Black As Coal
Review by Felix on July 16, 2023.
Schweinfurt is no nice town. Before evil Adolf’s war, it was the centre of the German ball-bearing industry and so, among other things, it had to suffer a lot from the allied air attacks. After the deadly inferno was over, Schweinfurt was in ruins and if you visit it today, you will see that nobody had a good idea how to rebuild the city. Surprisingly or maybe just logically, we find the same lack of ideas in the music of Schweinfurt’s most “famous” thrash export, Vendetta.
But let me start with another aspect. Vendetta released two albums during the Teutonic thrash metal explosion. I don’t like them very much, but let the truth be told, other people do so. Either way, the configuration of Vendetta today has only one connection to the original band. The bass player is still the one of the eighties. The other guys have occupied the name and I guess it would be more honest to call yourself “Vendetta II”, “Blood Revenge” or maybe “STM” for Schweinfurt’s Thrash Musicians or whatever. On the other hand, I admit that it makes sense that they still operate under the old banner. The material still lacks coherence – exactly like it did in the eighties (in my humble opinion).
Just have a look at the mid-paced title track in the centre of the album. It starts with a good, bone-dry riff and strong percussive elements. The voice also appears powerful, even the slightly melodic bridge has its charm. But the awkward melody in the chorus and the weak polyphonic singing, in particular at the end of the song, destroy the good approaches to a certain extent. This dilemma is no isolated case. Vendetta know the stylistic devices, the genre aesthetics (rasping guitars are omnipresent) and the general building blocks of thrash and they offer some robust parts. But they fail to successfully put the pieces together. Not always, but in a remarkable number of cases. Their own song’s name 'No Hands But A Gun' is emblematic for their own situation.
Strong tracks? The solos of 'Death Means Relief' are too long and the funky bass at the beginning tastes acidic, but it is still a cool number. 'Shoot To Kill' houses some straight sequences that create a certain intensity (by the way, the song and the vocals remain me of the faster tracks of Risk). Its characteristic chorus also hits the mark. Unfortunately there are also songs like 'AK-47' that give me absolutely nothing in view of their expressionless riffs and their non-exciting configuration. 'Stranglehold Of Terror' is better due to its fantastic, dense “Run from terror / Stop the fighting…” part, but already the following bridge sounds terrible and uninspired. By the way, its socio-critical lyrics are a little bit one-sided. But of course it makes things easier to think exclusively in black or white.
Vendetta remains a mystery to me. I appreciate their stamina, but bands that return after 20 years with an album that fails to reach the 30 minute mark or bands that call their fifth album “The 5th” are suspicious to me. However, let’s be fair: Black As Coal can rely on a powerful, straight-in-your-face production (with an audible bass!) and it reflects the ambitions of the band. Yet it also mirrors the deficiencies in terms of songwriting. Almost every song would have benefited from a shorter playtime and better interconnected individual parts. And so Vendetta are like their home town. Both cannot conceal their shortcomings.
Rating: 5.6 out of 1099