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No Toto, no cry - 70%

Felix 1666, August 20th, 2017

Some bands can replace their original lead vocalist without any negative consequence, some bands cannot take this step. Chastain without Leather Leone? Pretty difficult. Mercyful Fate without King Diamond? No way. The same applied for Living Death. The characteristic love-them-or-hate-them vocals of Toto Bergmann had a polarizing effect, but they had been the unique selling point of the guys from Velbert as well. "Killing in Action" was the first and, given the described situation, more or less logically the last album of the group without Toto. This is not to say that his successor Gerald Thelen did a bad job. Toto had rather been a kind of figurehead. Seen in this light, every other singer would have fought a losing battle as well. Thelen's voice sounds powerful and passionate, but he does not uncover any unique features. He did not choose a completely different approach than his predecessor and he also managed some shrill tones. Nevertheless, the extra quantum of insanity is missing on "Killing in Action".

The here presented music is craggier than on "Worlds Neuroses". The Kelch brothers torture their instruments again and some bulky riffs (the instrumental "Polymorphic") and drilling leads generate exactly this kind of sinister atmosphere the ridiculous artwork fails to create. The victim wears warm panties and the monster burns its fingers. But let's concentrate on the music. Living Death show no signs of effeminacy and that was no matter of course at the time of the release of this work (1991). As we all know, the best time of the first thrash wave was already gone and all of a sudden many formations began to live out their newly discovered musical affinities. Very authentic and free from any commercial considerations, of course. From this perspective, "Killing in Action" is a likeable album with a fine and pretty amazing degree of heaviness and velocity. Nevertheless, its basically good musical content cannot fully convince.

Where are songs like "Gripping a Heart" or "Vengeance"? Songs that blow the listener away in a matter of seconds while entering the deepest ventricle of her or his long-term memory? Yes, there are some sections that have a catchy character, for example the chorus of "Die For (For What We Lie For)". But these parts fail to achieve the brilliance and the spontaneity of the formation's former deeds. "Dire Weak Up" with its slightly weird bridge or the furiously raging title track come closest to the former thrash rockets of the Kelch family. Too bad that the full picture shows relatively faceless compositions as well. It is therefore no wonder that Living Death did not record any further album, because "Killing in Action" was not welcomed with open arms and its content was just not strong enough to change this situation. The longplayer was solidly produced and offered a proper load of thrash, but it did not have the power to stop the slow decay of the thrash scene. Thus, the pretty strong and more or less typical "Daily Life" marked the final song in the career of a down-to-earth, honest band without airs and graces. Listen to the outputs of Living Death from time to time - their contribution to the exciting German thrash movement of the eighties should not be underestimated.

Scrapes and bruises do not a kill make - 68%

autothrall, February 8th, 2011

After a disjointed Living Death released the decent but indisposed World Neuroses in 1988, there was a parting of the ways which saw the band's shrill harpy Thorsten Bergmann emigrate towards the muddied, hideous waters of their ill-fated new project Sacred Chao. Joining him were guitarist Fred and drummer Atomic Steif. But the brothers Kelch were not yet finished with their legacy, and decided to acquire a new drummer and frontman and give it one last go. To that extent, Killing in Action is not a horrible misstep: it's a reasonable, angry thrash album that is less quizzical than its predecessor, but a reaction to the new vocalist Gerald Thelen will be mixed. He's basically a half way mark between Bergmann's unhinged keening and the caustic bite of Accept's Udo Dirkscheider. Seriously, if the band had just courted 'The Man' himself to step in for this album, it would have sounded like this.

Musically, I'm not sure if the band had ever sounded as pissed off as they were here. The ten tracks are all dense with riffing and a steady rhythm section, but then, the band have traded in some of the precise, curious streaks of notation that branded their previous albums. Assaults like "Hearteater" and "Polymorphic" are simply bristling with belligerent guitars and they throw quite a lot at the listener, but there is little to no sticking accumulation of ice. Perhaps the best track on the album is "Die For (For What We Lie For)", where a tangible, morbid little thrashing death riff winds wonderfully below Thelen's dirk-like delivery, and though the chorus is one you can hear coming from a mile away, it does not fail the verse. Other than this, you can hear a lot of traces of the band's better efforts like Protected from Reality or Metal Revolution, but the songs just have so much less impact.

In fact, this is basically just a less interesting alternative to Protected from Reality, with that same perceptible darkness which I wish had at some point been carried out into its logical perfection, that I had always prayed might happen for Living Death (though I won't rule out a miracle from the recent reunion). The band was never able to manifest a masterpiece, and it's a shame. There's a lot going on with Killing in Action, and it's got some swagger to it, like a bar brawl in some shantytown in a post-nuclear devastation landscape. The new singer was no 'Toto', but he clearly wasn't bad. In the end there's just nothing here that solidifies the deal. All things end, and so too, did Living Death, or did they...