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Or perhaps an admirable ascension - 84%

Gutterscream, December 11th, 2007
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Aaarrg Records

“…if you love me, you won’t let me die…”

Titled after a song that wouldn’t survive outside its ‘86 demo womb, this quintet’s only child was born sometime in ’88, silently grew to manhood and immediately started collecting dust on metal’s huge end table like the unusual little curio it is. Perched there with its sword-guarded logo and rider-basking-in-triumph artwork, the lp’s typically ‘80s on the eyes and little is gleaned from the snapshots of four average-looking longhairs and biker dude vocalist. Meanwhile the middle road song titles reveal about the same, so in the end the only real divulgence of character comes from Aaarrg! Records and its then-current thrash/speed stable of Living Death, Mekong Delta, and Holy Moses (and the matter-of-fact Target). Through the eyes of the title, it could’ve very well carried a Christian message.

I wasn’t expecting oodles from this.

Now, twirling the thrash descriptor around Last Descendants skirts the impractical and inaccurate, ‘cos we find ourselves running through just as much (actually more) speed and traditional foliage, kinda like the way Artillery romps through songs. In fact, quite a bit of those Danes’ moxy greets these eight tracks, tossing salad-style the gist of Fear of Tomorrow and Terror Squad only with more traditional dressing and variation. Hell, we have furrow-browed James Waits often echoing Ronsdorf ‘s deeper subterranean tones, a comforting trait considering how many mike-holders wouldn’t have a clue where to start. Even Matthew Hall kicks the back-of-the-stage bassist barrier out of the way. And thanks to Gary Morton and/or Matthew Hall, solos do a lot more than dribble down these songs’ chins.

Basic, everyday thought processes couldn’t have scripted most of these songs; aside from “P.O.W. 13” and some of the decent, though overlong instrumental “PG 13”, they’re just not normal. Kick off track “Not My World” shoves the ‘first song-safe song’ notion out the window. Acoustical tracts, an oddly chugging post-chorus riff, semi-soulful vox, and some spiraling solos throw a lot of what this lp has to offer right into the limelight…everything except thrash, which doesn’t fully unravel ‘til blue ribbon bruiser and third track “One by One” menacingly marches in. Its main rhythm grumbles like a loose, grimy cough, weighed down by bass that puckers like an under-strung trampoline to help drill home a fist-shaped chorus. Good stuff. Broad-chested “Malpractice” and chorus-pounded “Fight the Fight” skid confidently into the technical/progressive realm, ignited by solos played with a highlight marker. I don’t know if it’s one or both of them, but whoever it is cooks with some pretty hot flame.

So there are some creative, non-formulaic forces at work here; a respectable crash of on again-off again grittiness, unforeseen musical pizzazz, and reflective songwriting that’s not too reflexive, and the bottom line is that One Nation Under God delivers more (and at the same time, less) than what may have been expected. Christianity? The blurb up top says maybe, the blurb down below says probably not = no real allegiance. As far as oodles go, I received more than I bargained for in a not-so-thrash perspective, for this lp can be considered a semi-precious stone.

“…open the door to peace of mind, open the fucking door…”