjoyed all the songs on A Girl Named Cerveza, as they all feel quite distinct without betraying the overall light-hearted tone, and there are even some protruding elements of more traditional heavy/power metal in some of the riffs, adding even more epic sheen to the bursts of melody.
I really love Tankard, these days more than most, and this album is quite high on my playlist, as there’s been a dearth of truly great thrash this year (excepting Testament, Savage Messiah, Kreator, and Overkill). I don’t feel like it’s quite strong enough to be counted among their very best, but it’s certainly standing tall on the second tier, and with Tankard, that equates to head and shoulders above most other thrash bands, new or old. They don’t seem to have lost an ounce of their boisterous spirit over the years, and Gerre continues to be one of the most loveable front men of all time, with a unique delivery and a vibrant personality.
There’s more than enough carousing old-school charm here to please the more seasoned among you, while the tight instrumentation, fresh melodic influences, and perfect, crisp production should help snare the younger crowd. Most importantly, this does not sound like an old band, not at all, such is the level of pulsing, infectious energy, drunkenly but gracefully bobbing along a tightrope of true 80’s spirit and modern songwriting sensibilities. Fans of the band will eat this one up, and for good reason, and I heartily recommend anyone who has not yet experienced the inebriated charm of these Germans to do so immediately, particularly the aspiring thrashers among you, as this band has a HUGE body of quality work that just begs to be explored. A Girl Called Cerveza is a fun, memorable statement from a band that, by all rights, should have died of liver failure years ago. Seeing as they’re still around, though, and going strong, you literally have no excuse. So pick this up along with a case of your favorite suds, press play, open drink, and marvel at how life seems to get instantly better.
-Left Hand of Dog
I like my Tankard records as I like my women: very German, and voluptuous to overflowing, two traits shared by their latest inebriated adventure and 16th full-length studio album, A Girl Called Cerveza. While its title and cover image are likely to offend their share of the Planet Butthurt citizenry (not at all the intention), they're really nothing out of the ordinary, a celebration of beer soaked celluloid and goofiness that has defined the group for better or worse now since the 80s, and not something one should conspire to take seriously on any day of the calendar. On the other hand, the music itself is quite well composed here, boasting superb production and strong enough variation to survive a good number of replays, even if it shouldn't be counted among their best work.
A Girl Called Cerveza bears some semblance to the band's 2006 effort The Beauty and the Beer, which was my favorite of their releases since their prime in the 80s, before the band's 'gimmick' arguable fled South and they started bouncing back and forth between quality and mediocrity. While the band picks up the pace and levels some devastating thrash redolent of their glory years in "Witchhunt 2.0" or the title track, it's not nearly so dirty, manic or explosive as, say, The Morning After. Like The Beauty and the Beer, the band have incorporated a lot of straight up heavy metal or Germanic power metal elements: dual melodies and riffs reminiscent of bands like Accept, Running Wild, Iron Maiden and Omen are contrasted against the harsher, wretched inflection of Andreas 'Gerre' Geremia, who hasn't lost a damned fraction of his charisma in 30 years of drunken belligerence. Like other German front persons Schmier, Tom Angelripper or Sabina Classen, the guy is instantly distinguishable from the legions of charmless retro thrashers peddling yesteryear's news from unpopulated newsstands; tons of edge to his timbre, but just enough melody to carry off all the choruses and compensate for the intentional, often laughably retarded ("Son of a Fridge" had me in stitches) lyrics...
...which as usual, are not all about beer 100% of the time, and this is how Tankard have managed to avoid wearing themselves thin through these many years. No, instead of unanimously swilling from the pilsner glass on every track here, they tackle subjects ranging from a more serious political rage in "Rapid Fire (A Tyrant's Elegy)" to an eyebrow raising tribute to Thailand ("The Metal Lady Boy"). Fortunately, the music packs a lot of punch, Andy Gutjarh truly having settled into his role long ago, riffing all over the place and showing solid dynamic inclinations and effective lead work from his traditional metal influences. This is hardly the most 'mosh' oriented thrash recorded, it's not loaded with many palm muted chug fests circa "Toxic Waltz" or other standards, but more of a brash and testosterone fueled mesh of power and thrash that becomes unique under Gerre's trash talking tutelage, and that's perfectly acceptable as far as I'm concerned, because the bold clarity and muscular depth of the guitar tone and vocal mix sounds fantastic here as it has for a number of albums leading up to it. Few thrash bands have production at this level, and yet despite its level of polish, it somehow doesn't betray the frolicking spirit which has existed at the core of this band since '86.
I could give or take the duet with Doro Pesch in "The Metal Lady Boy", or the clean guitars used to intro pieces like "Son of a Fridge", but I had a genuinely fun time listening through this record, even if it's not the sort of quality I'm likely to turn towards for the next 25 years (i.e. Zombie Attack, The Morning After). The songs are well structured across varied paces, a few of the riffing sequences really get the fists flying and the taps emptied, and in summation it all sounds like a band who have aged VERY FUCKING well, which you'll note is a pretty common trait among the German thrash acts (far less so for their Bay Area competition who so rarely mount an adequate jaunt 'back to the front'). Keep your expectations realistic, a mug of your favorite poison handy, and if possible, the company of a buxom admirer (male, female, tranny as your personal preference dictates), and you'll come away from A Girl Called Cerveza smiling more often than not. I'm not sure if a 'Prost!' or 'Salud!' is more appropriate here, so have 'em both you maggots.