Thursday, January 6, 2011

Holy Moses - Queen of Siam (1986)

Queen of Siam is one of those records that seems to downgrade in quality over the years, especially when you compare it to the band's next few, but seeing that it was released in 1986, it represents a few elements that were unique within the German scene of its day. For one, Holy Moses was already around for years, releasing a string of demos from 1980-1984 that saw them shift into more aggressive territory. In fact, by the time Queen of Siam emerged, bassist Ramon Brüssler was the only founding member left, though he was joined pretty early on by Sabina and Andy Classen, who were by this time married. So, not only did you have one of the only married couples in thrash, but one of the few notable female vocalists in the genre...

Not only female, but actually pretty damn aggressive, which for 1986 was insane. Sabina's vocals sounded here like a witch shouting orders to her swamp minions, or a leper giving his last rites on a street corner to any that would listen, his throat peeling off mid-oratory. Holy Moses also had a pretty unusual name. Destruction, Sodom, Kreator, all pretty recognizable as sadistic and metallic, but Holy Moses? Was this some sort of Christian metal? Apparently the name is based more in the cliche exclamation than the 'historical' entity. They also had far better cover art than a number of their peers, and a slightly different style, at least on the debut. Blunt, brute crunching thrash metal which had more akin with US mosh-hardy bands than most of their razor fast German peers. At the same time, the music does not reach quite the same level of what we were hearing from that section of the world by the mid-80s, and when compared to an album like Pleasure to Kill, Eternal Devastation, Zombie Attack or Obsessed by Cruelty, there's not a lot to revisit.

The primary issue is just a lack of worthy riffs throughout many of the tracks. No amount of Classen's oozing and growling can slather enough personality onto a track like "Necropolis" or "Don't Mess Around With the Bitch" to make it more than base level thrash, and the songs feel like just about anyone could have spent 5-10 minutes learning some mutes and power chords and voila. It can become such a drag that the album seems to become noticeably improved wherever it picks up even a sliver of speed, which is not very often. Tracks like "Dear Little Friend" and "Torches of Hire" are impossible to salvage, and even "Devils Dancer", "Bursting Rest" and "Walpurgisnight" throw away their momentum on uninteresting notation. The cover of Motorhead's "Roadcrew" doesn't help, since it feels distinctly different than its neighbors, and instead of just using Sabina's normal vocals, the band attempted to imitate Lemmy almost too directly.

I can remember at some point enjoying this record, but these days I find it difficult to listen beyond a track or two, especially when I can spin the impressive sophomore Finished With the Dogs, which is faster, crueler and superior to this in every single category. At best, Queen of Siam has a decent, polished mix and a style which slightly deviates from their contemporaries, clearly with more of an appeal for fans of simplistic American thrash, low on menace. A few of the leads are decent, and Sabina's vocals are impressive if only for their relative novelty in 1986, but the cumulative qualities of the album would be average in any year, especially one which saw the arrival of Darkness Descends, Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood and so forth. This is by no means bad, and at least it would only take Holy Moses a year to make it up to us.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10] (just some bitches in the night...)

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