Sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes we get what we deserve. Here I am, trudging towards the end of the year, relying on headmistress Madam X to dole out the review rewards and punishments as she sees fit—except for this week. This week, she forgot about little old me, and what did I see lurking in the promo bin? Tank. How did Steel Druhm, my cohort in late-middle-age, not grab this? Both of us remember the original Tank from way back in the early 80s, with their punk/proto take on the whole NWOBHM movement briefly endearing them to many. No, they didn’t really make a lasting impression before collapsing—although their debut, Filth Hounds of Hades, had enough Motörhead attitude (and production) to wilt your rosebushes. But their legacy is such that new albums should be reviewed, for better or worse.
For those of you still wet behind the ears, there are two Tank bands these days. One band features members Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans, and the other consists of only Algy Ward—same name, same logo. Sturmpanzer is an Algy Ward recording. The Tucker/Evans version of Tank has embraced modern writing and production while still paying homage to their NWOBHM origins, whereas the Ward version, well, seems to eschew everything that would possibly make an album good. Ward does literally everything himself on Sturmpanzer, and considering the guy has such bad tinnitus that he can’t even play his bass through an amp anymore, this is the first of uncountable horrible decisions. I’ll get to the songs in a minute, but when an album sounds like this (which in this millennium has been never), one needs to address the recording atrocities up front.
I don’t swear often, but I have no idea what the fuck was going through Ward’s head when he decided it was a good idea to release this album. It makes Hellhammer’s Apocalyptic Raids sound like it was produced by Quincy Jones. Imagine going to a gig in a dark pub, and recording the show on your phone. Then go home, copy it to cassette. Play the cassette about three hundred times, until it’s beyond worn out, and then drop it into your Walkman. Hit the Walkman with a hammer several times to knock the playback head out of alignment. Play the cassette back through that, and you have Sturmpanzer.1 I was hoping it was just a bad download, but no, these songs sound just as horrible on iTunes. Luckily for all of you, that’s the only place I’ve found it at all, so we don’t have a link here for me to share my suffering.
Anyhow, we’ve established that Mr. Ward has gone ahead and gifted us with the worst-sounding record of modern times. What about the actual songs? Well, with my significant other and four friends holding me back from thrusting a power drill through my ears, thus forcing me to play this abomination multiple times, I can safely report that the songs are nearly as bad—and I’m sure Ward playing all instruments doesn’t help. There are glimmers of hope—within the murk of this album I can hear decent riffs in “Living in Fear of…” and “The Last Soldier,” but that’s as far as my praise extends. The rest of the songs—twelve of them, at a torturous 57 minutes—are half-assed train wrecks, lazily written, poorly executed, and featuring throwaway lyrics. “Lianne’s Crying” is a song about domestic abuse, but the lyrics torpedo the intent. “Lianne has a broken nose, walked into the door again I s’pose.” Oh my god. And in “No More War” Ward gargles about the “United States of Exxon.” Who the hell sings songs about Exxon anymore?
Judging from what I’ve been able to glean online about Sturmpanzer, and Ward’s efforts to release it, there have been many delays, dating back at least three years. Algy Ward is certainly the most memorable member of the original Tank he was the singer and founder, after all—and it would please me to wax eloquently about this album. But none of that matters, because this is the most fucking horrible-sounding album I’ve had the displeasure of listening to since 1984. Sadly for us, but more sadly for Ward, this version of Tank took on one battle too many.2