Review Summary: The kings of beer proclaim their thrones.
It's not a secret that Tankard isn't as popular and recognized as the unholy German thrash trinity (Kreator, Sodom and Destruction). Unjustly overlooked by some metalheads, Tankard has the reputation of being the most alcoholic and drunken metal band. Since they released their demo Alcoholic Metal
in 1985, the band has taken advantage of their popularity as brewers with their lyrics, dealing in a thousand ways their passion for beer. Maybe that's the main reason why they're not taken so seriously among some thrash listeners in comparison of their colleagues. Some will think, ''Oh no, another cartoonish thrash band with a mocking and partying attitude like Anthrax and Municipal Waste, just ridiculous''. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t make interesting works and good quality thrash, though. Don’t be carried away by appearances, dear reader.
Their seventeenth studio album One Foot in the Grave
is an excellent effort to commemorate the band’s 35th anniversary, a record that shows us a band aging gracefully and lyrically is one of their most serious and mature works along with 1994’s Two-Faced
, as both deal largely with politics, social criticism and recent events, other common lyrical subjects in thrash, without losing their potential and sense of humor. But well, let’s stop talking about the lyrics; the important thing is the music. Can they still deliver something solid and worthwhile" As you could guess with the rating, of course they can. The lineup has remained intact since 1999, with the most prominent members since the band’s beginnings being the extraordinary vocalist Andreas ''Gerre'' Geremia and his faithful colleague bassist Frank Thorwarth. The lineup is completed with drummer Olaf Zissel and guitarist Andreas Gutjahr.
Their sound hasn’t changed considerably here regarding their last deliveries, as you can appreciate on the opening track ''Pay to Pray'', a hilarious attack towards hypocrite preachers, with the band following the tradition of showing their skills to open a record; it starts with a slow and dark riff before transforming into a powerful up-tempo track with very well-crafted and funny pre-choruses and choruses and a somewhat melodic short guitar solo. Speaking of melodic moments, as strange as it may seem, just like Kreator’s latest album, One Foot in the Grave
contains a few melodic solos and introductions, although the melodic elements aren’t as prominent as on Gods of Violence
. And also like that album, these elements don’t overshadow the force of the songs, as it’s showed on ''Arena of the True Lies'', loaded with frenetic guitars, strong drumming and lyrics dealing the issue of Internet clickbaits. ''Syrian Nightmare'' is another example of a perfect mix between melody and aggressiveness.
But don’t think One Foot in the Grave
is a purely melodic album. Songs like ''Don't Bullshit Us!'' (one of my favorites of the album), ''Lock ‘Em Up'' and ''The Evil That Men Display'' follow their traditional speedy style with energetic riffs and the rhythm section playing without a break. There’s also the title track, with another solemn and slow riff before switching to a crunchy one, Thorwarth exploding his bass with an infernal rhythm and the band taking opportunity to make fun of their image of brewers, with Gerre delivering a funny chorus (One foot in the grave, send in the doctor
). Less serious is ''Northern Crown (Lament of the Undead King)'' which, as you could partially guess by its title, is a sympathetic parody towards power metal clichés (cheesy metal fans, don't hate them for this), containing the classic crowd-chanted power metal chorus.
Then there's ''Secret Order 1516'', the longest song here, and also the best. With epic intentions, at 7 minutes it contains a symphonic introduction before Gerre entering to attack at the mic, a big choir supporting the main hook, a short-yet-incredible guitar solo, another outstanding and great performance by the rhythm section, and an elegant string coda. I think it would’ve been a better closing than ''Sole Grinder'', which is decent and fairly solid, but obviously pales in comparison of the album’s magnum opus.
2017 so far has been a respectable year for thrash metal. Thrash legends Kreator and Overkill released great and effective efforts, and so did Power Trip, Municipal Waste, Droid and Gross Reality. Tankard is not far behind, offering an excellent record that shows the musicians hadn’t lose any force through the years and are far from having one foot in the grave.