Not Fragile - Who dares wins 4/5

Reviewed: 4-1-10





Tracklist:

1. Rael
2. With all my might
3. High into heaven
4. Opus 7,3
5. Down in the streets
6. Out of law
7. Craze and hunger
8. Bbbrrraaa
9. Lost in a dream
10. Break down the walls
11. One way to glory
12. Victim of states power
13. Extermination day
14. Because the night
15. Eye of the storm
16. Knuckle sandwich nancy


Longtime readers of this site may have noticed that I repeatedly use it as a soapbox to extol the virtues of Not Fragile, a Hamburg band whose roots go back to the mid-80s. What has always made Not Fragile special to my ears is their ability to meld classic German speed metal with a super-sized shot of melody, with each song oozing equal parts headbanging heaven and unbridled sing-a-long glory. For the uninitiated, the band's basic style could be compared to a variant of Helloween in their mini-LP and 'Walls of Jericho' era, although Not Fragile added their own twist and never felt like a cheap ripoff. Anyway, Not Fragile remain an active, going concern today, and their last couple of studio CDs, 2005's 'Time to wonder' and 2007's 'Scratch the surface' are highly recommended, albeit a hair below the band's sublime late-80s output.

'Who dares wins' is not a newly recorded CD. It actually is a compilation drawing on 3 different categories of source material. Tracks 1 through 8 are remixed/restored songs from the original disintegrating reel-to-reel tapes of Not Fragile's 1988 debut, also called 'Who dares wins'. Tracks 9 through 11 comprise the band's amazing 1989 EP, 'Lost in a dream', presented here in remastered form. And tracks 12 through 16 are mostly interesting, fun cover versions that Not Fragile have recorded in the last 5 years for use on poorly distributed tribute CDs and so on. The release is rounded out by an excellent booklet featuring detailed liner notes from mainman Torsten Buczko about the genesis of this CD and the painstaking restoration process (which involved extensive cleaning of the tape heads to prevent the accumulation of dirt from dissolving glue between the tape sheets), plus some killer vintage photos including live shots from a 1986 performance in Itzehoe, Germany where 2 of the band members were using identically painted white-and-black striped guitars. Ah, those were the days.

If you're already a die-hard Not Fragile fan, then this project seems a tad on the non-essential side. After all, CD versions of all of these Not Fragile originals already exist in the rare, cobbled-together 'Lost in a dream' and 'Hard to be alive' CD compilations from the early-90s. And standout track "With all my might" was re-recorded and re-released on the band's 2003 odds'n'sods CD, 'Yesterday's heroes'. Even if you fall into this category, as I do, this CD is well worth your time and money. The facelift/restoration of the 'Who dares wins' material is strikingly effective, bringing out a newfound power and nuance to the songs. It's almost like hearing them anew for the first time. And the 'Lost in a dream' songs benefit from the extra heft and volume that the remastering process brings them. Meanwhile, the 5 cover tunes tacked onto the end are intriguing additions to the tracklist, especially the Running Wild ("Victim of states power"), Angel Witch ("Extermination day") and Sweet Savage ("Eye of the storm") versions. The Bruce Springsteen cover of "Because the night" is good for a laugh, especially with the gruff, shouted chorus juxtaposed with the overall wimpfest of the song. And the Slade cover would have fit neatly with the concept of the 'Yesterday's heroes' CD.

If you've never heard Not Fragile before, this CD is a perfect point of introduction to a criminally overlooked band that has written some of the greatest German speed metal songs ever put to tape. Several of them are on this release, including the aforementioned "With all my might", plus "High into heaven", "Craze and hunger", "Lost in a dream" and "One way to glory". If you have even a passing affinity for early (pre-Kiske) Helloween, then you will likely go bananas over these incredible songs. Look, Not Fragile are a hidden gem of a band who rightfully deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the best heavy/power/speed metal acts ever to emerge from Germany. With the passage of time and the inevitable graying/deafening of us all, you may not have many more opportunities to check out Not Fragile. So what are you waiting for? Released and distributed by Hellion Records, 'Who dares wins' should be easily procured from your favorite U.S. metal distro. So do yourself a favor and bow down before the inspired speed metal genius of Not Fragile while you still can.

Rating this CD is tricky. If I were scoring it just on the merits of the material, 'Who dares wins' would easily garner a 4.5/5. Yes, the songs are that good. But all of these tracks have been previously released in one form or another, so part of me feels like the rating should reflect that fact. Tell you what, I'll give it a 4, in deference to the appropriate score for Not Fragile collectors who've heard all or most of this stuff before. If you're a Not Fragile newbie, though, add a half point to the score. Now everybody, pour yourself another beer and sing with me: "One way to glory / Another day, another way ...."



KIT




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