Saturday, January 8, 2011

Assassin - The Upcoming Terror (1986)

When it comes to most exciting cover art vs. most underwhelming audio content, The Upcoming Terror must be a contender for any prize. Not that the Assassin debut is bad, in fact it's the best album of their career, but the dreams of Battlezone matches in some fallen future empire are not exactly fulfilled through the music itself. Now, Assassin were one of the heavier German thrash bands of the time, taking their queues more from Sodom and Destruction than anything else, but the apocalyptic churning of their slower, bombastic riffs rarely cedes itself to anything of value, and the debut ends up in that category of record that will transport you back to a place in time successfully and ensure that you don't wish to remain very long.

A general rule here is that the faster the songs get, the better they become. "Nemesis" and "Speed of Light" feel like pure old school Destruction, while songs like "Bullets" and "Fight (to stop the tyranny)" create a more punkish aggression reminiscent of Sodom's In the Name of Evil. The rapid fire fare is complete with ripping solos and don't give a fuck sounding vocals. Where they slow to a crawl, like in "Assassin", they ironically sound like a thrashing alternative to the NWOBHM Tank, traditional metal riffs resonating with the dirtier vocals of Robert Gonnella. A few songs straddle the line ("Forbidden Reality" and part of "Holy Terror"), but I always got the feeling that the band might have been better served with more of a ballistic onslaught than their slower material.

There are no tracks that are necessarily bad, and most do create a nice temporal rift to the raw power of the German 80s thrash, with some variation in the songwriting and obviously skilled musicians at the helm. However, where the cover promises tanks and lasers and firebaths, the songs are not quite so scathing. The notation of most of the riffs is not inherently memorable, and there are no real chorus parts to stand out like a "Riot of Violence", "Mad Butcher" or "Nuclear Winter". Assassin were basically a second rate act on a scene that had already outgrown them. The Upcoming Terror is a bit of a misleading title, since their later albums are appalling compared to this; Interstellar Experience might have a saving grace or two, but their 2005 'comeback' album The Club is incredibly lame. On the other hand, if you find yourself deeply into the 'Big Three' albums of the mid 80s, and just want more of that, then this is surely worth examining.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]
(pain for the guilty one)

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