As the head honcho at Unchain the Underground, I had to review all the crap no one else wanted. As one of a handful of butt honchos at AMG, I have the luxury of picking and choosing what to review (aside from the occasional metalcore lashing from the Powers That Should Not Be). In these days of the digital drop, music is all the more accessible so I tend to gravitate towards what I want to hear, or at least what I think I will be relatively adept at reviewing. Doing so, it is easy to fall into a critical rut. To step out of my comfort zone, I chose Shotgun Justice randomly without knowing anything about them or their sound, the only connection being they shared their moniker with one of my favorite thrash metal albums (see the Razor retrospective Druhm and I shat out in 2014). Do these Krauts live up to that thrashtastic standard?
I can answer that in three ways by quoting a grade school aged student I once overheard in the Peekskill Public Library: “English, ‘No.’ Spanish, ‘El no-o,’ and ghetto, ‘Hell no!'” According to their bio, on State Of Desolation, their debut full length in a baker’s dozen years of existence, Shotgun Justice are going for “great and diversified oldschool Heavy Metal,” but, like Ray Charles at a turkey shoot, they miss the mark by a mile.
Perhaps the best thing about the whole proceeding the great ESL in their bio, “The band’s critical and and provoking lyrics appear as straight as their music. In addition, the great voice of singer Marco, which has been formed by years of classical education, enriches the band’s sound.” Classical education in what? Tapestry-making? Half the time he sounds like the greased up naked deaf guy from Family Guy. The lyrics are also often equally as unintentionally funny, like in “Blessed With Fire,” a nauseous song, shitting the bed somewhere between a power ballad and a bowl of poop: “We are blessed with the fire that is running through our veins. My bleeding ears were the price to pay but still we shall extend. We are blessed with the fire that is running through our veins. It’s some kind of a fuel for us with a cold beer in my hand.” My ears bleed around five minutes in when a special guest female vocalist warbles in with a piercing falsetto like a bit drill to the temple. Being tone deaf makes someone “special,” but that doesn’t mean you let her sing on your album. The breakdown about 3:15 into the song is awkward and sounds like a garage band that isn’t quite at garage level yet and practice under a bridge instead.
The musicians in Shotgun Justice are adept at sounding amateurish and making odd choices. Bizarre percussion in the middle of “Forsaken” comes out of nowhere like a bukakke blast and it sounds like it is being played by a novice middle school band member. “Harvest the Storm” starts off like Iron Maiden covered by the International Epileptic Orchestra, but picks up to be one of the better and heavier songs on the album with Marco going for a guttural grunt for most of the duration, much to my ears’ relief. More of that would make for less, “Ow, my freakin’ ears!” Todd Flanders moments, perhaps the most egregious of which being the return of the “special guest” to schizer all over “Nemesis (A Global Killer).”
Eight minutes shy of a full hour to endure, everything on State Of Desolation could do with a lot of self-editing. I suppose this may wet someone’s whistle out there but mine is dry as an 80 year old cooch. In 2016, Shotgun Justice released an album that, like Savage Steel‘s 1987 Begins With A Nightmare or Intrinsic‘s self-titled debut of the same year, are remembered by many as classics, but when you go back and listen to them with modern ears you wonder, “What the fuck was I thinking?” While both of those bands went on to much better things, for a modern day band that has been at the game for 13 years, State Of Desolation borders on embarrassing and while I don’t jump at the chance to chastise a band, even though we are Angry here at AMG, our job is to be honest and unmerciful, and this one is like having a tooth pulled. If it was close to three decades ago, State of Desolation might be tolerable but this is 2016 and playing “oldschool” metal doesn’t mean playing it like you’re 15 and in your mother’s basement.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Kernkraftritter Records
Websites: shotgunjusticegermany.bandcamp.com | shotgunjustice.de | facebook.com/shotgunjusticegermany
Released Worldwide: January 8th, 2016