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When the Grim Reaper Would Still Show Mercy… - 86%

bayern, May 23rd, 2020

No, I haven’t forgotten that I have one more effort from the Deaths to muse over; it’s just that this was the last album that I listened to from their discography; took it from someone some time in the mid-90’s, on a cassette where the closing title-track was partly missing. Not that I cared about that much back then, especially when this first coming wasn’t that great. Actually, I wasn’t planning on going back to it, but since it was a Living Death work, I felt bound to revisit it. This is one of the few albums which I didn’t like at all on first listen, only to start appreciating them more and more with each subsequent encounter. In fact, this last listen I gave the album the other night made me revere it even more… yep.

Well, not to the extent to pronounce it a masterpiece along the ranks of “Protected from reality” or “Metal Revolution”, but at least I don’t find it such a humble beginning; not at all. One simply has to look around and see what was going on on the German metal arena at the time, and to realize that crowning achievements at this early stage were out of the question. Those who were aiming at consistent homogeneity (Destruction, Helloween, Sodom) at the early stage stuck with the shorter EP format; the more courageous, and shall I say more confident, ones like Running Wild, Atlain, Tyrant and our friends here went straight for the full-length. And they did deliver, in a pleasantly dishevelled, anything-goes manner, each in their own way.

Any album that contains undisputable early speed metal classics like “Heavy Metal Hurricane” and “You and Me”, for instance, can’t possibly sink without a trace. And this opus rides high the early power/speed metal wave exuding youthful arrogance and confidence again; after all, you’ve got to have at least a patch of pride when you possess a unique, exuberantly high-strung vocalist like Mr. Toto Bergmann. His voice still needs some polishing at this stage but man, does he soar above the hyper-active proceedings like an all-seeing, also all-singing sorcerer, becoming suddenly lyrical and romantic on the ultimate seducer “Night Light”, a friendly heavy rocker, and the only goofy presence here. Elsewhere the guys mosh with vigour to spare, matching the mentioned speedsters every bit of the way with the horny galloping arouser “Riding a Virgin” and the rude, on-the-verge-of-thrash delight “My Victim” with Bergmann in a stunning, ultra-passionate form.

But that’s not all as this effort is split by a nice short instrumental called “Labyrinth” which reminds me so much of Iron Maiden’s same year’s “Loss for Words” that one of these days I have to go the extra mile to check which piece came out first. Yeah, there’s everything for everyone here including a most poignant balladic intro, the one to “Hellpike”, which always makes me shed a tear or two… I don’t know why, definitely not for nostalgic reasons only… not the rest of the song which is the-next-in-line fast-paced roller-coaster with Bergmann venomously spitting “Hellpike Hellpike!”, the supposed chorus as opposed to the fairly attached timbre he produces on the rest. The heavy sinister stomper which is the title-track by all means deserves a mention, too, especially when the guys later used this particular template to create some of their finest fruit (remember “Rulers Must Come” and “Screaming from a Chamber” from “Metal Revolution”).

Yeah, the guys were rocking hard from the get-go, wading through expected obstacles like a muddy sound quality and dodgy production, not to mention the hollowly-sounding drums which may get on someone’s nerves, and some more. But they did get the job done, to put their band on the mid-80’s metal map with all the naïve youthful energy that was available to them at the time. Things were a bit messy in the musical department as well, but such potholes on a debut are always forgiven; and, for the umpteenth time, you have such a great performer behind the mike that just focusing on his pathos-induced delivery should suffice.

German speed metal had quite a few models (Living Death, Running Wild, Helloween, Tyrant, Atlain, Iron Angel) to choose from back then… it was no wonder that it became such a wholesome genre literally overnight, and ruled the world for a bit before its rowdier brother thrash took over. And the Deaths joined the more aggressive fray, yes, but not before they released the godly “Metal Revolution”, the speed metal classic to end all speed metal classics. Who would have thought, at this early stage, that some of the band members would later take part in the execution of some of the most complex, most puzzling soundscapes ever under the cloak of Mekong Delta’s Ralph Hubert… no traces of any challenging music forms whatsoever here… it was all Satan, devils, hell and partying… and love; loads of love... and a non-stop mosh topped by a heart-rending siren.