Monday, July 5, 2010

Accu§er - Agitation (2010)

The reunion of 80s-90s thrash icons is so commonplace today that it seems difficult to keep up with them all, and even bands that were never all that good to begin with have heard the call to return to the source of their inspiration and release a new studio effort. Enter Germany's Accu§er, a band which could be deemed inconsistent at best through their decade-long career from about 1986-1995, after which we've only heard peeps in demo material and the ill-fated decision to change their name to Scartribe. I doubt there's a single full-length album from this act that I could lavish much praise upon. Who Dominates Who?, Double Talk and Repent all had a handful of decent tracks, but I found the mid-90s records wholly ignorable.

15 years after Taken By The Throat, the band has brought us a 7th full-length effort called Agitation, with a chalkboard meets puppet-master cover image that seems a little refreshing and modern compared to all the nuclear torn cities, zombies, gas masks and beer drinking sods we usually see gracing the cover of today's youngest crop of thrashers trying to cop a buck and a fan or two from better days and better bands. Only a single member remains here from the band's 1987 debut The Conviction, vocalist/guitarist Frank Thoms, but lead guitarist René Schütz was with Accu§er since 1988's mediocre Experimental Errors EP. The rhythm section of Frank Kimpel (bass) and Olli Fechner are remnants of Scartribe, and in fact this entire line-up is just Scartribe transplanted back to the original band name, which makes sense, as the band were still playing thrash metal and the old moniker carries a lot more weight among collectors and fans in the underground.

I was surprised that Agitation is not only a return to form, but actually better than most of their original records, if not necessarily good. They play an aggressive, meaty brand of thrash metal that consists of pummeling force mutes glazed over with slightly technical, melodic guitar lines that keep the songs feeling fresh and forward. "No Feats" is an exciting opener, with some good leads and thoughtful melody wound against Thoms brute vocals. The band never conveyed the same speed or excellence of peers like Kreator, Destruction and Tankard, and the chugging rhythms at the base of the song are hardly unique, but they do a cleanup job here which doesn't just seem like mindless, repetitive cloning of their prior albums.

A lot of the tracks do follow a very similar course. "Chaincrusher"and "Century of the Fall" feel very similar to "No Feats", with minor alterations to the pounding riffs, tempos and melodies, but the band do lapse into a coma for a few slower, groovier songs I didn't care for, namely "King of South" and "Strength of All" which matches a dumb trod with a faster, quality lead and then a forgettable clean guitar sequence. There is a nice little instrumental break in the title track, but sadly this is followed by the most 'mixed' song on the album, "Prophecies", which has a great lead sequence and some fine melodic thrust in the verse, but a whole lot of shitty ass breakdowns that I would expect out of some bad American band like Machine Head or Chimaira. "Criminal Solution" and "The Eye of the Truth" both have their feet wet in some modern groove also, but in general they are far better composed and exhibit a little life left in the maturing band.

Agitation is not an album I'll be returning to, because I wish the band had gone all out with the thrashing and left the weaker, 90s groove metal mentality out of the session entirely. But one must keep in mind that the band's earlier work was rarely worth hearing to begin with, so this album seems more 'tight' and consistent by comparison. Sadly, that's not enough to stand out in a world where we have fellow German acts like Kreator and Tankard, who still release great efforts despite careers that verge on 30 years of existence. I banged my head a few times to this, and appreciated the spikes of melodic, semi-tech picking that the band are more than capable of crafting, but in the end it just wasn't enough to pull the record over the hump.

Verdict: Indifference [5.75/10]

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