Thursday, January 20, 2011

Despair - History of Hate (1988)

Despair is a band best known for a few of its alumni, who would move on to (arguably) greater things. Original vocalist Robert Kampf, who appears on this album, would become the chief of the now colossal Century Media records, and in fact Despair was the first European act signed to the label. Guitarist Waldemar Sorychta would later become a famed producer and play in some reasonably higher profile bands like the (crappy) Grip Inc. Lastly, Drummer Markus Freiwald has recently become the drummer for Sodom. Alright, so perhaps none of them have quite become legendary, but the success stories are impossible to deny, so it's all the more curious to examine their roots.

They are strong roots, and History of Hate is the sort of intense, technical thrash/speed album I tend to enjoy, with some similarities to Deathrow, Living Death, Vendetta, Destruction and a number of others. Notable effort was spent in composing the 8 tracks here, and each instrument is given a chance to shine. The guitars are choppy and adventurous, splicing together moments of tranquility with surgical, cutting melodies and beefier backing rhythms. I really enjoy the acoustic moments, like the intro "The Enigma" or the early segue in the 8+ minute epic "Constructing the Apocalypse". There was an artful deviousness to Despair, and Kampf's rough, constipated presence seemed the perfect pilot. That said, besides the obvious qualities and care in its craft, there are very few tracks here that really blow you over. Even the versatile, manic exhibitions of "Joy Division" and "Outconditioned" are not quite as knockout as the clinical nuance found on Deception Ignored, The Music of Erich Zahn, or Release from Agony, but they walk a similar path.

It's a good debut effort, and still sounds viable by today's standard, especially the airy guitar tones and the progressive patterns being woven through the thrashing glaze. The bonus track "Never Trust" turns out to be one of the strongest on the album, though it is borne of a more standardized chugging thrash blockade with some stumbling grooves. If History of Hate is lacking in any area, it's just the lack of killer chorus lines and truly destructive riffs that might edge it past a lot of the other second tier German bands at the time. The band would improve with their subsequent output, but Kampf's sole full-length performance was nothing to scoff at. Now, if only the Century Media suits would break this out from time to time, remember what made them so important, and take out all their shitty metalcore bands with next week's waste disposal (but don't recycle them, please).

Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (the cross was taught by the sword)

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