Saturday, May 28, 2016

Assassin - Combat Cathedral (2016)

Teutonic terrors Assassin have had a pretty inconsistent post reunion era since their 2002 reformation, with albums put out over broad span of years that were highly varied in quality. The Club, from 2005, was a complete trainwreck, but six years later they produced Breaking the Silence, an album that in my opinion felt like the natural successor to their minor cult classic The Upcoming Terror way back in 1987. Now, I was never their hugest fan to begin with, enjoying their material a lot less than the top echelon of German thrash (the 'big three') or other, highly underrated peers like Deathrow and Tankard, but that debut is still an album I can spin once in awhile and use as transportation back to that era when I first found the tape in a bargain bin locally. So it's really no wonder that, alongside Exumer and Accuser, this is a band that still harbors some sort of loyalty from an audience weaned on and immortally respectful of that crucial epoch in the genre, even though they're not writing those memorable tunes that Destruction and Kreator have immortalized themselves with.

Combat Cathedral falls between its two predecessors in quality, with enough competence in both the performance and structure to recommend it to anyone who just wants a slab of angry thrash with a production level that places it in the 'now', and songwriting that is very 'then'. I'm thinking of stuff like what Warbringer releases, or the modern Onslaught records after their reunion. Unmemorable for the long haul, but exciting enough in the moment that you just want to shut your brain off and bang your head. Stylistically it resonates a lot of what the last disc had to offer, with pissed off, hoarse thrash vocals that occasional delve into some brutal, lower gutturals or even one track in which it's spun off into a narrative voice. The riffs are constantly busy, interspersed with wailing and wild lead guitars, but in both the rhythm and lead department the material sounds a hell of a lot like that which Destruction and Sodom have been churning out endlessly. A couple vapid Pantera grooves and chugs rear their unsophisticated heads throughout the play length, but they're vastly outnumbered by the speedier passages that, if nothing else, provide Combat Cathedral with some genuine momentum, and break off nicely into the Exodus-like head jerking mid-paced mosh riffs, which match up well with the current events evinced through the lyrics.

There are even some more uplifting, power/thrash sequences reminiscent of the first couple albums by Denmark's Artillery, and I'd add that this all adds up to just enough variation to where I was listening through this without ever really getting bored or exhausted by the redundancies. BUT, that is not to say this is by any means unique, and to an extent, never quite eclipses the feel of an 'also-ran' sort of album which exists simply to prove the persistence of its creators. The new vocalist Ingo is sufficiently angry, and these guys are still shelling out droves of riffing projectiles, but they simply don't always hit their target, and there just aren't songs here that you'd be likely to pick out of a lineup even a few weeks after hearing them the first time. I don't want to take too much away from these Germans, though, because by no means is this a bad try like The Club. It breezes into the qualifying rounds of what it takes to make an excellent thrash record with ease, the sheer instrumentation and drive; but after that is left behind in the group stages, possibly to return in four years, possibly not, but either way, just sort of content to get to the level it did. Assassin hangs in there, reliable if not remarkable.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

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