When I would have to write essays in high school using the dreaded and wholly useless five paragraph format, the last thing I would think of was the title. Often, I would just try to remember things I’d watched, read, or heard and make truly dreadful puns out of them. Failing that, I’d ask a member of my immediate family what I should call the paper, because everything was complete but the title. If you couldn’t tell, that spirit of being unable to think of the beginning of a piece of writing has come back with a vengeance in the form of writing about Vendetta‘s fifth record The 5th.
Vendetta is a very old and very German band, with their full-length debut being released back in 1987. Like one particularly moronic German who took it upon himself to draw the dumbest conclusions out of philosophy’s oeuvre humanly possible, Vendetta really like the idea of Violent Revolution. Unlike Herr Marx, Vendetta is at least likeable in some sense and just enjoys those chunkier parts of what was my first Kreator record. While The 5th certainly isn’t the fastest record in the genre (or even as fast as the last two Kreator records, for that matter), it’s still recognizable as Teutonic thrash of the early 2000s variety.
Unintentionally hilarious title notwithstanding, “Religion is a Killer” may be the best thing Vendetta have on offer here. The slap-bass shred intro is jarring yet oddly fitting, and the terse verse keeps energy levels high. It also has the bonus of featuring The 5th’s best leads, which incidentally sound like quality Kreator leads. “Let ‘er Rip” is the most concise piece here, putting endearingly cheesy inspirational lyrics over what’s essentially variations on two main riffs. Because it’s two minutes and change in length, this works well; it also helps that the two riffs in question are actually pretty decent as far as neo-Kreator aping goes.
The main flaw here is that aping Kreator’s later material when latter-day Kreator is still very much alive and kicking is a good plan if you can match their quality. Vendetta does not, and ends up more often than not sounding like blander versions of things that could’ve been on Violent Revolution or Enemy of God. There’s no shortage of serviceable material here, but at a certain point I just can’t bring myself to care; why go to the mediocre burger joint when the great one is right next door and probably costs less? “Deadly Sin” goes nowhere at a slightly higher than mid-tempo gallop, and each riff sounds like what would happen if you gave a skilled guitarist an hour to play the two aforementioned Kreator records on shuffle, sat him down, and said “okay, play something like that.” Taking the work of your influences and improving upon it is admirable and no small feat; there’s a reason Saint Thomas Aquinas is probably the greatest philosopher the world has and will ever see. What’s not all that great is watering down your famous and well-respected influences (or, in the case of Vendetta’s early career, contemporaries) and making material that reminds the listener of their superior material. “Agency of Liberty” does exactly this, and evokes non-existent memories of a bland outtake from Enemy of God that never was. It sounds plausible in a sense, but upon searching through that record I didn’t find any Kreator material as uninspiring as this.
Uninspiring is as uninspiring does, and as such it’s hard to write anything notably insightful or intriguing about Vendetta’s latest record. The worst part is, it’s not that bad; if someone asked me to show them a bad thrash record, I wouldn’t put this on for them. Perhaps the best illustration is “Nevermind,” The 5th’s closing number. Vocalist Mario Vogel, who spent the preceding thirty-four minutes trying to sound as close to Mille Petrozza as possible, decides to do some clean vocals. They’re not earnestly bad or unconventional enough to work in the “passionate flawed performer” way, nor are they good enough to work in a conventional way. Instead, they sit somewhere in the dreaded middle, easily ignored and easier yet forgotten.