Monday, January 3, 2011

Living Death - Vengeance of Hell (1984)

Living Death might be better considered a speed and power metal infiltration squad who latched onto the thrash medium a few years into their development, but there's no real argument that even this debut album, Vengeance of Hell, contained the raw and rugged guitars and aggression comparable to old Metallica or their closer kin in Destruction. Despite its crude standards, and the rather shaky presence of frontman Thorsten Bergmann, there's a certain curb appeal here that unquestionably takes you straight back to the early through mid 80s excitement of uncertainty and menace that was so prevalent before the days of Wikipedia, instant internet gratification and guttural brutes attempting to out stomp one another.

Bergmann is clearly the weak point to this recording, because half of the album is spent with him sounding like he's trying to clear his throat or evoke images of two old women bickering at the local market. It's particularly annoying in a track like "Living Death" or "Riding a Virgin", where it almost nullifies the music completely, but a little less of a distraction in the great "Heavy Metal Hurricane", "You and Me", "My Victim", or the crushing "Vengeance of Hell" itself, in which he actually creates some appeal through the siren-like wailing, though he still might have you hovering upon the precipice of outright laughter. When the band drops the faster, speed/thrash elements for a pretty straight up metal tune like the pumping, nasally "Nightlight" or "Hellpike", the results become more varied. Clearly the guy has a voice, and can hit notes, but he almost seems to be under the illusion that he's a comedian and that people might want to experience his absurdity over the scorching metallic undercurrent.

As far as the riffs, they're fairly comparable to Running Wild, Judas Priest or Accept of their day, with a few surges into ruthless power thrash that serve as precognitions for their later 80s, 90s fare. The album has never sounded very good, even when it was released, and this primacy is one nagging flaw difficult to shake, even if you can get past some of the more awkward vocals. Still, I have to say that I still really enjoy the album for its musical attitude and nostalgic atmosphere. It's not the jewel atop the Living Death crown, I could bestow that honor only on the far thrashier Protected from Reality, which makes this look like a shaggy, unkempt peasant guest at a regal Renaissance dinner gathering. But it's fun despite its glaring 'problem'.

Verdict: Win [7/10]
(it was her death blow)

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