Friday, September 21, 2012

Tankard - A Girl Called Cerveza (2012)

How would you like to wake up next to that? In case the cover art wasn’t quite indicative enough, another glorious, inherently fun, endearingly drunk day has dawned. Yes, the inebriated adventures of Tankard continue in this, their 16th (!) album, A Girl Called Cerveza, as Gerre and company charismatically pound out another strong showing of tight, groovy thrash, an audible shot of rye to chase the lingering taste of technical wankery, soulless wigger-stomp deathcore, flower power, and whatever else is inevitably clogging up the arteries of the metal world of late. Make no mistake, Tankard have once again come to thrash, showing up to the party with a smile and a couple cold 30-racks, inciting all around them to party ever harder. Seriously, if the heartwarming antics of the title track don’t lighten your mood, you need to stop taking yourself (and life) so seriously. That’s just all there is to it.

Tankard have long been a favorite of mine, eclipsing even Sodom to stand with the likes of Kreator and Destruction as a defining band in my personal trifecta of Teutonic thrash. Like seemingly every potent 80’s act, their mid-era efforts were sometimes lacking, but unlike the terrifying abortions loosed on the world by many other popular acts, that’s all they were, never dipping beyond mediocrity. They also never compromised integrity to try to fit in with the times, like Slayer’s nu-metal shit-heap Diabolus in Musica, Metallica’s controversial Black Album, Metallica’s Creed-stained ‘Load’ of country metal, or Metallica’s… oh, you get it. Lately, though, the band have stepped up their game with some very strong releases (Beauty and the Beer being priority), a trend of solidity that continues with A Girl Called Cerveza, an unyieldingly fun romp through scenarios of cheeky alcoholism and the a strong set of riffing ideas.

While it’s a given that Tankard will never attain the level of belligerent mayhem of their first 3 defining albums, it seems they understand that, and that’s not the goal here, to their absolute credit. Indeed, the band’s sound continues to be chunkier and more relaxed than the almost punk-tinged, youthful fury of yesteryear, taught and fraught with a comfortable refinement. This maturation (if one could ever really call Tankard mature) in no way dulls the blade the band wield like a broken ale bottle, and their continued charisma is not only amazing for a band of their longevity, but serves to batter the absolute fuck out of the younger bands trying to make a name for themselves with this style (Municipal Waste, anyone?).

A Girl Called Cerveza, despite a lot of variety in theme, remains first and foremost a thrash album, setting up 10 strong tracks framed around Andy’s riffing. The general sound is not one that will surprise, as it adheres pretty closely to the archetypes of thrash, and the driving simplicity that has been a hallmark of the band, but it works well within these boundaries, tastefully integrating a few new subtle influences, with no cause to champion beyond getting you to pound that beer and bang that head. Sure, the tempo of the delivery varies, and there are some awesome leads and solos, but the consistency is one of fast-paced, hair-whipping frenzy, and it’s balanced enough with mid-paced grooving so as to ever feel repetitive. While the album’s tonal disposition is pretty much in constant thrash mode, Tankard’s lyrics are not solely centered on the finer things in life, a practice that has helped keep them from feeling like self-parody as the years roll on.

Opener Rapid Fire is a very memorable, high-energy number that pertains to the trappings of entitlement, power, and nationalism, with a ridiculously infectious chorus. The titular second song is also addictive, and is about a girl that tricks Gerre and steals all his beer. That bitch! Witchhunt 2.0 is a rallying cry against cyber-bullying, of all things, and there’s even a duet track with Doro entitled The Metal Lady Boy…. I’ll leave the thematic content to your imagination on that one; suffice to say, what happens in Bangkok, you better damn well hope stays in Bangkok. Other highlights include Son of a Fridge (…), which starts out in the Tankard equivalent of a slow Danzig song, though it picks up pretty quick, the self-affirming mosher Not One Day Dead, and raging closer Running On Fumes, a portrait of apocalyptic doom… or, rather, a show without beer. But what’s the difference, really? I enjoyed all the songs on A Girl Named Cerveza, as they all feel quite distinct without betraying the overall light-hearted tone, and there are even some protruding elements of more traditional heavy/power metal in some of the riffs, adding even more epic sheen to the bursts of melody.

I really love Tankard, these days more than most, and this album is quite high on my playlist, as there’s been a dearth of truly great thrash this year (excepting Testament, Savage Messiah, Kreator, and Overkill). I don’t feel like it’s quite strong enough to be counted among their very best, but it’s certainly standing tall on the second tier, and with Tankard, that equates to head and shoulders above most other thrash bands, new or old. They don’t seem to have lost an ounce of their boisterous spirit over the years, and Gerre continues to be one of the most loveable front men of all time, with a unique delivery and a vibrant personality.

There’s more than enough carousing old-school charm here to please the more seasoned among you, while the tight instrumentation, fresh melodic influences, and perfect, crisp production should help snare the younger crowd. Most importantly, this does not sound like an old band, not at all, such is the level of pulsing, infectious energy, drunkenly but gracefully bobbing along a tightrope of true 80’s spirit and modern songwriting sensibilities. Fans of the band will eat this one up, and for good reason, and I heartily recommend anyone who has not yet experienced the inebriated charm of these Germans to do so immediately, particularly the aspiring thrashers among you, as this band has a HUGE body of quality work that just begs to be explored. A Girl Called Cerveza is a fun, memorable statement from a band that, by all rights, should have died of liver failure years ago. Seeing as they’re still around, though, and going strong, you literally have no excuse. So pick this up along with a case of your favorite suds, press play, open drink, and marvel at how life seems to get instantly better.

8.5 / 10 - Aged in Oak, Going for Gold