I recall the day I first saw the cover for Vendetta’s 1987 debut Go And Live… Stay And Die, and I was hooked. It was a fantastic album cover, although one which tended to override the content within. There was no denying that the German thrashers were good, but musically they lacked the edge to compete with the likes of Sodom, Kreator and Destruction.
The band’s last opus – 2011’s Feed The Extermination – was a big disappointment, so I’m grateful that they’ve hit back with a half-decent melodic thrash expression. The 5th is very much the fifth opus by the band still led by original member Klaus “Heiner” Ullrich (bass).
For me, the issue last time round was how watered down the band had become – especially in an age where there has been a major thrash metal resurgence, And so to compete, Feed The Extermination fell well short. However, The 5th is a far more edgier record, particularly in the no frills bark of vocalist Mario Vogel who it seems has finally settled in after the band’s second mergence in 2000. He seems more comfortable alongside the trudging riffs of Frank Heller and newest member Michael “Opf” Opfermann, and so the result here with this new nine track affair is a solid, clean-cut although relatively harmless neat thrash workout.
Opener ‘Fragile’ suggested to me that maybe the band was more comfortable as a mid-paced act – the track is concise, but rarely threatens. Thankfully, though, the pace picks up with ‘Let ’er Rip’; a full-on, cold steel thrash workout, even if there’s a naivety in the lyrics, but this is more than made up for with the avalanche of percussion, bass and riffs. Personally, though, I’d like to hear a snarlier vocal approach.
There’s some nice soloing exhibited throughout, although at times Vendetta still struggle to become more than just a second-rate Teutonic metal act. However, the band now seems fully aware of its past flaws and so bring us such bone-shakers as ‘Deadly Sin’ – a full-bloodied rumbler featuring Vogel’s best vocal performance as he snarls his way in-between those deadly lines of bass and juggernaut guitars.
‘Agency Of Liberty’ builds slowly into a rather barbaric grumble. Again, the song suffers lyrically, but here is a posse clearly trying to cement its place and get back on track, and for that I hail them. Tracks such as the blistering ‘The Prophecy’ may at times feel generic German hammers that we much preferred decades ago, but it still makes for an entertaining listen.
There are of course some sore points; ‘Shame On You’ just didn’t seem to fit in with the other tracks, in spite of its heavy nature, and closer ‘Nevermind’ is a dire acoustic ballad which if anything leaves us begging for one more metallic charge to the finish line. One may also be left cringing with the funky intro to ‘Religion Is A Killer’, but buoyed by its eventual thrashing malice.
Vendetta, however, is a band I’ve come to expect flaws from – it’s in their nature. But finally they seem to have got back on track with a solid record of no frills melodic thrash.