Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Headhunter - A Bizarre Gardening Incident (1992)

With its surreal cover and strange title, one might develop the initial impression that Schmier, Schmuddel and Jörg Michael had lost their fucking minds in conceiving a followup to their superb debut Parody of Life. But while A Bizarre Gardening Incident certainly develops the style of this act further away from Schmier's legendary stint in 80s Destruction, the band has once again found a blissful medium between thrash, speed and power metal that succeeds on its hooks, despite the questionable looks. In fact, Headhunter are one of those rare bands that still manages to adhere to quality when they actually have gone insane, as they do a number of times through the 13 tracks by attempting to drag humor into the mix.

This begins immediately with the intro, "Oh What a Pleasure", an archaic, strutting radio jingle with Schmier singing about being a banana tree, but strangely enough, as stupid as this might seem, I'd actually consider it pretty funny. At least more humorous than most metal bands think they are when attempting such a travesty. Elsewhere, the band covers The Edsels' doo-wop classic "Rama Lama Ding Dong", transforming into an explosion of punk/thrash, with Schmier delivering some bloodcurdling, bratty screams, and once again it's amusing. The brash and wild finale "Sex & Drugs & Rock'n'Roll" is not quite so funny, even ironically, but the vocals fill in the blanks with about a minute of enjoyment. The 'fun factor' here also extends itself into some of the metal tracks, like "Boozer" and the rockin' "Rude Philosophy", but they've nonetheless got enough bang for the buck.

Otherwise, this is a damn fine metal album that continues to expand the work begun with Parody of Life. "Signs of Insanity" and "Character Assassination" both offer explosive, melodic thrash in the wake of Destruction, with a dozen or so riffs to die for. But what surprised me is that the band are also quite good at slower fare, with a more traditional metal gait, like "Pangs of Remorse" or the tempo shifting "Deadly Instinct". "Born in the Woods" is the best at this, a steady rocker with pumping bass and swagger that climaxes in a bridge of excellent guitars that even Mike Sifringer would drool at. Other notables here are the brief, instrumental flurry of "Domo" and the Grave Digger & Running Wild-like rampant power/speed metal of "Two Faced Promises" or "Hit Machine".

It's amazing to think that while his alma mater was withering into a cesspool of misled ideas and pathetic execution, Schmier was excelling in his new home. However, we should also extend credit to the other musicians here, who are quite excellent on their own. Michael needs no introduction, perhaps, but Schmuddel is simply an ace, a riff wizard whose presence lightens each composition into the rugged bliss I so enjoy in German thrash and speed. The production of the sophomore isn't quite perfect, and the songs perhaps not so pristine as those found on Parody of Life, but as a work of increased variation, it delivers on a lot of the debut's promise, with a number of songs that I'd want to see in either a Headhunter or Destruction set any day. The album has been re-issued through AFM a few years back, so it's not quite as hard to get a hold of. If you like Schmier, and you like fun, then by all means check this out.

Verdict: Win [8.5/10]
(the swindle of our century)

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