Tankard – Pavlov’s Dawgs Review

I was overjoyed when Tankard asked me to pose for this lovely album art. Metal fuels my mind, and beer fuels my body; it’s a match made in heaven. Tankard realized this before I was born. These inebriated Germans have been around since the early days of German thrash, and their 1986 debut was released within months of Sodom’s Obsessed by Cruelty, Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill, and Destruction’s Eternal Devastation. Tankard’s eighteenth studio album Pavlov’s Dawgs blends the socially conscious vitriol of their thrash countrymen with jovial songs about lockdown hobbies and beer. Since our collective opinion of Tankard has been mediocre at best, I sat down to listen to Pavlov’s Dawgs with a six-pack and middling expectations.

Tankard’s earlier work reminded me of Municipal Waste minus the hardcore influences. Part of this is a result of the beer-soaked politics in the lyrics, but Tankard’s musical approach was similarly straightforward as well. Simple but frantic thrash riffs mingled with shouted vocals, aiming for a good time without pressing into new territory. Pavlov’s Dawgs is similar, but Tankard’s music is less intense than it used to be. The riffs are slower, the shouts have turned into sung vocals, and the solos have a greater dose of melody with whiffs of Skeletonwitch. Regardless, Pavlov’s Dawgs is mostly what you’d expect: a decent serving of thrash that’s a ton of charming fun, albeit inconsistent.

Tankard’s style sometimes struggles to escape monotony. Thrash thrives on oomph, and the album’s lower-energy sections often don’t hold my attention. Parts of tracks like “On the Day I Die” and “Veins of Terra” sound lifeless by relying on bland riffs played at a sluggish pace. This problem is compounded by repetition and bloat. Tankard has struggled with overlong songs in the past, and Pavlov’s Dawgs is no exception. Seven of the ten tracks push past five minutes, and otherwise-solid verses and riffs often repeat one too many times for my enjoyment. “Metal Cash Machine” is a prime example, extending past six minutes without enough content to justify its length. It’s no coincidence that the two shortest songs “Lockdown Forever” and “Diary of a Nihilist” are the punchiest. Tankard’s simple brand of thrash works best in small doses, and the album’s 55 minutes are difficult to focus on by the end. Pavlov’s Dawgs would fare better if it were faster and leaner.

Still, when Pavlov’s Dawgs rocks, it rocks. Forty years into their career, Tankard still writes irresistible choruses. Highlights include the ode to beer “Pavlov’s Dawg,” the rhythmic shouts of “Beerbarians,” and the beautiful but threatening “Dark Self Intruder,” but every single chorus on the record makes me want to sing along. And although Pavlov’s Dawgs isn’t uniformly strong, Tankard hasn’t forgotten how to thrash hard. The fantastic “Lockdown Forever” both wows me with its frenetic main melody and makes me laugh with its lyrics every time, while “Diary of a Nihilist” cycles through an onslaught of pounding riffs that fit together seamlessly. Even the longer tracks have moments of greatness, like the crushing main riff of Tankard’s climate change elegy “Veins of Terra.” These highlights showcase thrash as it should be, exuding both thoughtful creativity and youthful exuberance.

Despite its flaws, Tankard’s latest slab of thrash puts a grin on my face every time I listen to it. While researching Pavlov’s Dawgs, I came across some snippets of the album that I accidentally played at 2x speed. They were unironically spectacular. Small changes can go a long way, and I wish Tankard had injected more power, speed, and restraint into their song-writing. These issues make it difficult for the record to stack up against either Tankard’s older work or the better thrash I’ve heard this year. But I’d be lying if I said Pavlov’s Dawgs isn’t fun and endearing as all hell. The album has left me with a burning desire to grab a beer with Frank, Olaf, Andi, and Gerre. I hope it does the same for you.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192kbps mp3
Label: Reaper Entertainment
Websites: tankard.info | facebook.com/tankardofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2022

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