Attacker - The unknown 4/5

Reviewed: 4-14-06


1. This is power
2. Anger aggression
3. Blessed with this curse
4. The unknown
5. Nail it down
6. I am sinn
7. Your own world
8. Devil's war
9. Brainshake
10. Tieneblas
11. Fear of disgrace

As anyone who reads Blabbermouth knows, reunions of 80s metal bands (particularly those of the American persuasion) have become quite fashionable in recent years. Of course, these second comings are often rather dodgy, hit-and-miss affairs, as past-their-prime acts remind us of why they needed to hang up their bullet belts in the first place or, alternatively, tarnish their legacy and pollute their purity by grafting ill-fitting modern elements onto their sound. Occasionally, however, a reunion just works, with a band learning from the experience of their younger days, sticking to their stylistic guns, obviously enjoying the ride, and maintaining or escalating the quality level of their bygone era.

New Jersey's Attacker fit into this latter category, offering up one of the more enjoyable, best-executed reunions in recent memory. In the late 80s, Attacker released 2 records (there were no CDs then) that are unheralded landmarks of underground traditional American metal. Then they vanished for more than a decade before taking the first halting, tentative, strife-ridden steps toward a reformation. Once they resolved some animosity between competing splinter factions staking claims to the moniker, Attacker returned with a vengeance on 2004's 'Soul taker', an outstanding comeback CD that unquestionably recaptured the magic while remaining unwaveringly true to the original concept of the band. Eager to build on their momentum, Attacker are now back with CD #4, 'The unknown'. The most obvious changes in the Attacker camp are that the band have been officially rejoined by original bassist Lou Ciarlo (whose presence on 'Soul taker' was confined to a few co-writing credits). Also, in the wake of Iron Glory Records' implosion, they have renewed their collaboration with the stellar Sentinel Steel label, which had expertly handled the reissues of the band's first 2 CDs in 1999.

After a fine comeback CD, would Attacker falter when it came time to deliver again? Absolutely not. If anything, 'The unknown' is an even stronger and more consistent platter of American metal excellence than its predecessor. Thankfully, they remain unmistakably old-school, blue-collar and American in their approach to their craft. But it sounds to me like Attacker are out to make a statement this time around. The intensity level, confidence, inspiration and individual performances have ratcheted up several notches. Rather than experimenting with different tempos, 'The unknown' is largely comprised of faster material, save a ponderous, harmonized intro and outro to the epic "Devil's war". Additional upgrades are evident in the production, the cover art, and even the band photography and booklet design. And, most importantly, the songs just click, with almost every track qualifying as a highlight and nary a dud in sight. Tunes like "This is power", "Blessed with this curse", the title track, and "Your own world" deserve particular accolades as being among the band's finest efforts ever. For those who worship the first 2 Metal Church CDs, who revel in Steel Prophet's heavier, darker, less Maiden-esque moments, or who respect a well executed Sherman/Denner-styled guitar interplay, 'The unknown' is a no-brainer.

All of that said, 'The unknown' is guaranteed to attract flak from certain quarters. Singer Bob Mitchell is blessed with a polarizing voice that roughly approximates the unholy love child of David Wayne (R.I.P.) and Udo Dirkschneider. I think he's fabulous, but I'm well aware that Mitchell has his detractors. Although I detect a slightly smoother, lower-register delivery from Mitchell this time, the change is sufficiently subtle that it will not neutralize the bile that is directed at him. A more mystifying problem is the omission of proper guitar solos on a few cuts. Guitarists Pat Marinelli and Mike Benetatos are a skilled tandem that work very well together, so why do 3 songs omit solos? Finally, it's not really a criticism, but I confess to being utterly confused as to why the last 3 tracks (2 real songs and a 40-second interlude) are classified as "bonus tracks". They appear to originate from the same writing and recording sessions as the remaining material, and it's a bit strange to call anything a "bonus track" on a 47-minute CD. Rather than being tacked on as bonuses, these last 3 songs should have been interspersed appropriately in the running order, improving the flow and allowing the CD to reach a logical conclusion with "Devil's war".

Everybody (well, everybody except Yankees and Braves fans) loves to root for an underdog. Attacker have always been an underdog in the American metal scene. But they're on a roll now with a superb new CD, a blueprint for touring Europe, and a reinvigorated slant to their music. The future looks bright for Attacker indeed, and therefore for all of us, too.




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