Review Summary: Going 90 m/h on the highway of thrash
If there is one benefit to the digital age, it has to be availability. Countless bands who had the talent, the sound and the quality in their music was risked of their material felling into the black hole of forgotten memories, by simply not making it as big as their peers or being geographically isolated. A thrash metal band formed on the West Coast of America had more chances than one formed in a smaller European country, and unless you had a breakout album that could make some noise on the scene, than your music was only known by a handful genre fanatics. But know in 2020, you go to Youtube, type in the band’s name and you get everything from demo tapes, to live footage to full LP’s with clear sound. Without the Internet’s massive archival ability, I doubt I’ve could ever hear Belgium’s Target.
Being one of the many thrash bands of the 80’s was nothing special, but what set Target apart from the bunch was their more sophisticated and technical instrumentalization. Which was probably the main thing that caught the attention of Ralph Hubert, mastermind of the german prog-thrash wizards of Mekong Delta, as well as the owner of the Aaarrg Records who signed the group. Target’s existence was a short lived with only four years and two records, and from those, the sci-fi themed Master Project Genesis is probably the one that stands out as a cult favorite between metal enthusiasts due its masterfully crafted, piercing and fiercely technical compositions. But the band’s first album Mission Executed should be mentioned as well. A certainly rougher, more stripped down and classical thrash album, but it had all the seeds that resulted in later excellence.
Mission Executed’s musical spine is mainly built-up by a concentrated fusion of mid-paced and faster, staccato-like riffs showcased instantly by the first song “Mission To The Andes” which combines the ferocious intensity of the Bay Area-sound with the more melodic leanings of European speed/power metal. “Hordes of Insanity” on the other hand brings out a more German-thrash vibe with furious word-spitting, abrasive, tremolo-picking solos and buzzsaw-like pace right in the Slayer/Kreator alley. The first sings of Target’s creativity comes right at the end with a haunting dual lead right towards the end, but the upcoming songs also show the band’s willingness of experimentation and variety.
“They Walk In Front” is easily among my favorite songs on the record with its dynamic flow of numerous hard-hitting riffs, gang vocals, pounding drums and juicy basslines. The six-string dexterity of guitarists Lex Vogelaar and Franky Von Aerde comes out full force during the solo section which combined the atmospheric rhythms behind the leads (and the gnarly guitar tone) making it eerily similar to the early “Peace Sells”-era shredding of Dave Mustaine. And in thrash you couldn’t ask for a better comparison. “Warriors of the Holy One” on the other hand feels like a more progressive version of an Overkill song (mostly due to the vocal delivery of Guy Degrave), where the traditional elements of classic heavy metal are getting infused with more technical chops and guitar passages.
The rest of the album stays in focus as well, with pure headbangers like “Nuclear Waste”, stylish feasts like the eastern-inspired “The Gathering” or the complexity of “Under Dominion” and the instrumental “Death Blow”. The guitar work is fast, heavy and thoughtful with precise yet melodic solos. The compositions are not nearly as original and daring as they would become in Master Project Genesis, but blends the numerous influences into a highly enjoyable mixture. One unique aspect I have to mention are the high pitched, screamy vocals Guy Degrave which often reminded me of Wolfgang Borgmann, the falsetto madman of Mekong Delta but other times were closer to Flemming Rönsdorf of Artillery. He does a fine job here, with his vocals being highlighted by the production which could feel rough for some, but sharp enough for me.
Lean, mean and straight-to-the-point (with 35 minutes), Mission Executed pretty much covers all the essentials of an old-school, 1980’s trash metal record while already doing enough of its own to stand out from the crowd. The influence of the already diversifying thrash scene became more crystallized in their second (and sadly last) album, but the energetic debut also stands out as a noteworthy achievement in the genre’s history. God bless the internet for not letting Target and its peers being forgotten and dusted away by time and forgotten memory.