Vindicator/Metal Witch - Outbreak of metal vol. I 4/5
1. The dog beneath the skin
2. Shock trauma
4. Old and Decrepit
5. I hate people
7. Believe in the power of rock
8. The count has risen from the grave
9. Valley of the kings
10. The curse of the wolf
11. Ready to burn
12. Kiss my ass (live)
It's no easy feat to compile a worthy split CD. The trick lies in the selection of artists to appear on the CD, which is more art than science. The quality of the bands has to be comparable, or else the split CD becomes imbalanced and lopsided in one direction or the other. Then there's the thorny issue of style. If the bands are too similar, then the listener could be bored by hearing too much of the same. But if the bands are too different, then considerations of taste mean that particular listeners may gravitate much more to one band than the other. So the ideal split CD would feature a pair of high-quality metal acts whose styles are complementary, but not identical. Happily, Ireland's fledgling Slaney Records has nailed this objective on its debut release, a split CD from Vindicator and Metal Witch entitled 'Outbreak of metal vol. I'.
Vindicator are a retro-thrash 4-piece hailing from Ohio. Their 2008 debut CD, 'There will be blood', showcased a promising cocktail of vintage Bay Area thrash, infused with elements of East Coast power/thrash acts like Whiplash, Overkill, and Deceased/October 31. Unfortunately, 'There will be blood' was hampered by poor production and the off-putting vomiting vocal style of singer Marshall Law. The 6 songs that Vindicator contributed to this split CD, which were recorded in early 2009, largely remedy these deficiencies. The production is clearer, punchier, and more powerful, while Law's vocals are less extreme and more palatable this time around, sounding a bit like a raspier King Fowley instead of Paul Baloff (R.I.P.) with food poisoning. The razor-sharp riffing and infectious energy of "Shock trauma" make it an obvious highlight and "Humanarchy" might be the coolest Deceased song that Deceased never wrote, but all 4 new original Vindicator songs are worthy. The other 2 songs performed by Vindicator are covers, namely "I hate people" (a snotty punkish Anti-Nowhere League track that will sound familiar to those who know Metallica's rendition of "So What?" from the same source) and the fine thrasher "U.S.S.A." (originally by obscure mid-80s Maryland speedsters Indestroy). If their 6 cuts on 'Outbreak of metal vol. I' are any indication, Vindicator have a bright future ahead of them, and I look forward to hearing their next full-length on Heavy Artillery Records.
The other band on this CD is Metal Witch, a long-running German act whose lineage dates back to 1985. These stout-hearted traditional metallers follow in the footsteps of their countrymen like Deja Vu, Metal Wolf, Unrest, and just a smidge of Not Fragile. And you know what? They're really good, piling on the speed, the NWOBHM guitar themes, and the enthusiasm with their anthemic Teutonic choruses. Vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Sonke Lau (Unrest), a gruffer Michael Seifert (Rebellion), and on the older songs Gerre (Tankard). Unlike Vindicator, Metal Witch are using this split CD as a platform to showcase songs they previously recorded, including 3 cuts culled from their 2008 self-released, full-length CD, 'Risen from the grave', a pair of tracks from their 2002 demo, 'Ready to burn', and a live version of one of the demo songs recorded at the 2004 installment of the H:O:A. From the strength of this material (especially the 3 outstanding 'Risen from the grave' songs), it is difficult to fathom why Metal Witch have been unable to score a record deal in their homeland. Fans of uptempo traditional German heavy metal are certain to hail Metal Witch as a great discovery, so here's hoping their appearance on this split CD paves the way for bigger and better things.
I know what you're thinking. How could there be any continuity between the old-school thrash of Vindicator and the traditional metal attack of Metal Witch? It actually works much better than you might expect. As mentioned, Vindicator have some power aspects to their sound (think Whiplash or October 31's 'No survivors'). And Metal Witch undoubtedly have some thrash influences, as most notably heard on the bludgeoning "Valley of the kings". So there's enough of an overlap between Vindicator and Metal Witch that those who enjoy one are quite likely to dig the other. It's like the old Reese's peanut butter cup commercial where 2 idiots collide, after which one person complains about having peanut butter in his chocolate, and the other gripes about having chocolate in his peanut butter. The proportions might be slightly different, but the ingredients of both recipes are the same.
So the music on 'Outbreak of metal vol. I' is definitely cool, and the pairing of bands works quite effectively. If you needed further convincing, the intangibles of this CD should seal the deal, from the striking cover art to the helpful band biographies, photos and lyrics in the professional 12-page booklet. In short, Slaney Records has come up with a winner here. I have no idea what sort of distribution this will have, but the CD is currently available for a reasonable price from Slaney directly at www.slaneyrecords.com. Here's hoping for many future installments of this 'Outbreak of metal' series.
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