Praetorius - Taste death 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-13-09





Tracklist:

1. Pirates of the west
2. Taste death, live life
3. March of Praetorius
4. True colors
5. Blind at night
6. Blood wolf
7. Ten 'til two
8. Sin on sin
9. Life, love, lost
10. The beast (That refuses to die)
11. Shredders on the roof
12. Tightrope


You want some seriously old-school heavy metal? 'Taste death', the debut CD from North Carolina's Praetorius, should fit the bill quite nicely. Heavily steeped in the NWOBHM and early U.S. metal traditions, Praetorius have obviously studied their Blitzkrieg, their Grim Reaper, their 'Battle hymns', their Raven, their vintage Saxon, and their Armored Saint. Comparisons to the likes of Twisted Tower Dire, Slough Feg, less thrashy October 31, and heavier Icarus Witch would not be inaccurate, either. From the compositions, production, guitar tone, and vocal style, I would have guessed that 'Taste death' was a long-lost NWOBHM CD from 1985, rather than a new recording by a band whose members likely weren't even born way back then. The mustiness and dustiness of it all might be offputting to some people, but I find such an homage to the earlier, simpler days of metal to be quite charming, especially when executed this well.

Those who remember that bygone golden era with fondness will find much to like about Praetorius. Their songwriting is uncluttered, totally guitar-oriented, and infectious. Thankfully, most of the CD is built around faster tempos, albeit with few all-out bursts of speed. The guitar work of John Sayres and Sam DeFilipp is simple but catchy and effective, with loads of cool harmonies and melodies. The stripped-down arrangements and vibe fit the material. 'Taste death' isn't the kind of CD that you sit down and study, deconstructing it riff by riff, layer by layer, in search of a deep meaning or intricate song structures. Nay, my friends, 'Taste death' is the kind of CD you jam into the boombox in the middle of an all-night session of carousing, when you just want to rock out and feel alive, without thinking or analyzing too much. On this level, Praetorius are enormously successful in playing songs that are just flat-out fun to listen to. Galloping opener "Pirates of the west", the October-31-flavored "Taste death, live life", the boldly melodic but piledriving "Blind at night", the overtly Saxonish "Ten 'til two" and many others are adrenaline-charged, early 80s-type songs that faithfully adhere to the conventions of the genre but still manage to sound fresh and exciting.

All of that said, those inclined to examine 'Taste death' with a critical eye will find ample fodder to smudge this rosy picture. Culprits include the vocals, the lyrics, and the consistency factor. I like singer Elliot Madre because he has a similar timbre to a lot of those old NWOBHM guys, with character and personality, so he fits the music well, but it's no doubt true that he's pretty limited in terms of both range and power. Lyric-wise, things get downright dodgy at times. "Ten 'til two" is a song about the dilemma of making a beer run with moments to spare before the 2 a.m. alcohol-purchasing cut-off time. "Shredders on the roof" is about, ummm, long-haired headbangers on the roof of your house armed with "Guitars fighting for truth." Okaayyyy, then. "Tightrope" namechecks nursery rhymes with lines about "Jack and Jill" and "hey diddle diddle." And when they try to get serious with a song about a relationship gone bad, the results are equally (if unintentionally) comical, as "True colors" includes a plaintive chorus wail, "Are these your true colors, girl? Or just a bad day?" Yikes. I wish Praetorius sang in Russian or Spanish or something, anything but English. Finally, in terms of consistency, it does seem like 'Taste death' sort of runs out of steam several songs before the end of its running time, with a few of the later songs lacking the excitement factor of the earlier cuts.

So is the glass half-empty or half-full? All I know is that whenever I give 'Taste death' a spin, I'm going to toss my "reviewer" hat out the window because this CD is just too much fun to ruin with a bunch of hypercritical analysis. Praetorius can be rightfully proud of their work, and 'Taste death' should find a happy home in the collections of old-school NWOBHM ragers while teaching the new kids on the block a thing or two about how it's supposed to be done.



KIT




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