Squealer A.D. - Confrontation street 2.5/5

Reviewed: 9-7-07


1. Black tongue
2. Infanticide
3. Devils backbone
4. Kamikaze nation
5. Punishment of luxury
6. Eat my sin
7. Blood red halo
8. New sun rising
9. Left bleeding (By love)
10. Faith or fury
11. Silent mandarin (Unit 731)

The somewhat oddly named Squealer were responsible for a string of high quality German power/thrash metal CDs in the late 90s and early 2000s. Fans of well-done Teutonic thrash metal with power metal influences would do well to check out 1999's 'The prophecy', 2000's 'Made for eternity' and 2002's 'Under the cross', especially. Although none of these CDs enjoyed any particular critical or commercial acclaim, these Squealer recordings are a metal trivia buff's paradise. Powerhouse drummer Mike Terrana mans the kit on a couple of these CDs. Edguy's bassist Tobias Exxel was a member of Squealer for 'The prophecy', and presumably convinced Tobias Sammet to provide guest lead and backing vocals. And, perhaps most unexpected of all, Squealer's main songwriter and vocalist was none other than Andy "Henner" Allendorfer, the AFM label boss and a cornerstone of the German metal scene. Tragically, Henner was killed in a black-ice automobile accident in January 2005, causing most observers to assume that Squealer was done.

Much to my surprise, in 2006 Squealer resurfaced as "Squealer A.D." with a new drummer and a new singer, Englishman Gus Chambers, who is perhaps best known to metalheads as the frontman of Dave Lombardo's Grip Inc. project following Lombardo's ouster from Slayer in the 90s. To be honest, I was never sold on Chambers as a singer for Grip Inc., as his Brit-punk/hardcore heritage rendered him ill-suited to front a metal band. Also, much of Grip Inc.'s material tended to be too groovy, too modern, too moody and too unmelodic for my tastes. All of that said, "Hostage to heaven" ruled and I do vividly recall a snowy evening at the Rathskeller in Boston in early 1997 wherein I and a few dozen others witnessed a memorable Grip Inc. performance. What was so special about it? Aside from the blinding April Fools Day blizzard that rendered it nearly impossible to reach the venue, Chambers' leather pants split in the middle of the band's live set. His clearly befuddled reaction and his quick sense of humor made that event one of the most hilarious things I've ever witnessed at a metal gig, so I hold a soft spot in my heart for the platinum-mohawked British belter.

All of this leaves the question unanswered of whether this 'Confrontation street' CD is worthwhile. The initial press release was not promising, as the band touted this release as their "hardest album ever" (always a bad omen) and alluded to a directional shift that had been planned even before Henner's untimely demise. These worrisome signs are borne out on the CD. Whatever its merits, 'Confrontation street' has little in common with the remainder of Squealer's discography. While I applaud the band for persevering in the wake of tragedy, they should have used a different band name. Those expecting old-style Squealer will be sorely disappointed, as there's very little of the melodic thrashy vibe that characterized their past works. Hell, it's not until tracks 8 and 9 ("New son rising" and "Left bleeding") that the band graces us with songs that recall their past glories, although track 4 ("Kamikaze nation") also has good melodies and some old-school flair. In general, however, 'Confrontation street' bears more than a passing resemblance to Grip Inc. or perhaps recent Machine Head. The riffs are groovy, chunky, modern, and mostly mid-paced. Rhythms are mechanized, cold and brooding. Chambers snarls and bellows in his thick British accent, sometimes with filters to annoy further. Shouted, repetitive choruses are the norm. Guitar solos are dialed back. Lyrics are twisted, angry, coarse, vulgar, nihilistic, and sometimes calculated to offend (such as the song with the rather childish chorus featuring the lines "F*** your religion / I piss on your altar"). More's the pity when one considers that the lyrics on Squealer's 'Under the cross' CD looked at faith and organized religion in a more nuanced and intelligent manner, without resorting to shrill lowest-common-denominator shock tactics.

I suppose the silver lining in all of this is that Squealer themselves appear to have recognized that the 'Confrontation street' experiment was a failure. Gus Chambers has already parted ways with the band, who have found a new singer and are carrying on. I will hope that the band have purged much of their blind rage at the unfair, tragic loss of Henner (a fine chap by all accounts) and that they can now return to the Squealer style that their fans know and love. For now, however, I can recommend 'Confrontation street' only to Grip Inc. fans and to the most open-minded of Squealer followers. It's not a horrible CD, and is actually pretty good for the style. But it's not what most Squealer devotees want to hear from the band, and has little to offer to most readers of this site.




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