Deja Vu - Decibel disease 4/5

Reviewed: 5-9-08


1. Under fire
2. You will know my name
3. Children of the eighties
4. Metalhead
5. Die for the tyrant
6. Face down in the dirt
7. Decibel disease
8. Here I stand
9. Slave to the Gods
10. Never get away
11. On my own
12. Walls of sleep

German stout-hearted traditional metallers Deja Vu made a positive impression on this reviewer with their 2006 debut CD, 'Bullets to spare', which garnered a favorable 3.5/5 review on this site. The release of their sophomore CD, 'Decibel disease', was accompanied by the news that Deja Vu has been hand-picked to perform at the prestigious Keep It True XII festival in Koenigshofen, Germany in April 2009. That revelation raised a few eyebrows with me because 'Bullets to spare' didn't seem to possess the necessary fire to warrant such an accolade. To be sure, I enjoyed that CD, but felt that it was perhaps a touch generic and uneven in its approach. But then I heard 'Decibel disease', and my doubts dissipated faster than Hillary Clinton's campaign funds.

The short version of this review is that 'Decibel disease' marks a significant upgrade in all departments as compared to its predecessor. The songwriting is far more consistent, the performances are better, the fat has been trimmed, and the result is a lean, mean fighting machine of 54 minutes of textbook German traditional metal delivered with sincerity and skill, class and charisma, melodicism and might. Influences and comparison bands will surprise no one who is even remotely familiar with the genre: Accept, Judas Priest, Primal Fear, Iron Maiden, Grave Digger, Paragon, and Metal Inquisitor all come to mind. Each is duly represented in Deja Vu's sound, although slightly different influences bleed through from track to track. "Metalhead" reworks the classic "Balls to the wall" riff into a headbanging stomp. "Under fire" had me thinking Grave Digger at their galloping best. "You know my name" could have been on Halford's 'Resurrection' CD. "Never get away" channels Primal Fear by melding classic Judas Priest with that unerring German sense of dynamics and melody. "On my own" could be a Metal Inquisitor song, with its NWOBHM tendencies, killer guitar licks and anthemic chorus. And so on.

Of vital importance to the success of these songs is the vocal performance of Werner Kerscher. I was somewhat critical of Kerscher in my review of 'Bullets to spare', as I felt he stretched beyond his range and sometimes hurt the songs. Well, Kerscher is quite convincing here, sounding like mid-range Dickinson and (especially) Brainstorm's Andy B. Franck as he mostly sticks to his natural range and delivers the vocal lines with the necessary power and conviction. The other major flaw that Deja Vu have corrected on this CD is that the songs are of consistently high quality. Unlike 'Bullets to spare', I don't find myself wanting to hit the "skip" button even once during the playing time of 'Decibel disease'. Moreover, the band have skillfully avoided the trap of making every song so similar that a dozen of them in the aggregate becomes a redundant, mind-numbing experience. Each song here has sufficient individuality and personality to be worthwhile in its own right, with a few surprises (such as the monster chorus that suddenly smashes through "Walls of sleep") to keep the listener on his toes.

In many ways, my feelings toward 'Decibel disease' parallel those expressed in my recent review of Godiva's excellent 'Destruction' CD. In both cases, an established German-styled metal band elevated its game and released a CD that surpasses the act's previous work and deserves praise and attention even in today's over-saturated marketplace. After spending some quality time with 'Decibel disease', I am convinced that Deja Vu richly deserve their slot at the Keep It True festival and that they have demonstrated the talent to rise to the top of the Karthago Records roster, and perhaps beyond. For fans of traditional old-school Teutonic metal, 'Decibel disease' should be mandatory listening.




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