Oh, how I loved those “golden era” Angel Dust records with Dirk Thurisch on the mic. Albums like Borders of Reality, Bleed and Enlighten the Darkness had that perfect blend of heaviness, catchiness and melody that makes a traditional metal fan smile. Predictably, as with most good things, it quickly went all to shit and Dirk left to form Mercury Tide. Their debut (and only album until now) Why? had a few interesting moments of melodic metal/hard rock but was mostly forgettable, and was ultimately…forgotten. Now, ten years later, Dirk and Mercury Tide rise from the scrap heap (i.e. bargain bin) with Killing Saw. The question that popped into my head upon seeing this on the promo list was: why? Nobody cared about Mercury Tide even when there was some attentional crossover from Angel Dust, so who the fuck is going to care now? Based on the contents of Killing Saw, I’m guessing…nobody. You see, Killing Saw is one of the most misleading album titles ever. Rather than “killing” music, or anything along the lines of vintage Angel Dust, this is full of watered-down, sub par hard rock with some of the most painful lyrics and vocals I’ve heard in a long while. This is a half-baked opus and it’s a real struggle to hear Dirk warble over these weak songs. I’m not looking to piss on these guys, but this is just plain bad and I’m at a loss to understand what Dirk was thinking.
After a piano intro, Mercury Tide unveils their new sound with the title track. It’s all about light weight riffing, twinkling keys and a concerted effort to craft catchy vocal patterns and musical hooks. While the lead key/guitar tandem is memorable (and vaguely Angel Dust-y), the chorus is very awkward and Dirk’s voice sounds strained, although the super simple arrangements don’t require him to do much. Although the song left me flat, I quickly came to realize this was the “best” of this mangy bunch. “Home” sounds like third-rate Nickelback material, and while they manage a memorable chorus, the rest of the song is dragged down by a painfully mundane, lackluster performance. More cringes await with the quasi-grunge rock of “Searching,” bland power ballads like “World of Pain” and “Have No Fear” and the failed attempt to channel To Die For on “Satan Sister.”
The big kicker comes with “Alone in My Room” which features lyrics like “”alone in my room with my frozen heart, I’ll never trust you again.” The song itself is complete shite but, making matters worse is how disinterested Dirk sounds. His performance is poor and feels like he didn’t want to be doing this song (or record). The rest of Killing Saw is just as bad and by the end, you’ll wishing somebody used a killing saw on your ears.
What really blows my mind (apart from the craptastic song writing) is how worn Dirk sounds on most of these songs. I honestly cannot believe this is the same guy that sang his balls off for Angel Dust in the not so distant past. I don’t know what he’s been doing the past ten years, but I’m guessing whatever it was didn’t involve singing, because his voice sounds shot to hell. At various points, he’s flat, off-key or missing pitches and then straining to reach them. One gets the impression he had a tough time in the studio nailing down the vocals. Fortunately, he fares a bit better as a guitarist, and some of his riffs are respectable. The title track and “Satan Sister” sport decent riff-work, and his playing on “World of Pain” is fairly emotional.
Obviously, the big issue here is the writing. Most of these songs don’t feel ready to see the light of day. Even when they hit on the rare decent chorus (“Home” and “Searching”), the song around it falls apart. Some songs are boring, while others suck hard from the get-go and offer nothing at all. It’s just a poor showing at the drafting table. The production doesn’t help either. The whole mix sounds thin and unfinished, as if it wasn’t completely mastered.
Since I always enjoyed Dirk’s singing, I wanted to see him get back into the game, but not like this. This is a train wreck from which no one emerged unscathed. Even I feel like a failure, and I’m just the damn reviewer! I won’t address the band’s image issues, since I don’t want to kick anybody when they’re down (except Lars Ulrich). We’ll always have Angel Dust, but leave the Germanic killing saws to Sodom, okay Dirk?