Released: 2004, Iron Glory Records
Hailing from New Jersey, Attacker originally began their metal journey back in the early 80s. Their first appearance on wax was on the METAL MASSACRE V compilation. That appearance garnered them enough positive press to earn the band a record deal with Metal Blade. BATTLE AT HELMS DEEP (4/5) followed in 1985 and was quite the shot in the arm for the band, as it received a good bit of attention and some positive reactions from the metal press. Had I been able to meet this month’s deadline, I would have included my own review of BATTLE AT HELMS DEEP. Suffice it to say that the debut album is a classic piece of 80s metal with excellent guitar work and some killer vocals.
SOUL TAKER marks the third album for Attacker and the first since THE SECOND COMING came out in 1988. SOUL TAKER is as close to a full-fledged reunion as the band could manage. Original members Bob Mitchell, Pat Marinelli and Mike Sabatini return with the additions of Felix Torres on bass and Mike Benetados on guitar. Torres replaces original bassist Lou Ciarlo and Benetados replaces Jim Mooney, who passed away in 2000.
One of the things I really like about this album is that it truly has an 80s feel to it. You read album reviews all the time about a band achieving a retro sound and sometimes bands hype themselves as such. Very rarely do I agree with those types of claims though. Often the production is completely modern and the sound is crammed full of modern influences. If I were to play SOUL TAKER for you, gentle reader, you would not know it’s a modern album, save for the production quality. The riffs, the solos, the fucking vocals! It just has that 80s soul to it. It’s all that and a bag of chips.
Most of the tunes on SOUL TAKER are in the mid-paced to upper mid-paced range, with the exception of the lone ballad which appears at the end of the album. “The End” starts the album off nicely as an upper mid-paced track. It’s a galloping tune with dueling, speedy riffs and high pitched vocals that sound like a mix of Rob Halford and King Diamond at times. The choruses also feature some pretty cool vocal interplay between Mitchell and Martinelli. “Forgotten” is also a solid mid-paced track with a catchy chorus and some nice guitar work. The lyrics are politically charged with lines like “we police all the world but we still fail to see / The problems that plague our own democracy.”
One of the more interesting songs on this album is the title track. It clocks in at about seven minutes and tells the tale of a demon who reaps souls. For the first three and a half minutes the songs is a sort of mid-paced track with some cool riffs and some nice lead work. Then the song sort of takes a strange twist and goes into a two minute section that slows things down considerably. I don’t know how to describe this interlude except to say that the lyrics get incredibly cheesey and Mitchell does a sort of lounge singer type of vocal. Weird, but still cool. Thereafter the song kicks into gear again and finishes out with a nice guitar solo. Another highlight of the album is the song “Jack.” The song is yet another ode to Jack The Ripper. I’ve always been fascinated with this mysterious historical figure, so I’ve not yet gotten my fill of Ripper-inspired metal. Taking the song to another level is that vocally Mitchell uses a gruffer style and in the chorus the lyrics show Jack sort of questioning himself. Nicely done song and one to be proud of.
As mentioned earlier, the lone ballad on the album is the ending track called “Until We Meet Again.” It’s a tribute to former band members who have passed on, namely the afore-mentioned Jim Mooney and THE SECOND COMING vocalist John Leone. The song is pretty sappy and features some pretty generic melodies, but it’s written and performed with admirable intentions and so is not a completely lost cause. Having said that, it does belong at the end of the album so as not to break up the flow.
SOUL TAKER isn’t a great album, but it’s no slouch either. Some of the songs ring a tad bit hollow, others are a bit mediocre. Certainly Mitchell doesn’t have the voice he had on the debut album. Sometimes his voice is cringe-inducing, but some of the gruffer vocals in songs like “Sleepy Hollow” and “Jack” are a nice touch that redeems things. The guitar play is pretty tasty as well. The best way to describe this album is to call it a solid return that will please fans of Attacker and 80s metal in general. Don’t rush out to buy it, but don’t pass it up if you have the means and the opportunity.
Highlights: The End, Tortured Existence, Soul Taker, Jack
Genre References: Traditional Metal, Speed Metal