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Oriental Entrepreneurs Salvaging the Old School - 74%

bayern, February 2nd, 2018

Well, not exactly as these lads hail from Germany, the Mecca of all things metal, and had had a previous stint with the music industry under the name Backwater. Two workmanlike albums were released, not showing much musical prowess overall, blending early Venom with Motorhead and Exciter for passable, not very exciting rides.

The guys didn’t give up the ghost as Backwater, and continued releasing demos after the sophomore until the change of moniker took place in the mid-90’s. What prompted it, that no one can tell, but the choice may have been a reflection of the band’s entrepreneurial spirit, and the determination to make a difference on the radically transformed at the time scene. And they did make a difference with this assured old school slab of complex, quasi-progressive thrash that wasn’t such an isolated phenomenon in their homeland having in mind the sizeable technical/progressive thrash movement that was still relevant at the time.

The opening “Rush” has a heavy pounding doom-laden intro that even recalls Candlemass, not without the help of the excellent dramatic clean vocals; later on things become more vivid and decidedly thrashier, but nothing beyond the officiant mid-pace. “Terrorized”, contrary to its violent title, is a lyrical semi-balladic proposition which still wins from the brilliant melodic pirouettes and again the good vocal performance. “The Kill” eventually speeds up also adding a more technical element to the proceedings with a wider gamut of tempo changes that even may qualify for Forbidden’s “Twisted into Form”. “Witchchaser” may sound familiar to some fans out there as it’s a cover of Backwater, taken from the debut, the guys looking back at their roots with this ponderous, not very dynamic affair which is just a monotonous proto-doomy anthem. Not much to take from this slow-downer except the really tasteful melodic leads, and “Memories of Sadness” thrashes much harder, a nice more technical shredder with echoes of Onslaught’s “In Search of Sanity” as well.

Poignant romanticism gets inserted at the beginning of “Caught in a Maze” which is an otherwise jumpy, nervy cut with angrier proto-modern riffs and a few less expected developments that side with the stylish exuberance of Dark Angel’s “Time Does Not Heal” even. “Tin Can” moshes with more vigour, but the more intricate walkabouts remain regardless of some modern-ish experimentation added towards the end, preceding another balladic etude from “Silent Cries” which doesn’t stretch beyond the calm semi-balladic parametres later, leaving the more energetic developments for “Shadow Dances”, a lively dynamic piece with sharp cutting riffage which partly disappears for “Living with Reality”, a steam-rolling proto-modern number with echoes of Flotsam & Jetsam’s “Quatro”.

Like their compatriots Pyracanda, the band look towards the Bay-Area heritage for inspiration, but unlike them they diversify the approach too much at times, obviously not very fond of speed. That’s all right, but too much clinging towards the ballad/semi-ballad doesn’t seem to generate a lot of excitement along the way, neither does the mentioned Backwater cover which is the longest track the band have ever produced, 7.5-min of minimalistic doomisms we’re talking about; how the inclusion of this sleep-inducer has enhanced the album’s appeal is to anyone’s guessing. The guys also want to show that they’re aware of the ruling vogues by slightly acknowledging them which again doesn’t fare that well against the dominant retro metal façade…

Still, there’s enough thrashing niceties dispersed throughout to please the fan although it’s obvious that the band were looking beyond the mere tribute to the past decade, kind of paving their way for more transitional future. And indeed, this future came only under a different moniker, X-Ray, just a few months later; this formation also left one opus (“Dehumanized”, 1996) before disappearing, the guys bidding farewell to the 90’s with a loyal groovy post-thrash offering. The Backwater saga was brought back from hibernation in 2007, and with one effort (“Take Extreme Forms”) in 2013 it seems as though the band’s entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t been depleted fully yet.