Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Archaic Torse - Sneak Attack (1992)

As a sucker for obscure death and thrash metal, I find a few things to like about Archaic Torse. First, the band's name. A metal band named after an archaic form of royal headware? Secondly, I enjoy this HR Giger style of artwork, though not necessarily how the German band has it centered on the cover, or presided over by a weak logo and shitty choice in font. One might think they'd desire something more ominous to accompany that art, or their music, because this is yet another of those formative artists to twist the frenzied German thrash roots closely together with a more brutal shift in vocals, an acclimation to the emergent barbarity of the 90s, following the examples of Pestilence, Protector, and others.

Unfortunately, that's all there really is to like about Sneak Attack, which is for the most part a middling experience that will hold no appeal outside of the small niche who truly appreciate this crossing over phase. Archaic Torse make a good account of themselves on the opener "Beyond the Great Divide". Less than catchy, but fully competent, with brutal vocals over steady plotted riffs that incorporate both feral speed and sodden grooves. A track like this would not be out of place on Consuming Impulse, only the riffs don't add up to that same impenetrable level of quality, and thus there's not much menace. Other tracks like "The Value of Your Soul" and "Snuff" are also pretty noteworthy, driving straight into death metal territory, and "Fraud" is a thrifty, base thrasher, but then, about half the album seems hesitant to fully commit, so you get some vocals which are more like manly, Sacred Reich or Demolition Hammer thrash, which I wouldn't mind, had the accompanying music been worthwhile.

Were it released as an EP with 3-4 of the better tracks, I might consider Sneak Attack to be promising, if not wholly impressive. But the baggage really weighs down the strengths that the band bring to the table, and it's no surprise this album was cast into the unknown like oh so many other transitive statements of aggression. If you're dead set on seeking out sounds that might recall Protector, Assorted Heap, Master, Massacre, Demolition Hammer and other bastions of joyous 90s brutality, then at least few of these tunes will trip your fancy, but even there it becomes a blur to try and recall any of the band's individual riff notations or vocal sequences. This is one sneak attack that is simply not successful enough in sinking the blade in the target's back.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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