Sweden’s Die Hard are all about the past. Not only do they play re-thrash, they specialize in a variety that’s a throwback to the earliest days of proto-thrash, before things were refined and before there was a “Big Four.” That means they sell caveman speed metal of the most simplistic, rowdy and rude variety. Imagine a band adopting the very worst traits of Carnivore, Motorhead, Venom and Rigor Mortis and you’re getting the general concept. It’s undercooked, unpolished, inelegant and entirely without class, grace or refinement. Sounds fucking awesome, right? Well, it isn’t! Though their Nihilistic Vision debut was fairly fun and amusing, I never felt the need to revisit it after a spin or so. Conjure the Legions is a step backward (in quality, not time) and I’m never ever gonna revisit this one! Ever. What sucks is how Die Hard found a way to make a particularly fun, gleefully maniacal style of metal and make it mostly unamusing. Sure, in very small doses, a song here or there will get the blood up, but as a whole, the material here just doesn’t have that charm and raucous energy to keep me coming back for more. I guess some things don’t age as well as you might hope.
Things start out so promising, you may think you found a little gem of re-thrash. The title track has a sound that’s ultra low-rent and chunky, the riffs are as simple as can be and likely would sound recycled even in 1985, but they are tolerable and sloppily enthusiastic. Simon’s vocals are booming, over-the-top, cartoony and exceptionally cheesy. However, a certain brute charm carries it all and it works somehow. “Masters of Deceit” follows up well and brings in just a hint of Blessed Death and Wargasm in the riffing. And then, the biscuit wheels start coming off the gravy train.
“Satanic Uprise” is too tame and uses the dreaded “mid-tempo thrash” style I personally loathe. Likewise, “Thrash Them All” reeks of meh, though you have to love the completely cliché song title (you don’t really have to). Things improve for the one-two punch of “Cold Scythe” and “Sanctify the Morbid,” with the latter sounding like “sanctify the mormon,” thus making it a no-brainer anthem for all Romney campaign appearances. The rest of the album drags quite a lot, with only bits and pieces of interest to lock onto (some of the riffing on “Robe and Crown”).
The big problem is the writing. The material here is every bit as slobberingly rabid as the last album, but the songs are weaker and more generic. The riffs are rarely ear catching and only a few solos will keep your attention. I’ll take this opportunity to warn that Simon’s vocal approach is the very essence of love or hate. Though I liked his delivery on the debut, on Conjure the Legions he sounds like an angry homeless guy, screaming incoherently about potatoes, foreskin, religion and Hungry Hungry Hippos. The only time he departs this motif is to adopt a slightly gruffer delivery more akin to a viking filibustering the viking assembly. Though it kinda works at first, by the fourth track he was getting on my nerves more often than not.
Production-wise, things are plenty raw and crude, as they need to be for this type of barbarian junta thrash. Everything rattles and roars and it almost sounds live at times. The feedback and general feeling of playing on the edge of losing control will bring back memories of the great, untalented mess that was Venom, and as weird as that sounds, I mean it as a compliment. A clean production slapped on this shaggy beast would make as much sense as lipstick on a pig (if that does, in fact, make sense to you, get off our website!).
This is one bridge to the past too many for your friendly neighborhood Steel Druhm. As much as I loved the murky, primitive days of thrash, this just didn’t stroke my goat and nothing bugs me more than an unstroked goat. If you want to hear a suitable homage to proto-thrash, try their debut or just go dig up some Exciter, Razor or Destructor. This one is way closer to the fifth tier stuff that came out during the original thrash renaissance only to be totally forgotten, like Bulldozer, N.M.E. and yes, even the mighty Piledriver.