Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Headhunter - Parody of Life (1990)

So, as it turns out, Schmier got the better end of the deal after his shocking departure from Destruction. The band had clearly been on the rise through the 80s, and who knows what they might have created together had they stuck it out, but separation anxiety was not kind to his alma mater in the 90s, the band releasing a number of EPs and a full-length which they are embarrassed with to this day (rightly so). On the other hand, we got Headhunter out of the deal, a band that was consistently good and constantly underrated, a band Schmier formed with guitarist Uwe Hoffman aka 'Schmuddel' of the trad. metal band Talon, and the enormously talented drummer Jörg Michael whose resume reads like a whose who of greatness in various Euro metal genres.

The recovery did not take long, and Parody of Life arrived the same year as Cracked Brain, only with far better music. The best means to describe Headhunter is classical Destruction with a firmer grasp of melody in Schmier's vocals, and a lot more influence from traditional hard rock and metal, which manifests in a warmer, more positive atmosphere through the lyrics and guitars. Speaking of guitars, Hoffman had seriously improved himself here from his years in Talon, and if anyone is the hero of the Headhunter tribe, it must be him, because despite the snarling Schmier's excellent presence in both verse and chorus, the riffs truly rule the day on this album. Diverse and exceptional, Parody of Life is not only one of the best German thrash efforts of 1990 (besides the obvious Kreator album), but superior to almost anything he's ever done with Destruction (Sentence of Death and The Antichrist excluded).

This album rocks and it does not stop, from the frenetic pace of the title track and it's myriad melodic riffs to the savage, tactful finale "Trapped in Reality". Along the way we are gifted with such numbers as the flowing speed metal of "Ease My Pain", the tremendous escalation of the emotional "Plead Guilty", the bristling melodic "Kick Over Your Traces", and the eccentric, bludgeoning "Caught in a Spider's Web". But really, there is not a single song on this album without at least something great to offer in it, even the swaggering mechanics of "Force of Habit" and the clamor and mystique of "Cursed". There's also a shot taken here, and not subtly, at Destruction, called "Crack Brained", but it's actually a really good song, and the lyrics don't seem to entirely involve his previous band. It's not the only one, apparently, because the very end of "Trapped in Reality" also seems to throw in a brief nod to the "My Sharona" cover on Cracked Brain.

Such elegance aside, this is a fairly magnificent collection of tunes which Schmier had and has every right to be proud of, cementing his importance as one of the best bassist/frontmen in all of thrash metal. Further Headhunter records would expand upon their influences and explore other genres a little more directly, but this is a pretty straight up example of where Destruction might have been had they fostered a finer progression in their 90s work. The mix is bright and crisp, still sounding superb 20 years later, and it's listenable from front to back. The individual tracks might not bear the same resonance as a "Curse the Gods", "Mad Butcher" or "Eternal Ban", but they're close in quality, and the vocal performance is a clear step forward for Marcel Schirmer without leaving his comfort zone.

Verdict: Epic Win [9/10]
(we've got unreal impressions)

No comments: