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Thomsen - Let's get ruthless 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-1-10


1. Ruthless
2. Tears of the sun
3. Time again
4. Stand up & shout
5. You and me
6. Heaven & hell
7. Blind your eyes
8. Bang your head
9. Branded man
10. Everything I ever wanted
11. Show me your fear
12. You're in love

Here's a very interesting CD that I'm afraid may have flown under most people's radars. Rene Thomsen is a 40-something year old guitarist from Germany who has forged a career out of the music business as the founder of Backline Rental Service, providing equipment and consulting services for touring purposes to many prominent acts in heavy metal and other genres. Given his line of work, it is unsurprising that Thomsen has developed an impressive rolodex of contacts in the music industry. But he had an itch to step out from behind the scenes and record an album of his own songs. Lo and behold, a few years ago, Thomsen played some demo recordings for his friend, Herman Frank (perhaps best known as the "other" guitarist in Accept, though he has also played in Moon'Doc, Victory and more recently his own outstanding solo band). Frank liked what he heard, the idea started to snowball, and next thing you know, Thomsen was recording a full-blown CD with Frank acting as producer, engineer and even lead guitarist on some tracks.

Taking advantage of his contacts, Thomsen assembled a remarkable roster of musicians to participate in this project. Aside from Frank, 'Let's get ruthless' features musical contributions from bassists Nibbs Carter (Saxon), Jan S. Eckert (Masterplan, Iron Savior), and Neil Murray (Black Sabbath); and drummers Bobby Jarzombek (Riot, Halford, Iced Earth, etc.) and Stefan Schwarzmann (U.D.O., Helloween, Accept, etc.). Wow, what a rhythm section. Lead vocal responsibilities were entrusted to Jurgen Wulfes, whom some will recognize as the singer of Moon'Doc. And Henny Wolter of Primal Fear laid down a scorching guest guitar solo on one song. So, it's no exaggeration to call this an "All-Star Heavy Metal Project." Given the high-octane line-up, it's hard to imagine why 'Let's get ruthless' wasn't picked up by one of the more powerful indy metal labels for distribution in the States. For whatever reason, however, that didn't happen, so Thomsen remains an obscurity in America.

Musically, this CD is chock full of pounding, bluesy, midtempo rockers that blur the line between traditional metal and hard rock. I hear elements of Saxon, Accept, Krokus, Victory, Moon'Doc, Gun Barrel, and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, so the style is quite familiar. Nothing groundbreaking, just simple, anthemic, catchy headbangable stuff for the old-schoolers. Actually, though, the closest comparison I can give for this Thomsen CD is the criminally overlooked Herman Frank solo CD entitled 'Loyal to none', which was incidentally one of my favorite CDs from 2009. The resemblance is uncanny. Production values are nearly identical (no surprise there given Frank's knob-twisting duties in both projects), the thick, meaty guitar tones being particularly aligned. Thomsen's songwriting style also has much in common with Frank's, and it wouldn't surprise me if Frank had a hand in crafting some of these tunes even though he isn't given any co-writing credits. The major difference in the writing is that Thomsen foregoes the periodic forays into speedy power metal that elevated 'Loyal to none' from good to amazing. A quirky detail is that Thomsen also shares Frank's demonstrated penchant for naming his own songs after heavy metal classics. Just as 'Loyal to none' featured original songs called "Kill the king", "Metal gods", and "Welcome to hell", so too does 'Let's get ruthless' offer up Thomsen compositions entitled "Stand up and shout", "Heaven and hell", and "Bang your head". I'll go out on a limb and say that 'Let's get ruthless' is essentially a more mid-paced, hard-rockin' companion piece to 'Loyal to none'. If you liked the Herman Frank CD, then this Thomsen CD is almost certain to be to your liking, as well.

That said, there are a few small factors that prevent 'Let's get ruthless' from approaching the 4.5/5 rating I handed out to 'Loyal to none' last year. As mentioned, I miss the speedy power metal bits that the Herman Frank CD nailed so brilliantly. More importantly, while most of the 11 original songs are strong, there are few real standout tracks other than "Tears of the sun". Also, in the vocal department, I like Jurgen Wulfes, whose delivery is somewhere between Biff Byford and Marc Storace, but he's definitely not in the world-class league of Jioti Parcharidis. And occasionally the bluesiness of the riffs (think Gun Barrel or Saxon) gets to be a touch off-putting. Still, if you're in the mood for some straightforward sing-a-long anthems with a crushing production and stellar musicianship, Thomsen's 'Let get ruthless' is an easy recommendation.




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