Wow, back in the day when the first few Tankard albums stumbled into the light like a wino from a dark alley, I never imagined these guys would be around very long. While amusing, they were the essence of a third tier act and didn’t stand out all that much even in the heyday of thrash. Well, since I now find myself reviewing album fourteen by these alcohol fueled Germanic thrashers, I would say I was pretty wrong about my initial impressions. While these guys were never in the same league as Sodom, Kreator or Destruction they still managed to become an enduring and productive minor league team. Unlike their bigger peers in the German thrash scene, Tankard was always silly, tongue-in-cheek and largely wrote on the few topics they knew best: drinking, partying and alcohol. Since I myself was a hard partying youth, I casually enjoyed their Chemical Invasion and The Morning After releases for their good humor and frantic pace. After that they dropped off my radar and only in the past week did I start getting to know the Tankard again. Although the goofy, “anything goes” feel is still there, the music and writing doesn’t hold up like I remember it. Once the nostalgia factor wore off, things started tasting a little skunky.
Vol(l)ume 14 starts off pretty decently with “Time Warp” which is energetic, lightweight speed metal with an amusing concept (traveling through time to assassinate evil future and past versions of yourself) and a fun, happy chorus. Although it made me chuckle at times, the song is pretty corny and goes on two minutes too long. Also I was struck by how tame their thrash sound had become. This isn’t all that dissimilar from Euro-power metal like Helloween with a tougher edge and bad vocals. Not quite the same frantic, insane band I recall. Elsewhere they tackle such rye concepts as weight loss via coma (“Fat Snatchers (the Hippo Effect)”), speed metal dating “Becks in the City” and designer piercings for the brain “Brain Piercing of Death.” While these tracks have a certain entertainment factor going for them and enough energy to be called thrash, things started getting old by the fourth or fifth track. Nothing they’re doing musically is compelling enough to hold interest or make me want replays. The second half of the album is weaker and less amusing which doesn’t help matters either.
The problem for Tankard is their poor song writing. There are a few catchy songs in the beginning of the album (“Time Warp” and “Fat Chasers” are by far the best) but even these are only decent tracks, not exceptional. The rest are either dull or just bad. The thrash riffs are standard 1980’s style but too few jump out and stick in your head. There are a few nifty solos and some interesting leads at times (5:00 of “Time Warp,” 1:21 and 3:03 of “Brain Piercing of Death” ), but not enough to keep anyone coming back for repeated spins. The song structures are clumsy and awkward at times and while the lyrics can be funny, they’re often pretty dumb too. Another problem for me was the overall heaviness of this album. No matter how jokey and satirical, I like my thrash HEAVY and this stuff is too light and happy sounding for my tastes.
I feel like a real party pooper for bashing a band that’s been at it for so long and they obviously have a following but for me this just didn’t work and failed to leave much of an impression. It did make me go back and listen to their way earlier albums which are better, so that’s something I guess. If you’re a die hard fan of all things thrash, beer themed and German, you may get something out if this but for me, the beer has all been drank, the buzz wore off and now I’m cranky.