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Tankard: Chemical invasion

Tankard: Chemical invasion

21/06/12  ||  Habakuk

Introduction

It’s easy to deem Tankard a hit-and-miss affair when looking at
their back catalogue as a whole. Luckily, before we all downloaded
“discogs”, there was this concept of listening to individual albums. Now
if you try that approach with the album at hand, you might just find
out why people still at least kept having an opinion on the band’s
proceedings instead of just letting them fade into modern thrash
Nirvana. Or why Tankard was once considered a part of Germany’s “Big
Four”. Being the identifying album for Tankard both musically and
lyrically and a big step forward from the debut in terms of the maturity of their sound, “Chemical Invasion” definitely is a thrash classic.

Songwriting

8. Thanks to the release of a (great, I might add)
Gang Green cover version on their sophomore release, Tankard is the only
band I know with two recorded songs of the same name – “Alcohol”.
Contrary to this nod to punk, the rest of the material might not be
named more creatively (“Puke”), but definitely is a lot more metal in
structure. Tankard however had their own approach to thrash, steering
clear from other contenders’ “classic” chugging e-string break
proceedings. The band experiment with concepts from a 57-seconds smasher
to a 7-minutes-plus instrumental, with lots of more “conventional”
songs in between that alternate from all-out speed topped off with over
the top soloing, to more controlled rhythmic parts. A high point of what
this band was capable of is the title track containing everything from a
boozy intro build-up to the uniquely crafted, creative verse riffing
and a bad ass sing-along chorus. Some songs turned out a bit long, but
if all trademark elements are present, it all stays enjoyable – I just
usually skip the instrumental.

Production

7. Without looking it up, I’d say this is a Harris
Johns production, just because every Noise record of the era had that.
The album sports a pretty transparent overall sound where bass (!),
drums and guitars are weighted equally and form a solid base for
Geremiah’s vocals, which have just the right volume. With both guitars
having a similar garage-y tone, you can’t really tell them apart from
each other (except for when two solos are in immediate contrast) but is
that a problem? Hardly. Yes, the guitars are thin, but the bass makes up
for it – an early Tankard trademark that their recent works with
shinier, modern production just can’t hold a candle to. Downside: The
drums are just way too flimsy.

Guitars

9. Contrary to the still sometimes prevalent
impression of Tankard as a bunch of drunk fucks messing around in a
Frankfurt rehearsal room, the double guitar barrage on “Chemical
Invasion” has most definitely been recorded in a rather sober state. How
do I know? The riffs are just way too detailed for Katzmann &
Bulgaropoulus just hammering them in during one beer-filled take. It’s
almost like they were expecting some kind of reward if only they crammed
more notes into their playing. Hence, this is miles away from the
standard one note thrash fare many a classic band can be heard
spreading: A lot of the riffs here are little fretboard runs eager to
keep up with the picking hands’ ferocious pace. Don’t get me wrong, the
playing is too straightforward to be called “technical”, but the guys
were definitely interpreting “extremity” not just as speed, but rather
speed + a lot of different notes. “Cool”, you think, “but is it good?”
– Sure thing it is. Over their scientific morning debates about
extremity analysis, a lot of second tier bands forgot to make their
riffs engaging and memorable, but Tankard in their prime were no second
tier band. They sure as hell delivered the goods on this album. So
despite the rather thin guitar sound, you’ll definitely get that I have to play air guitar & headbang
urge expected of a good thrash album from songs like “Chemical
Invasion”, “Don’t Panic”, “Total Addiction” or almost every other one of
them.

Vocals

8.5. Although he has a rather high pitch, young
Andreas “Gerre” Geremia avoids the annoyance pit where Sean Kilkenny,
John Connelly and the dude from Hirax hold their daily cringe contest.
He definitely gets my vote as a great thrash singer, as he sounds
frantic, angry and energetic at high speed. Plus, he has worked on his
rudimentary english from the debut more than the one year pause before
this album might suggest. And as if the band wanted to prove his worth,
they put in a boring, somewhat soulless instrumental just before the
title track. Gerre definitely embodies Tankard’s personality, and I
couldn’t think of any other singer on this album.

Bass

8. Frank Thorwarth’s last name minus the “h“s
actually tranlates to “goalkeeper”, and like a good goalie he ensures
that the other players can do their thing. Thorwarth seems to feel
pretty comfortable in that role and thus mainly adds low-end to the
guitars by following their patterns way closer than it would be needed.
Given the speed of the riffs, that is actually a lot more than what many
a thrash bassist used to deliver. Positive effects are that he can be
made out clearly, and no basenotes boredom detracts from the riffing at
hand. Good job.

Drums

6. Not exactly blessed with an especially punchy or
articulate sound, Oliver Werner does his best to keep energy levels
high, and accordingly acts as the album’s Duracell thrash rabbit. Big on
endurance and speed, low on impact. At least it’s not really his fault.

Lyrics

7. Looking at the basic language and humor, it
might seem a little weird to see how much better (though still not
Pulitzer worthy) the lyrics have become compared to the songs on “Zombie
attack”. Given that those could already be found on the earlier demos,
it starts to make a little more sense. Topically, Tankard apparently had
by 1987 discovered the crowd-pleasing function of their earlier
alcohol-related lyrics. Hence, they shifted the non-existent focus from
the debut album towards them almost completely. So, “Chemical invasion”
features five songs dealing with alcohol and various related effects,
one instrumental called “For a thousand beers”, an intro that’s
basically a burp, and one song calling the listener to step away from
drugs and “drink some beer and mosh” instead (believe it or not, Gerre
is a social worker for drug addicts). The remaining two cover a) not
selling out and b) AIDS, nuclear energy, war, imperialism & acid rain. Good thing they had the checklist at hand.

Cover art

8.5 Well, as the cover just mirrors the lyrics for
the title track, it is pretty brilliant (though not the prettiest
painting I’ve seen). It takes the “classic 80s thrash” title (combine
adjective and noun, reference war, violence, ecology and/or technology)
and twists it into the most unexpected, but then again typical direction
for Tankard. “Chemical invasion” in this case is the nutty professor
mixing some chemicals in his secret lab into a beer mug.

Logo

3. No matter what’s on the cover, Tankard consistently used their shitty logo from the eighties until today.

Booklet

7. Another cheap Sanctuary /Universal re-release.
Didn’t expect much except for lyrics, but the band picture and old live
show posters (“Local Crew Security”, Deathrow and Assassin supporting,
Tankard headlining a gig opened up by Blind Guardian at 5pm) actually
made me enjoy it a little.

Overall and ending rant

While it is no “Agent Orange” or “Coma of souls”, this album shows a
very distinct take on the genre and shouldn’t be missed by German
Thrash lovers. The reason why I score it lower than the band’s debut –
though postulating its greater maturity – is just that I miss the
anarchic flair which surrounded “Zombie attack” a little, but that
shouldn’t detract you. If you only want to buy one Tankard album, this
is probably it.

8

  • Information
  • Released: 1987
  • Label: Noise Records
  • Website: Tankard MySpace
  • Band
  • Andreas “Gerre” Geremia: vocals
  • Andy Bulgaropoulus: guitars
  • Axel Katzmann: guitars
  • Frank Thorwarth: bass
  • Oliver Werner: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Intro
  • 02. Total addiction
  • 03. Tantrum
  • 04. Don’t panic
  • 05. Puke
  • 06. For a thousand beers
  • 07. Chemical invasion
  • 08. Farewell to a slut
  • 09. Traitor
  • 10. Alcohol (Gang Green cover)
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This entry was posted on June 29, 2014 by in Class6(66).
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