The basic fundamentals of thrash are both a strength and a weakness, especially when leaning on the genre’s past glories comes into the equation. Usually innovation is not in the cards, unless you factor in bands adding other genre elements, such as black, death, tech or prog, Basically, coming equipped with stacks of quality riffs, tight execution, compositional dynamics and a touch of character and individuality is needed to stay afloat in the modern thrash scene. As I recently noted on my Suicidal Angels review, thrash in 2019 has thrown up some strong albums, without delivering anything particularly unique or earth shattering. Yet there’s been enough quality to renew my faith and enthusiastically plunge into another thrash platter, this time courtesy an unfamiliar but apparently long running German act by the name of Repent. Condemned to Fail marks the band’s fourth LP and first since 2012.
Repent lean on elements of their homeland thrash roots and additionally some expected US influences crop-up, such as occasional nods to Testament, Exodus and Vio-lence, to craft a gritty, no-frills barrage of competent old school thrash tunes, stripping away the gloss for a rough and rowdy sound. That element itself is refreshing, but can Repent pen a tune worth a damn to sustain interest in the long haul? Blasting through nine aggressive cuts in 40 minutes, Repent don’t hold back or litter the album with unnecessary bloat, meandering interludes or instruments. Their strong adherence to ripping in and staying focused is one of Condemned to Fail‘s better qualities. Energy levels are cranked and the gas pedal gets a good workout, all the while a streetwise grit and loads of attitude are embedded into each composition.
Positive attributes are certainly apparent in the thrash that Repent concoct. The aforementioned aggressive, gritty approach and delivery bodes well. Song pacing is also on point, with the band avoiding overcooking or messing about with unnecessary filler interludes or half baked instrumentals. The writing isn’t all that remarkable or memorable however, despite uniformly committed performances and an unvarnished sound free of ultra modern production gloss. The terribly named “Wimpreaper”1 boasts some ripping melodies and solos atop a rugged thrash base and is a gem of a tune. Other solid examples of Repent‘s skills include the dynamic, groove-centric gallop of “Mutilation Ritual,” and potent urgency of closer “The Worst is Yet to Come.” Sadly the bulk of the material doesn’t quite match this impact, though nothing ever falls off the rails.
When all is said and done, Condemned to Fail simply lacks the riffs, innovation or catchy writing to stand out beyond mildly entertaining short term value. There’s a degree of clunkiness in some of the song structures and lyrical content, while too often the riffs fall into the in-one-ear-out-the-other category. When Repent hit their stride there are moments of quality, evidenced in the better developed tunes mentioned above, while the rugged bark of Jürgen “Eumel” Aumann is endearing in a somewhat raw yet goofy fashion. Guitarists’ Philip Hath and Martin Heusinger acquit themselves well on a technical level and contribute some respectable riffs and slashing solos, though the well of genuinely catchy or interesting riffs runs dry.
Overall, Repent‘s style has a certain rugged appeal, though after letting the album marinate, what resulted left a mild and forgettable taste, rather than the full bodied flavor kick I was hoping for. Competently played, aggressive thrash, coupled with largely forgettable writing and some goofy lyrics, finds Condemned to Fail falling short, despite some promising flourishes and impressively maintained energy from these unsung veterans.