Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Toxic Shock - Between Good and Evil (1992)

The 90s met the thrash metal genre like a massive artillery strike, taking its sweet time to eradicate and mutate the music, the loyalists among us cowering terror as the whistle of the shells descended upon all we held dear. The choices for bands in this scene were to persist into the loving embrace of obscurity, quit and form some groove or industrial metal act, or swerve into the more extreme territory that was beginning to stake its claim: namely, death metal. Bands like Protector and Assorted Heap were blurring the lines, taking only a half-leap into brutality, but others, like Toxic Shock, on their third and final full-length, decided it best to approach in baby steps. Between you and I, Between Good and Evil, it did not pay off.

Welcome Home...Near Dark had been a good album, the band improving in every department over their debut Change from Reality. This third album feels like a step back in the writing, but mostly, it just doesn't do a convincing job of straddling the younger genre. The band hired on a new vocalist here, K. Weber, with Uwe Dießenbacher consigning himself to his primary engine, the bass, and this transition heralds the only real 'death metal' element on the album. Weber had harsh, cookie monster vocals that merged well with the inclement barrage of tighter, somewhat technical speed riffing ("Mental Mutilation", "Nice Childhood", "Terror" and "White Death" all have some passable flurries of refined rapidity and harrying leads), but there is simply nothing that reeks of charm here. It's a solid bludgeoning to the midriff, loaded with average thrash guitars that aren't entirely outside the field of Sodom, Tankard, or Holy Moses, yet it lacks in personality.

This was put out through Massacre Records, a step sideways from their previous Nuclear Blast deal, but despite the reasonable visibility, Between Good and Evil seemed to cause no stir at all. The cover art is pretty cool, and the band definitely weren't bad at brutalizing their original formula, but the album does lack most of the menace and atmosphere of great, early 90s death metal; and the wild, memorable writing that characterized the better German thrash. Though the band were often not this busy or technical, you could honestly grab any Protector album at random and find better music. The production here is acceptable, with Weber clearly up front, slathering over the guitars and drums, but it just doesn't breed much more than a blunt force trauma: a concussion of forgetfulness with some decent lyrics and average riffs.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10] (blessed are the fine)

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