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“Rocket, Yeah, Satellite of Greatness!” - 93%

bayern, August 13th, 2017

I borrowed this line from the Def Leppard song of the same title (“Rocket” that is), but not as an illustration of the copious amounts of cheese that can be found here. There’s none of it, and my sole intention with it is to express my admiration for what the band had achieved here. I remember how this guy happily gave me a cassette with the band ‘s first two albums in 1988 although I couldn’t quite share his excitement as I found them acceptable, but hardly exceptional American heavy/power metal opuses. Then there was this chap I came across a year later who was salivating over Laaz Rockit’s “Know Your Enemy” comparing it to Helstar’s “Nosferatu”, even finding it better than the latter. That last statement went too far since I was certain this couldn’t possibly be the case (better than Helstar’s “Nosferatu”!? Yeah, right!), but intrigued me enough to give that album a listen…

And this is how I found out that the guys had indeed made a huge step forward by embracing the speed/thrash metal idea on this third coming (which was the charm indeed), and with their power metal roots still firmly in place, had managed to come up with a really appetizing concoction. They could have also swung the other way, towards the glam, pop metal field that was also growing in popularity at the time, provided that their first two instalments weren’t too far from Motley Crue’s early days, for example, but it was to the metal fanbase’s big advantage that they didn’t do that. Considered by many the band’s finest hour, “Know Your Enemy” was a transitional album as the guys were going with the flow, hardening the course in pace with the up-and-coming speed/thrash movement, a decision that was inevitably going to reap other, more aggressive “fruit”.

Although I liked “Know Your Enemy” quite a bit, and listened to it more than just several times, it wasn’t until the late-90’s that I recalled the band with “the goofy moniker” like some fans had labelled them. It was thanks to Gack, the band’s official continuation, whose album “Fix” (1993) was played by a friend that I was visiting. I didn’t like the album as it was just another rehashed groovy post-thrash offering, but then the conversation went Laaz Rockit’s direction, and this is how I found out that they had two whole other albums released after “Know Your Enemy”, which this friend of mine gladly gave me. “Annihilation Principle” literally blew me away, an unadulterated spasmodic slab of vehement old school thrash if there ever was one; but it was the album reviewed here that completely won me for their cause.

So the band continued moving with the flow reaching the stage when the technical/progressive ways of expression came to rule, albeit for a short while, in the early-90’s on both sides of The Atlantic, and the guys felt obliged to contribute to them the way their compatriots Heathen (“Victims of Deception”) and Dark Angel (“Time Does Not Heal”) did the same year. This effort takes the middle ground between the two mentioned recordings as it’s not riddled with countless riff configurations ala the Dark Angel opus; neither does it contain any overlong, somewhat monotonous, compositions that were featured on the Heathen showing. It flows more smoothly than both also resembling another not very known masterpiece, Wrath’s “Nothing To Fear”, only more conventionally and more directly executed than the latter. “In the Name of the Father” is an assured opener the band thrashing with conviction resembling the early feats of Testament, not complicating the environment too much, with Coons’ excellent attached, dramatic vocals soaring above the sea of steel, sharp riffs. “Into the Asylum” is already a handsomely technical proposition with intricate riff knots unleashed as “an appetizer”, not disappearing completely later, but showing up here and there to “disrupt” the highly-stylized melee which is also graced by dazzling lead sections. “Greed Machine” is a more orthodox conglomerate of fast and slow rhythms leaving the more intriguing motifs for “Too Far Gone”, a marvellous technical speed/thrasher the guys shredding with precision keeping things within the mid-paced confines.

“Curiosity Kills” is an epitome of immediacy, blitzkrieg hard-hitting thrash the band having fun, moshing with vigour and overt enthusiasm, pulling the breaks for “Suicide City”, a heavier stomping number with a few speedier outbreaks. “The Enemy Within” gallops with the finest horses out there, adding the odd semi-technical quirk at irregular intervals, all the way to “Nobody’s Child”, a nice heavy semi-ballad. “Silence Is a Lie” embarks on a more engaging, technical journey with excellent overlapping rhythms the established up-tempo seldom broken on this uplifting roller-coaster. Thumbs up for the band leaving the highlight for the very end, “Necropolis”, an exemplary instrumental piece which shows the lead guitarist as a consummate performer of Shrapnel proportions, weaving both melodic and twisted tapestries, also adding a couple of moments of surreal shredding technicality, preserving the most astounding whirlwind of compulsive riff-vortexes for the finale.

Mission accomplished for one of the most unsung heroes from the US metal underground, 1991 being their last active year, under that name at least, as well as for the other mentioned acts. Testing the aggro/groovy waters was definitely an option later on, but done under the form of this “Fix” already mentioned earlier, it was a bit more than total humiliation. It was good that the guys wrapped it on afterwards without any more similar detrimental experimentations. “Left for Dead” was a fairly surprising comeback effort in 2008 which saw Coons and the guitar player Aaron Jellum joined by a group of new faces for the creation of this not very convincing blend of classic thrash and Gack-esque post-thrashy groovisms; not the finest reunion endeavour compared to the abundant classic metal pool of the new millennium, and one that logically hasn’t seen a follow-up yet; the band left the scene with something “sacred” some 25 years ago… it’s still waiting for a dignified sequel in this or in some other life.