Pessimist – Holdout Review

Pessimist. How about that for a band name in the year of our demise that is 2020? While originally slated to cover some German power metal this week in the form of Goblins Blade, I handed that apostropheless, potential 4.0 off to Huck so I could cover some German thrash with a grouchy name. I don’t like to brag, but it’s not uncommon for my colleagues to refer to me as “the heir apparent to Happy Metal Guy,” so when I saw that my legendary forebearer had covered Pessimist’s previous release, Death From Above,” way back in 2013, I knew I had to drop what I was doing and carry that Happy Metal Torch™ onward. Let’s see if 2020’s Holdout can make me go all White Wizzard up in here.1

After some introductory battle sound effects, opening single “Landsknecht” wastes no time in displaying the mighty thrash war machine of Pessimist. Guitarists Murphy Lange and Eric Tobian deploy an army’s worth of riffs onto the battlefield, drummer Jan Hagin unleashes a constant barrage of rhythmic artillery, and vocalist Michael “TZ” Schweitzer brings his armor-piercing Mille Petrozza delivery to the fight, and it all combines to help the band’s offensive hit with the impact of mid-to-late Kreator. “Landsknecht” is a great sampler platter of the many thrash facets (thrashcets?) that Pessimist brings to the table: you’ll hear the furious assault of Sodom, the melodicism of Testament, and some slow-churning groove ala Machine Head or Slayer.

The Kreator reference holds up for much of Holdout, but the way Pessimist infuses their base sound with those other influences makes for a diverse listen — a godsend considering the album’s nearly hour-long length. “Roaring Thunder” and “Agony” are the two short barn burners, and they stand up well next to the more epic cuts like the title track and closer “7-28.” The latter surpasses eleven minutes as it covers the Battle of the Somme, and while the somewhat underwhelming chorus limits its impact, it still incorporates enough great ideas — including a blisteringly awesome blackened outro — to justify its length. “Mountain of Death” might contain the most furious legato thrash intro since “The Persecuted Won’t Forget,” and “The King of Slaughter” sounds like Slayer sat down with Testament to write a grooving epic. Speaking of groove, “Death Awaits” veers into Lamb of God territory with TZ throwing some Randy Blythe snarls into the mix.

Not everything works for Pessimist on Holdout. There are some cheesy hardcore shouts on the otherwise killer “Kill & Become” that lessen its impact, and the aforementioned chorus from “7-28” sounds like something akin to post-hardcore, and it just lands flat to my ears. The length is certainly an issue, and I can’t help but think that if Holdout clocked in around the 40 – 45 minute range, we’d be looking at a different score below. Lange and Tobian win MVP honors, as their varied and expertly executed riffs kept me engaged through each long listen and had my head constantly banging. It helps that the guitar sound is absolutely deadly, but while I love Hagin’s performance, it feels like the drums are quite loud in the mix. Their are some true winners here, with “Landsknecht,” “Roaring Thunder,” “Holdout,” “The King of Slaughter,” and the vast majority of “7-28.”

Well, it’s not a Happy Metal Guy 5.0, but Holdout is a very solid 3.0. Some 3.0s are just good solid records, but this is the sort of 3.0 that displays enormous potential with amazing highs. It’s an album that could have easily climbed the scoring scale with some pruning to the runtime and a few changes here and there. I don’t have a crystaI ball, but I think these guys have a true thrashterpiece in their future. I guess you could say that Pessimist has made an optimist out of me.2

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: MDD Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: June 26th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. It had better not. – Steel
  2. Holdeneye evades your thrown tomatoes and lives to write another day.
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