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A Piece of History - 75%

corviderrant, April 8th, 2007

I remember picking this up after reading about these guys in "Metal Forces" years ago (anybody remember that zine?) and being mightily impressed at the time. These days, while this has sentimental value on my end, I must be objective and say that with a more discriminating ear it is not as great as I thought it was. Nonetheless it certainly has its moments anyway.

Darren McMaster-Smith and Mark Woolley are the stars of this album for sure, with frenzied performances from both really making this work. I used to call Darren "Darren Mixmaster-Smith" for his tight and furious playing, especially in the double kick realm, and he still holds up well in that respect. He was like the Aussie Dave Lombardo, really, and the thundering extended double kick/floor tom roll near the end of "Marie Antoinette" shows this influence in bold relief. Even the thin and trebly production can't hold him back as he tears through every song with vigor.

Likewise for Woolley, his leads are both melodic and chaotic somehow as he shreds away with aplomb; he was a very good player with just the right amount of technical ability and aggression. Rather like a more structured and skilled Jeff Hannemann, actually. You can even hear Phil Gresik's growling bass here and there, a rarity. Not that he does anything special, but it's nice to hear some low end whoomp on occasion.

Peter Hobbs himself sticks to rhythm and cranks out some good strong riffs with his raspy growling vocals over it, and his piercing scream right before the solo on "Satan's Crusade" will make you jump every time even if you expect it.The opening guitar part on that song has a nice atonal edge to it with its close intervals. "Marie Antoinette" is a slower number with some more understated vocals and historically-inspired lyrics, but most of the album roars by in high-octane mode. Lyrics, eh, well, they're typical and far from poetry, but they are still highly appropriate for the genre if nothing else.

I'd say this is worth hunting down if you would like to just hear some ripping thrash/death metal that makes no apologies for what it is in its gloriously over the top nature. It's not perfect, but it's damn good for what it is, and I still like it just fine. Might as well bust out the vinyl and enjoy it some more!

Not philosophers, but hey... - 81%

Gutterscream, June 17th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Steamhammer

By ’87-‘88, the mushroom cloud of thrash in the States, Europe, and Japan was in full billow, pluming hundreds of miles into the air and finally viewable by our largest island, Australia. Considering Armoured Angel, Slaughter Lord, Nothing Sacred and even Black Alice were pointing to this huge darkened mass across the ocean, the natural advancement of tape trading and record shops, and since Hobbs was already a demo veteran with his former band Tyrus, it’s not possible Hobbs Angel of Death and Mortal Sin were oblivious to the thrash movement previous to their debuts and demos, but for some reason it just got off the ground a little slower there.

When I had first heard of the band, the chance that Hobbs was a band member didn’t really enter my mind. I was thinking more along the lines of the British philosopher Thomas Hobbs and his stark vision of human nature, a well-known quote of his being "Life in an unregulated state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". The quote conveyed the undeniable image of metal styles blooming at that time, and I thought maybe the band was onto something a bit more thought provoking and clever than the average Joe. Then I read something about this Peter Hobbs fellow and a few of the song titles and most of it went down with the ship. Anyhow, the proof is in the pudding, and I finally picked up the damned thing.

Okay, so the Hobbs theory didn’t work out, and if the band were merely called Angel of Death, I’d have no preconceived notion, so with an optimistic ear I spun the wax to find that it’s really not a bad album. It’s not your atom bomb of thrash lps, but it’s also not the firecracker you’d let your ten year old nephew throw across the lawn. There is intensity here, a persistence that crowds some tracks with a harmful edge like “House of Death”, a song that isn’t going to dazzle the listener with fretboard gymnastics or bewitching structural changes in the vein of later thrash acts like Vio-lence or Forbidden, but there are some admirable rhythm shifts and menacing mid-riffs to be discovered here. Unlike the two aforementioned groups, HAOD rely on harsh, temper-induced vocals courtesy of Peter Hobbs where high notes dwell in frightened non-existence. “Satan’s Crusade” and “Lucifer’s Domain” depend on sheets of speed and aggression to get the now-tired Satanic message across, and almost obligatory are the decelerated sections that ornament their centers.

The passion continues in “Jack the Ripper” where some finer songwriting finds a home and carries over to the slower, more bludgeoning gait of “Crucifixion”, a commanding track that doesn’t give in to average speed practices or single string riffage. Velocity mingles with a similar strength found in the previous tune to form “Brotherhood”, another above ordinary bully that hightails it at the finish. “Journey” flails with an abundance of tempos with many speed factors prevailing, and while the song comes to a close a bit prematurely (as if someone accidentally hit the volume knob with their elbow reaching for a sandwich or something), but still ends the lp better than it began (the cd offers extra tracks “Cold Steel” and “Bubonic Plague”).

Is “Marie Antoinette” really that crummy? Nine times out of ten a track that’s twice as long as its siblings is going to be their a) sensitive song, or b) look how well we can play when we want to song. For HAOD it’s both. Slow, sometimes breaking, easy to handle riffs, displaced fits of common speed, and passionate soloing inside a soft patch of skillful, near-acoustic guitar dignifies the tale of this Queen of France, orchestrated toward the end for a semi-lavish finish. A middle of the road canzonet, yes, but at least they tried and I won’t hold it against them.

I’ll at least give this a low B grade, second tier without bumbling into the ditch of mediocrity.