Generally before popping in a fresh CD to review, I typically do a little homework on the band in question if I’m not already familiar with them. It helps me put in context whatever I’m about to hear, while giving my brain something to chew on while my ears absorb whatever’s coming out of my speakers. As I engaged in my usual ritual for the German self-anointed “Rhein area thrash” band Blood Red Angel, I noticed that beyond the band’s own website and a lonely MySpace page, there was very little I could dig up beyond a press notice mailed in with the CD. Since it was produced in 2007 on the dime of vocalist, lyricist, and presumed bandleader Klaus “Mr. Crime” Spangenberg, ABYSSLAND was apparently sitting on a shelf without a label or distribution channel until September 2008. So why should a band that’s been around for 10 years with three previous releases have so much trouble getting their fourth release out and about?
The answer is simple and for me, very unpleasant because I had to write this review. Putting it mildly, ABYSSLAND stinks. It stinks to high heaven. And it’s not that I dislike thrash metal – on the contrary, I grew up listening to many of the same bands BRA claims to draw inspiration from.
When it comes to thrash metal, having excessive numbers of kickass speedy riffs is the main requirement. While the guitar riff drives metal as we know it, thrash is particularly dependent on one killer riff after another to keep a song going. Apparently, Blood Red Angel does not consider this important, because most of their riffs sound like discards from a contemporary Ozzy Osbourne album. The lazy, wanna-be vicious main tune for the title track “Abyssland” sounds like it was hashed out by a sedated child. While a few riffs on opening track “Ceremony of the Condemned” are decently headnodding, that’s as good as this band gets – there’s likely more riff potential in the average teenage garage band than this German 5-piece can muster. And I haven’t even started on Mr. Spangenberg’s “vocals,” if I can even use that word for the off-key empty air that passes as singing on this album.
Mr. Spangenberg uses a coarse, vaguely pitched shout that I imagine is what Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch sounds like while hoarse and recovering from a hangover. Enduring 45 minutes of this grating caterwaul made follow-up listens to ABYSSLAND nearly unbearable. The “singing” executed on the sole ballad “Dead End Corners” should be an imprisonable offense. All this drives a loosely defined central concept (or so I think) about some futuristic techno-society run by bad people called (big surprise) Abyssland. On the upside, there’s some pretty cool comic-style concept art drawn throughout the front coverlet, and said art may be the best thing about this record.
Few of the 12 songs on ABYSSLAND are distinguishable from each other. Of the two relatively outstanding tracks, one called “Dead End Corners” is a pretty decent power ballad (painful vocals excluded) and the other is a cover of Sacred Reich’s “Independent”…and the cover song is likely the best track on the entire CD. That fact alone condemns ABYSSLAND to its deserved place in my rubbish bin.
Under no circumstances should anyone purchase this shoddy excuse for a metal CD. It’s bland, uninspired, pretentious, and highly unpleasant to listen to. One would be more likely to find superior inspiration for metal in the bottom of Celine Dion’s purse than in anything Blood Red Angel has to offer.
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