Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tankard - One Foot in the Grave (2017)

Tankard has long since hit a benchmark where they could fairly effortlessly equip the nasty brand of alcoholic thrash (which put them on the map) with more epic songwriting endeavors and a lot more of a traditional metal feel, resulting in some of their better 'modern' efforts like The Beauty and the Beer or A Girl Called Cerveza. I think a lot of that strategy of taking their roots and rendering them into a more glorious form is quite dominant here on their 17th full-length as well. And yes, I'm fucking grinning ear to ear that a band like the mighty Tankard is on it's SEVENTEENTH album, and has never really taken much of a break!!! Good things CAN still happen in this divisive and confused world, and the fact I can still look forward to new records by Gerre and crew is one of those, even if they don't always ultimately end up in the eternal hard-on I've got for classics like Zombie Attack or The Morning After.

Perhaps not so surprising that One Foot in the Grave functions best when it IS trying to define a little more of a melodic sound, as in the intros to "Pay to Pray" or the title track, which seem like really excellent setups for some great, memorable tracks. Alas, once we get to the actual pounding and thrashing of the tunes, they become a little more indistinct, and suffer from a sameness to the band's prior material which I've honestly been feeling on and off since this 'modern era' of Tankard had started with Kings of Beer when Andy Gutjahr joined on guitar. Now, don't get me wrong, I think Andy's a fucking ace riffer and a hero, and I credit his tenacity for a lot of the long-term relevance of survival of this band against the trendier nu-thrash landscape. But it might just be the band's very consistency itself that causes its own problem, because very rarely do I get super excited about the riffset being used through the verses or even into the chorus parts. Leads are well done, and there are some points where I feel that intensity and excitement, but it just doesn't completely scorch me.

Not a deal breaker, of course, because elsewhere, Tankard still sounds so amazing. Gerre's venomous voice works equally well with its more sustained phrasings over the more melodic, almost power metal feel of a lot of the riffs. The bass can't compete with the rich rhythm guitars, but it does sound fat and formidable where it can pop its presence out into the mix. The drums also sound extremely potent and, really, the production of One Foot in the Grave in general is just so excellent and well-balanced that it sounds perfect coming out of my speakers at any level. Lyrically this one doesn't focus too much on the pub crawling, but more on current events, which again is nothing new for this band, since they've always been about 25% getting smashed, 25% utter goofiness and another 50% singing to the choir about things that actually might matter in the world. To sum it up, this is yet another 'good' record from the Germans, just not necessarily great. Nearly on par with its predecessor R.I.B., but no cigar. A lot of the core riffing could benefit from a little more risk and unpredictability, but the stuff just sounds so pure and professional that it compensates a little for not having the most ear-sticking verses or choruses.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]


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