Sunday, July 4, 2010

Artch - For the Sake of Mankind (1991)

Though the debut Another Return was originally released through Active Records, it saw a license through Metal Blade, and this led to a further relationship, with For the Sake of Mankind, its unfit younger sibling seeing an issue straight through that label. Artch cannot be accused of shifting up their style, because this sophomore displays the same sense for slow to mid-paced, melodic chugging and brazen vocal presence, but there is just something...missing in the gears, to the point where it becomes very quickly forgotten outside of dialog directly pertaining to the band.

'Hey, didn't that band have another album? Why, I do believe...'

The problems start immediately with the track "When Angels Cry". There are some solid lines of strong melody buried in there, but it's got almost Skid Row lyrics and the chorus is really nothing to write home about, unlike the title track of the debut which totally rocked your face off. After this, a thick tide of acoustic guitars rolls forth, almost as if you're about to hear a Damn Yankees track, but it's a slowly developing power ballad with some grooving, rhythmic drums and a half-decent lead tucked in among its relative lack of ambition. "Burn Down the Bridges" delivers some pretty straight Nazi commentary in an Iron Maiden shell casing, and "Paradox" has a few moments of sad melody, and slowly crunching chorus, but there's just a little too much of that hard rock verve which makes me feel like David Coverdale is about to touch himself.

We finally get an epic...thrasher in "To Whom it May Concern", which by the sheer anger of the riffing alone and the rather serious delivery of the vocals destroys everything before it on this album, and yet it's hardly memorable enough to raise ones hopes, since the blue blood lyrics don't quite deliver: My neighbor looks set in his fancy "Corvette", with the "stereo"-loud screams/ While I ride the subway from Monday to Friday, mingling with the crowd. If one of the first three albums from Queensryche had featured a Dickinson/Dio duet about the "Titanic", it might sound a little like this next track, which is not all bad. Another power ballad arrives in "Confrontation", and then "Turn the Tables" has some heavy, bluesy hard rock riffs below its convincing vocal delivery, almost like the band Malice. "To Be or Not to Be" is a faster thrashing which recalls Flotsam & Jetsam, and the best song on the album is inconsiderately tucked on at the end: "Batteries Not Included", with some seriously bad ass power/thrash metal grooves and excellent vocals. The cover of Nazareth's "Razamanaz" is more loyal than the version by Danish master thrashers Artillery, but then, that is why it's just not as good.

If only more tunes had been like that or "To Whom it May Concern", this album would have seemed like a natural, heavier extension of Another Return that made a lot of sense trying to survive in the thrash dominated times of 1991, which were about to become near extinct. Artch was not alien to a mix of hard rock and power metal virtues on the debut, but here they seem a little more defined out to their extremes, and the result is an album that just doesn't know what it's capable of, or what it even wants to be. It doesn't surprise me at all that this would be their final official hour in the recording studio. The band have been back on the map for some live shows, and I believe there was talk of new material being recorded, but it's once again on hold. I'm crossing my fingers for 'another return' to the traditional, ass kicking metal delivery of their debut should that ever come to fruition, but it's not likely at this point. If you're going to splurge on this album for completion's sake, then you should consider the 2001 Metal Blade re-issue with a bonus disc of various material, but it's just not worth it either way in my opinion.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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