Dezperadoz - An eye for an eye 3/5

Reviewed: 11-7-08


1. An eye for an eye
2. Hate
3. Days of thunder
4. Wild bunch
5. Wild times
6. Riders on the storm
7. Here comes the pain
8. Don't give up
9. May heaven strike me down
10. When the circus comes to town
11. Tooth for a tooth
12. 25 minutes to go (Mr. Johnny Cash)

Okay, here's a metal sub-genre that may be unfamiliar to you: German spaghetti western metal. I'm not kidding. Take screaming power chords, pounding drums and bellowed vocals. Add Ennio Morricone western movie soundtrack melodies circa 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' (with which some of you may be acquainted only from listening to Metallica's live show intro tape for the last 2-plus decades) and a healthy dose of jangly guitars. Garnish with western movie sound effects (such as whizzing bullets, whinnying horses, and guzzling booze) and suitable narrative concepts (one of Dezperadoz's CDs tells the story of Wyatt Earp, while this one is about a fictional gunslinger sitting on death row in 1901). Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dezperadoz. Saddle your horses and ride back in time to the wild wild west. Just make sure you bring your electric guitars and bass drums, your spikes and leather, as well as your handy 6-shooter and 10-gallon hat.

The funny thing is that Dezperadoz have been able to squeeze 3 full-length CDs from this unorthodox idea of marrying heavy metal and western music. This band is the brainchild of Alex Kraft, whose other claim to fame is that he is the guitarist/producer of Tom Angelripper's beer-drinking side project, Onkel Tom, a Wacken mainstay. In addition to being a music visionary akin to the guy who came up with the idea of combining chocolate and peanut butter to make a Reese's peanut butter cup, Kraft is quite well connected in the industry, as the Dezperadoz gang has at various times included such infamous gunslingers as Tom Angelripper (Sodom), Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) and Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell, etc.), as well as guest appearances from the likes of Doro Pesch, Tobias Sammet, and Joacim Cans.

The obvious question is: Does it work? Honestly, the band's debut CD, 'The dawn of dying' (released under the moniker of Desperados in 2000), was sheer genius, with Kraft and Angelripper trading vocals, thrashy tempos, killer originals like "Devil's horse", "Jumpin' down the running train" and "Oriental saloon", plus a brilliant cover of "Ghost riders in the sky". This new CD, 'An eye for an eye', is not as successful. Kraft has traded out infectious thrash and power metal stylings for a chuggy, mid-paced, modern, ultra-heavy guitar tone, replete with copious use the pinch harmonics popularized by Dimebag, Zakk Wylde, and that ilk. So the metal influences are more modern than classic. Plus, Dezperadoz definitely is a weaker band without extensive use of Angelripper's savage throat contributions and Doernberg's masterful use of the steel guitar to spice up the proceedings. And the covers on 'An eye for an eye' fail to convince, consisting of a tepid rendition of the Doors' "Riders on the storm" (I loathe the original, so this basically faithful version is of no real interest to me) and an awkward go at the Johnny Cash classic "25 minutes to go" (great song, but Kraft's strong accent and stilted delivery makes this version pale in comparison to that of the Man in Black).

All of that said, 'An eye for an eye' is still a lot of fun to listen to. The merging of metal and western elements is a clever gimmick that never gets boring. Kraft has a powerful set of pipes that, strangely enough, reminds of Tim Owens' mid-range quite a bit, albeit without the shrieking histrionics and vibrato that Ripper brings to the table. And a couple of the songs, specifically "Days of thunder" and "May heaven strike me down", are simply masterful examples demonstrating perfect execution of Kraft's artistic vision. The story is interesting and is woven into the lyrics effectively. This may be my least favorite of the 3 Dezperadoz releases, but it's well worth checking out for those of you who grew up watching Bonanza, eating beef jerky, ducking those tumbling tumbleweeds, and fantasizing about herding cattle under wide open skies in the wild wild west. This should have been the soundtrack for '3:10 to Yuma'.




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