Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Holy Moses - Master of Disaster EP (2001)

With Sabina Classen off promoting the absurdly weak Temple of the Absurd and Andy Classen having transformed Holy Moses into some sort of hardcore/death metal hybrid, it was pretty clear that the natives were restless by the mid-90s. So when the German thrash staple took a dirt nap for the foreseeable future, it was an understandable and welcome maneuver. But it wouldn't last forever. Come the 21st century, after a few health concerns for Sabina that included accidents on both the live stage and a motorcycle, Temple of the Absurd called it quits, the Classens reunited to write some new material for their delinquent musical entity, and were picked up by the now massive Century Media label for the Master of Disaster EP and Disorder of the Order full-length.

This is a sort of 'no hard feelings' reunion that does warm the heart and reeks of maturity. But by this time, Andy Classen had also grown as a recording engineer and producer, so he would not be committing full-time to Holy Moses, and remained on only for songwriting and backing vocals. So Holy Moses got an entirely new backing band: Jörn Schubert, Franky Brotz, Jochen Fünders, and Julien Schmidt, all of whom were kicking around in lesser known German acts, but prove that together they know how to tear out some god damned thrash. Master of Disaster is not a bold new direction for the band, but a return to their late 80s thrashing with a glossy mix and some slight modernization. It's also the strongest release the band had issued since 1991's The New Machine of Liechtenstein, with a vicious appeal and well structured riffing that seemed to mirror the newfound inspiration of the more prominent German thrashers Destruction, Sodom and Kreator, all of which had cast their lot forcefully back into the purebred thrash pageant by 2001.

All of the five tracks here are well managed, but I feel like it functions on the strength of two in particular. "The Hand of Death" is simply my favorite track the band recorded since "Current of Death", which is amusing since they are similar in thrust and aggression, but Sabina was using a more rasped vocal style here, and instead of a soaring clean chorus, the band uses glinting and sad guitar melodies which really drive the verse rhythms home. "Feel the Pain" is also quite excellent, mid-paced battering with semi-tech, clinical riffs and thrifty micro-leads that sail along with the verse vocals. The remaining tunes are also explosive, especially "Taste My Blood" which is sheer excess and violence, but I didn't find their construction quite so memorable. The title cut is worthwhile, but "Down On Your Knees" is probably the least impressive, using a lot of bounce riffs and harmonics to lesser effect.

The EP is definitely not perfect, but it also bears the feel of a phoenix having sorted out its affairs and come back from the ashes of demise. As a renewed statement of intent, it hearkens back to what made the band great by the later 80s, and it appears the Classens had shaken the Seattle and hardcore trends out of their respective systems. I can't say I'm fond of the 'female icon' cover art the band would start to use here, which supposedly represents Sabina herself and comes off as both cheesy and egotistical, a motif which had been absent in their past albums... But hell every Gothic fairycore band was using their frontwoman as a pin-up, so why not an actual metal singer like Sabina?

Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (crack the liar's eyes)


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