Can you imagine having a hangover every day for 30 years straight? If Tankard live up to their brew-soaked legacy at all, they probably aren’t imagining it. They’re living it. Now, German thrash is a revered branch of the metal tree so you know the names. If there was a “Big Four” of Teutonic thrash, they’d be Kreator, Sodom and Destruction. No, my math isn’t off and no, I’m not a dozen beers in and forgot how to count. The fourth position would be up for grabs for a bevy of second and third tier bands like Darkness, Exumer, Deathrow, Iron Angel, Paradox… the list goes on. Good ‘ol Tankard is on that list. There isn’t very much setting these lesser acts apart either. I’m familiar with most of the Germanic thrash armada and aside from Paradox‘s Heresy, I’ve yet to come across an album by a lower tier band that grabbed me from start to finish. I’m not as familiar with Tankard as many of their contemporaries, but I went into R.I.B. expecting pretty much exactly what I found.
R.I.B. starts off in fine fashion with “War Cry.” A melodic clean guitar introduction slides right into a frantic riff and screaming vocals, starting off on a high note that, sadly, isn’t reached again. “Fooled By Your Guts” takes things down a notch, but still maintains a level of ferocity that much of the rest of the album lacks. After the next handful of songs come pouring out, it becomes apparent that Tankard still suffer from the same affliction as many of their peers – the occasional memorable song broken up by lots of stylistically repetitive and interchangeable parts and, every once in a while, a song like “No One Hit Wonder” that stands out by being cringe-inducing.
“Hope Can’t Die” is as close as they get to a ballad, and while the lyrics about a fallen friend touch some Dean Markley Blue Steel heartstrings, it really doesn’t work. As tiresome as the goofy songs Tankard are known for can sometimes be, they fall even flatter when they stray from that formula. “Enemy of Order,” for example, is a musical step up from some of the flatter tracks on R.I.B. but lyrically, while more topical than their standard fare (ranting about government intrusions into privacy and surveillance), it hits a brick wall like a drunk driver with the line, “Facebook is Tracebook, Google and Apple too. Structures I believed in turned out to be unsecure.”
The production is clean and clear. The bass is audible throughout, though the guitars could use a little more crunchy bottom end. R.I.B. is well-recorded but in need of more grit and grime like the band had on their debut, Zombie Attack. The performances are fine. Everyone in the band can play, but like a master chef making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s the ingredients that hold the whole dish back. On the whole, the song writing just isn’t there.
Had I been a Tankard fan since day one, I might have rode this train right to current day, like I did with Manowar until their recent re-recordings and that last poo pile of an album cast even me out of Valhalla. I get why people are Tankard fans, but listening to R.I.B. with my now ancient, seasoned ears doesn’t do much more than provide the occasional moment of fist pumping while the rest slides by like spilled beer down the runner of a dirty old bar. I can imagine them being a blast live, with all that beer-drenched enthusiasm feeding the crowd and I while I respect Tankard for their longevity, the more I listen the more I find myself wishing I liked R.I.B. a lot more than I do.
Bands like Overkill and Death Angel have been around as long and while they’ve certainly had a few ups and downs, have released albums in the last year as strong, or stronger, than anything they’ve ever done. When comparing R.I.B. to the new Overkill opus, our Chief Assistant Reviewer Supreme, Steel Druhm, summed this up so well I wish I’d said it myself: “Yeah, it’s definitely a case of one band aging like fine wine and another band aging like beer.” If you’re a young basher, Tankard might do it for you, but if you’re a crusty old thrash metal bastard like I am, this has been done before and much better.