REVIEW: TANKARD – “One Foot In The Grave”
Hailing from Frankfurt, Tankard have been one of the flag bearers of the Teutonic thrash metal scene along with Kreator, Sodom and Destruction and are responsible for developing the prototype for fast songs in honor of alcohol. The band consists of Andreas Geremia (vocals),Frank Thorwarth (bass), Olaf Zissel (drums), Andreas Gutjahr (guitars) and will be celebrating their 35th anniversary by releasing their 17th album, entitled ‘One Foot In The Grave’ via Nuclear Blast Records.
The album starts with “Pay To Pray” which begins with a slow melodic passage, very reminiscent of new-age Kreator, before progressing into a proper thrash riff structure. Zissel’s drum hooks, especially his double bass work, are very commendable in this song, but I feel that Gutjahr should have incorporated more guitar licks into his riffs (something similar to what Dave Mustaine does). “Pay To Pray” is a standard thrash song incorporating the verse-chorus-solo structure and is followed by “Arena Of The True Lies”, a song that is described by Geremia as “the most melodic track of the album”. The track starts with a crescendo intro which then goes into a passage which is influenced heavily by Accept, a trend that is present throughout the album. There are a lot of twin guitar harmonies in this track, but like its predecessor, the solos are very dull. The time signature changes for a short while before going back to 4/4. “Don’t Bullshit Us!” is a very Accept-meets-Exodus track, that is, a track with a lot of melody and aggression. The drums sound phenomenal and the sound adds an extra layer of aggression to the track.
The title track starts with a classic metal influenced melodic beginning filled with twin guitar harmonies. This intro, sans drums and bass, goes on for a while before going into a riff heavily influenced by classical music (something that could fit in a symphony in my opinion). This riff is arranged over a classic kick-snare thrash drum beat which is testimony to the band’s commendable attempt to innovate, but alas, the track fails to deliver the zest that is synonymous with thrash. Gutjahr cleverly incorporates traditional palm muted chugs in the song which also has a very Metallica inspired musical spurt in the middle for a very short while.The title track is followed by the mid-paced “Syrian Nightmare” which has an extremely interesting arrangement of guitar licks, especially the guitar one in the beginning
“Northern Crown (Lament Of The Undead King)” starts with a doom inspired intro, an intro that goes on for about a minute before progressing into a watered down thrash passage. By this time the album starts to get a tad bit monotonous and the band does try to spice things up in this track, but without the required panache. The riff structure in “Lock ‘Em Up is heavily inspired by Megadeth circa The System Has Failed and oscillates between the aforementioned structure and a standard kick-snare thrash passage. “The Evil That Men Display” has a similar structure and could have been interesting if the band had decided to increase the tempo to what they used to do back in the ‘80s. This is followed by “Secret Order 1516” which is the most interesting track of the album. The song opens with a strings intro that could have been in the soundtrack for any war epic. This song imbibes the same stylistic elements of old-school Tankard, with a tinge of Accept, and for the first time (on the album) Gutjahr’s solo is impressive. Zissel also uses a lot of drum fills in the songthat make it more interesting. This song, in my opinion, is the best track of the album. The album closes with “Sole Grinder”, a standard ‘80s Bay Area thrash song.
Tankard is a band that was known for making chaos beautiful, along with their fellow Teutonic brethren. This album just does not contain the same kind of aggression that ‘Chemical Invasion’ or ‘The Morning After’ contained and I actually missed the old Tankard. However this album is a treat for Accept fans, as I feel like this album is heavily influenced by Wolf Hoffman and co. ‘One Foot In The Grave’ juxtaposes melody and aggression, but does tend to get a bit too monotonous after a while. The band has gotten quite political on this album and there is only one song, the song being “Secret Order 1516”, that talks about alcohol. However the solos on this album are lifeless and there were times when I actually threw my hands up in the air out of sheer frustration
At the end of the day, this album is certainly not Tankard’s best, but props must be given to the band for trying to experiment with their sound and lyrical content. Let us see what they have in store for their next album.