Review Summary: The kings of beer put the drinks down in order to get down to business. Fortunately, the bottles didn’t break in the process.
Formed in Frankfurt, Germany in 1982, Tankard has been delivering alcoholic metal for almost 36 years, and is often hailed as the 4th in the ''Teutonic Big 4'' of thrash metal. Although not quite as unknown and obscure to the casual thrash listener as other German bands like Pyracanda, Risk or Living Death, Tankard were never particularly mainstream, and their beer-related lyrics, along with their partying and drunk attitude are the main reasons why some thrashers tend to overlook or mock them. However they did find some moderate success during the late 80s and the 90s, and albums like 1986’s Zombie Attack
or its seminal successor Chemical Invasion
succeeded in building a respectable and loyal fanbase.
During the 90s Tankard chose the path of loyalty and stayed true to their roots, partly because their fun/party songwriting limited them in terms of expanding their sound, so they couldn’t experiment with industrial flavors like Kreator or dabble into groove metal like Destruction; this resulted in a series of three studio albums between 1990 and 1994 that were incredibly consistent — if you liked one, chances are you liked them all. Two-Faced
marks the end of this solid trilogy, an album whose goal was none other than to increase the doses of energy and adrenaline of its predecessor Stone Cold Sober
. In addition, Tankard’s sixth outing shows Gerre and his comrades doing something unbelievable; they abandoned their trademark comical and drunken tone. On Two-Faced
the partying, women and alcohol are abandoned in order to delve into more common thrash themes and the problems that our world suffers, covering subjects like the abusive control of the media, the cybernetic domain, hypocrisy, war, politics and destruction.
It should be noted that the German group had already shown concern for more serious and mature topics in songs like ''Help Yourself'', ''Dancing on Our Grave'' or ''Jurisdiction'', so clearly they weren’t incompetent when it came to creating intelligent and rebellious lyrics. More importantly, though, is that this new direction is only limited to the lyrical section, and even in that aspect the lyrics don’t turn this record into a cliché, political bore-fest; the songs still display Tankard’s charismatic, fun and youthful anger instead of boring, old-man bitterness. The overall feel of this record varies; some rockers come off as very angry and intense, like the title track or ''Nation Over Nation'', while others feel rather upbeat and punk-influenced, like the happy and mid-paced ''Up From Zero'' or the badass closing ''Jimmy B. Bad'', which tells the amusing story of a young boy who, after living the dangers and excesses of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, decides to continue with his nasty and rebel habits, but now in the world of politics.
is a big and triumphant middle finger to the infamous 90s slump; the songs don’t differ much from the frenetic thrash formula they patented on albums like The Morning After
, and the band tightened their songwriting with a more technical approach, including more extensive guitar riffs, drum parts and even the bass outstands and shines on ''Cities in Flames'' and the speedy rager ''Mainhattan''. This is an album that goes straight for the throat right from the beginning, kicking things off with the wild ''Death Penalty''. The five-minute thrasher describes the thoughts of a man who is condemned to die, and the music matches the intensity of the lyrical delivery, grabbing the listener’s neck with its piercing riffs and especially its shrill and loud gang choruses.
Tankard rarely let you down with the opening number, and luckily they’re not a band that uses up all their energy on the first track, so ''R.T.V.'' matches ''Death Penalty'' in terms of quality and speed. A harsh criticism towards television media and cheap entertainment, this song showcases one of Arnulf Tunn’s most impressive performances behind the drum kit, as well as demonstrates Gerre’s huge vocal range, who does thrash shouts and higher screams with lots of attitude and rage, delivering fun lines like 'Nine o'clock on channel six/Get the beer and get the chips/Death is live upon the screen/It's reality TV!'
. This album is an incredible mix of up-tempo violence and technicality, with songs such as ''Betrayed'' and the futuristic epic ''Cyberworld'' offering lots of meaty, blasting riffs and speedy drumming to satisfy the band’s devotees. There are also bits of groove to be found on both tracks, thanks to the crunchy bass lines and the choice of guitar tones, which are nicely incorporated and don’t affect the album’s amazing consistency.
The transitions between songs are well developed, with the album slowing down on the melodic, somewhat bluesy ''Days of the Gun'', Tankard’s first attempt to create a slow track, sporting sweet riffing and a charming, warm feel while Gerre does a poetic and narrative vocal performance, delivering lines like 'So tell me now, how can you watch the news/As a man gets killed in front of your front door"'
. Not everything is socio-critical lyrics, though, and as usual on every classic Tankard’s album, the band pays a tribute to punk rock, this time with an entertaining, German-sung cover of Strassenjungs’ beer anthem ''Ich Brauch’ Meinen Suff''. Unfortunately Two-Faced
would be the last release we would see with both drummer Arnulf Tunn and guitarist Axel Katzmann; the former left the band in 1994, being replaced by Olaf Zissel, while the latter had to leave the band due to osteoarthritis, and Tankard has remained so far as a one guitar group.
Sadly Tankard’s formula got a little stale with the following two albums. 1995’s The Tankard
was an inconsistent attempt to mix their thrashing intensity with a cleaner, melodic approach, while Disco Destroyer
can be seen as the musical equivalent of somebody failing a class in college, throwing a party to "celebrate" this failure and requiring party guests to mock the person throwing the party for their failure. Nevertheless, it’s still noteworthy how the band managed to release three solid albums in the 90s, which could be amongst the most underrated thrash efforts of that decade, and Two-Faced
still packs some bite and power that will appeal to any Tankard fan and head-banging thrasher.