Thursday, January 13, 2011

Holy Moses - Finished With the Dogs (1987)

Whether intentional or not, Finished with the Dogs completely fixes and spins around just about every quality I found lacking in the Holy Moses debut, Queen of Siam. I'm not sure if it's the new rhythm section (Uli Kusch and Andre Chapalier stepping in on the drums and bass respectively), or Sabina and Andy Classen just had a really bad year before its conception, and frankly, I don't care, because this is exactly what I want to hear and it remains their career height even after decades of continued existence. It's like night and day, really: Queen of Siam was too rigid, too plodding and average, like taking apprehensive baby steps down the corridor of aggression; whereas Finished With the Dogs is completely out of control, ruthless and the sort of album you immediately want to spin again once it ends.

Let's start by talking about Sabina Classen, who sounds like she's completely on fire. Outside of Nicole Lee's impenetrable, metallic bite on Znöwhite's underrated masterwork Act of God, this is the single best performance by a female vocalist on a thrash album. Ever. She takes the froth and growl of Queen of Siam to entirely new plateau. Honestly, was someone punching the woman when she was recording this, repeatedly in the gut and face? Was she on fire? Poisoned? I can't think of any other reason a human of the finer sex could produce such sounds, but I'm glad she does, because she spearheads this record with conviction bordering on insanity, easily the equal of any of her German male peers: Schmier, Mille, Tom, I love you all, but you have nothing, and I mean nothing on this fucking performance. I hate to break out the gender card, but why...seriously, why can't we have more of this in extreme metal? Why are we forced to suffer the Disney soundtrack swooning of Cristina Scabbia and Tarja Turunen, when this is a distinct possibility?

But Sabina's not the only Classen who has undergone some sort of evolution here, because Andy is also on point, firing up scores of intense riffs that are not only catchy, but incendiary. There are single songs here with more dynamic fluency and punishing polish than the entirety of Queen of Siam. "Current of Death", one of the greatest European thrashers of them all, is 100% manic thrust, slathered barbarian woman vocals and they even throw in a hooky, wailing 'ah oh eh oh' in the chorus. This is the very definition of bristling, unstoppable thrash metal. If I were to close my eyes right now and dream of a future in which raving hordes of bullet belted, denim jacketed savages were dancing on the ashes of Lil Wayne fans after nuking their polluted cities, this is the soundtrack. Two and a half minutes of explosive paradise, and it's not alone here: "Criminal Assault", "Finished With the Dogs", "Corroded Dreams", "In the Slaughterhouse" and "Military Service" all have the same blazing axe, bass pummeling momentum, with riffs to spare and Kusch having a conniption on his kit the entire time.

But Holy Moses are not just some trick pony, and the album also presents some slower to mid-paced fare with more hooks to hang your weary bones upon. "Fortress of Desperation" weaves a brief narrative and a resonant, distant melody into its gradual escalation. "Six Fat Women" is an angry charger which must revolve around some personal encounter with a bevy of unpleasant obesity, with lyrics a little more poignant that one might fathom. "Life's Destroyer" is almost inescapable, enthusiastic bombardment thrashing which immediately urges fists into the nearest faces available, with a fantastic acceleration in the bridge. "Rest in Pain" is the most laid back track on the album, almost a swagger chaotic thrash/blues piece where light synths and Sabina congregate prior to the incredible burst in the median.

In all, there might be a half dozen individual riffs here that slightly miss their mark, so it falls ever so shy of perfection, but what a fun brush that is. The production is immense, not sounding a day old by today's standards, with a no holds barred roughness that could peel the remaining paint of a scrap field of rusting motorcades. The lyrics are actually quite good for the majority of the album, more insightful than nearly any other band out there of this type (at least for its day). Even the cover image and album title just bleed the voracious qualities that this album enjoys. In my opinion, the only other 1987 German thrash effort surpassing this was Kreator's Terrible Certainty, and that only narrowly skates by on the strength of its manifold, multiplex riffing schemes. Finished With the Dogs certainly sounds better and has better vocals. Sadly, despite the album's relative obscurity, Holy Moses set themselves up so high here that every future album could only disappoint. But let's be real, even having one of these in your career is a feat worthy of the most inflated envy.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10]
(it's an old nightmare of mine)

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