Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Holy Moses - The New Machine of Liechtenstein (1989)

I'm not sure where the bus on its cover is going from, but I know where it's come from: rehab. Yes, the oddly titled The New Machine of Liechtenstein sounds like Holy Moses were suffering a hangover after the previous, astounding effort Finished with the Dogs, and this is perhaps closer to the sober tones of the debut Queen of Siam, with some pretty simple thrashing through the majority of the track list and a clean, processed sound to the guitars. However, where the debut had no real songs of worth, The New Machine of Liechtenstein is at least written well enough that it's engaging and dynamic for the majority, and thus I'd place it as a second (but fairly distant second) to the band's masterwork of two years prior.

There is no killer app here, no head splitting track like a "Current of Death" anywhere to be found, and one can certainly feel the loss, but the musicality is still in check, evident from the opener "Near Dark" with its great leads and solid riffing patterns. Sabina Classen still sounds like a blood frothing valkyrie with her wings clipped, but more subdued, as if her youthful, violent frenzy had been leeched from her in the intermittent years. Andy Classen and Uli Kusch carry the album with precision, but the guitar tone feels too boxy and over produced, more like late 80s Anthrax than Holy Moses' wild German peers. Tracks like "Defcon II", "The Brood" and "Strange Deception" plod along with reasonable force, but the album almost without exception improves whenever the band diverts to something more frenetic, like the surgical melodic dementia of "Panic" or the speedy licks of "State: Catatonic". "SSP" opens with a nice, muted blitz, but the riff patterns are somewhat lacking.

If you've got the 2005 reissue then you'll hear a few live renditions of "SSP" and "Lost in the Maze" which are in my opinion better than the studio versions. Hell, "Lost in the Maze" live even sounds like a female-fronted Pestilence, with Sabina using van Drunen styled, gorged throat guttural vocals. Pretty cool, but the studio track seems deflated somehow. The New Machine of Liechtenstein is a decent thrash effort, make no mistake about it, with some smart writing and a nice thread of man vs. machine in the lyrics, but the human catapult that was Sabina Classen circa 1987 is just not put to good enough use, and the songs are in general more plodding and slower paced, lacking that vital, violent burst which comprised one of the greatest German thrash albums of them all. They created a tall shadow to stand in, and stand in it they would, for the rest of their career, but at least there is something comforting and solid about this corner of the dark.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]
(he watched it all from the distance)


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