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Hard to imagine that in 1986 Germany let loose two thrashterpieces that were so completely different in absolutely every way. Kreator was trying to disembowel you, and crack your head on the walls a thousand times. Tankard wanted to have a drink with you and your pals and just watch some flicks and have fun. I mean just look at the two album covers and you know just how different they are. Though the comparison is a bit like apples to oranges, I must say that I very slightly prefer this album.
Tankard for me is a guilty pleasure. When I told my friends that I was listening to them and loving it, I admitted to the bit of shame I have. The band based themselves off of alcohol, something I happen to despise (what it does to you and the god awful taste). Besides that though, I figured basing your music off of something like that couldn't be good in any way. And for that reason I refrained from trying them out for a very long time. But if you have the same reservations I had, let me tell you that the band is in no way a joke. The music here is gritty punk/thrash speed metal that is dead (ha!) serious! Sure, the lyrics can be a bit daft at times, but they go well with the fun lighthearted riffing that dominates the sound of this album. The riffs are all cut from the same cloth as it were, with a lot of punk riffs played fast and with a thrash metal punch and grind to them. Sliding is favored in a lot of the riffs as well, possibly to coat the music in a drunken blur that I happen to adore.
This 'drunken' sound is very fresh even today, with no album in my collection that really matches the tone. The riffs taking hold of that alcoholic sludgy sound fit perfectly with it, and are catchy as hell. The speed, slides, and tone mix together to form a cocktail of chaotic thrash perfection. The bouncy bass lines, just high enough to sock you in the face, but not so much to take away from the razor sharp guitar work. Throw in a varied drum performance with great rhythm and plenty of nice fills. And somehow with all of this craziness, it all comes off so crisp, despite the lo-fi production values!
What can tie this mass of drunken mayhem into a package that can be consumed all at once? Gerre that's what! The unique touch that tops off Tankard's unique sound here is one of the most distinct vocalists I’ve heard in metal. Maybe his German accent just really works in his favor, but he turns the wonky I-can-tell-English-isn't-your-first-language lyrics and makes them catchy as all hell! I actually read through some lyrics here on the archives thinking to myself that it must be one of the most awkward vocal displays ever. But not at all! Sure, similarly to Pleasure to Kill, the chorus of every song involves saying the title multiple times, but more often than not it is worked into a more developed chorus that just works. Like on Mercenary, Chains, and Poison. I mean, Gerre even gets me to sing along with such lines as "We wanna drink some fucking beer!" or "Come and drink alcohol! Come and drink some beer with me!" His style is hard to describe in words, so just sample some songs and hear it for yourself.
What songs to sample? Good question! There isn't a song here I would want to be without, though I do have some favorites. (Empty) Tankard was the one song that had to grow on me first, but now it's easy to see why it's a signature song of the band. That opening/closing riff that sounds like something Sabbath would write in their prime, and the manic riff intensity that goes on after the intro. Zombie Attack itself opens with a very fitting and amusing intro, even on repeated listens, and goes into the trademark punk/thrash assault that riddles the album. And it is fun as hell to mimic the way Gerre slurs "Zombieeee Ataaaaaahhhhhhhk!" Mercenary has one of the best main riffs and choruses here, and is a definite highlight, with a great use of gang shouts. Poison is in the same category with Mercenary, with some great infidelity lyrics. Maniac Forces and Alcohol have great intros, the former of which seamlessly transforms into the main riff of the song, and boy is it a doozie! The rest are still great songs, but don't quite stand out as much as the rest. Screaming Victims being the one song I would change, as I would prefer a slightly less repetitive chorus.
So in conclusion, if Tankard isn't on your thrash radar, then you have made a mistake! This is a fantastic debut that is as fun as it is distinct. I can raise my tankard and thrash along with the band, even if mine is full of Dr. Pepper! And remember, the band may be joking around, but the music ain't no joke!