Vendetta – Black as Coal Review

Vendetta has been around for a long-ass time. Surfacing just a few years after German greats like Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction, they knocked out two impressive albums before calling it quits. While the other German thrash bands of the time were branching out into their unique sounds, Vendetta rooted themselves in a Bay Area sound akin to Metallica. And like old-school Metallica, what made those albums great was Klaus Ullrich’s impressive bass presence. Brain Damage, in particular, is a concise record with ripping guitar work, impressive Steve DiGiorgio-level bass work, and the quirky but lovable vocals of Daxx Hömerlein. Fast forward to 2007, and the band is back. Ullrich surrounded himself with a new lineup for that year’s comeback record, Hate. Since then, Vendetta has been cranking out albums, but none have been the comeback we wanted. That said, they have the chops to create something great. Will it be Black as Coal?

Though it might not be fair to compare the band’s last three records to their early days, it’s inevitable. And, Hate, Feed the Extermination, and The 5th are massive letdowns compared to the band’s previous existence. Specifically, Feed the Extermination. That album is utterly lifeless. And not just in comparison to the band’s earlier material but to any band. It’s an actual case of running through the motions to get an album out, no matter how soulless it is. With Black as Coal, the band’s philosophy is Moar is Moar. Instead of the typical thirty-five to forty-minute release, Vendetta delivered an hour-long thrash record. Those have tried before, and many have failed. Against all odds, here we go…

“Shoot to Kill” gets things off the ground with blistering-fast riffage and an Annihilator-esque vocal approach. Already, the bass is present, and the guitars smash their way from one riff to the next—even touching some melody on the back end. As with the last few albums, Mario Vogel’s vocals are one of absolute quirkiness. And there’s no shortage of that in the song’s cringey, paper-thin chorus. But things get a little better with “No Hands but a Gun.” Well, at least in the Exodus-y vibes and Zetro Souza-like vocal approach. The chorus fares a little better, but the guitars and bass really stand out on this track. These old vets can still jam between that short, high-pitching interlude and the solo work. Ullrich also has his way with a nifty bass lead that lends nicely to the crushing riff that follows. Keeping the obsession with guns alive, the follow-up track, “AK-47,” is another Exodus-inspired piece with some old-school Annihilator leads squealing here and there. Not to mention, the rumbling bass does wonders for this song. I’d enjoy it even more if it weren’t for the painful, amateur lyrics.

The best of the bunch are “Pallbearer,” “Cheap Death,” and “Time to Change.” The first has a nice thrashy gallop that quickens as the song unravels. A little more technical than the rest of the tracks, the swirling guitars and wild time changes keep things lively. And the groovy back half, concluding with a bassy heartbeat, is a nice touch. Like “Stranglehold of Terror,” “Cheap Death” leans on some RevolveR-era The Haunted triplet attacks that morph into an asphalt-cracking march. Unlike many of the other songs already discussed, the chorus is what makes this song. It lends well to the song’s mood and sticks with you well after the track concludes. “Time to Change” tears through an old-school trash intro that gives way to a slick, staccato verse. The chorus is nothing to write home about 1 but that back-half Machine Head-esque guitar harmonization is tasty.

As it stands, I rather enjoy Black as Coal. I came into this review expecting to loathe this new record. While it’s far too long, and the lyrics feel like a pissed-off eight-year-old wrote them, there are so many nooks and crannies. It’s still nothing like the band’s prime, but we will never get that back. Instead, Vogel continues to do his thing, combining various vocal approaches that range from Zetro Souza to Dave Padden. Though many of you will cringe at his unique vocal style, at least they are mixed further back than The 5th. Also, this might be the most energy I’ve heard from the band since Brain Damage. From the solos to the technical guitar play, every song leaves you dizzy from all their intricacies. While many of the choruses fall flat and some filler exists, the track arrangement ensures you get a banger in the next track. I never thought I’d return to this band, but I’ll be spinning Black as Coal on and off for the rest of the year.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 14th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. Given that it’s just the song title on repeat.
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