HOLY MOSES ”Agony of Death”

Holy Moses- Agony of Death -Germany – 2008- SPV/Wacken Records

Emerging from a din of explosions and air raid sirens, the latest from Germany’s Holy Moses is hands down 2008’s most punishing Thrash Metal exercise (next to Testament’s “The Formation of Damnation” that is). Since the whole album eschews the complex stuff in favor of a meat n’ bones Thrash sound, perhaps the single endearing quality found on “Agony of Death” is the seconds-long ambience lent to a handful of songs by Axel Rudi Pell keyboardist Ferdi Doemberg. But even this doesn’t smoothen the band’s rough edges as Holy Moses go about their trade only 30-year veterans of the German scene know how: pummeling drums from Sodom’s Guido “Atomic” Richter; a guitar tandem whose joint efforts sounds like dueling chainsaws; and Ms. Sabina Classen’s beastly howls. Overshadowed as a pioneer in female extreme metal singing by the better-known Angela Gossow, Ms. Classen’s throat proves the most lethal weapon in the Holy Moses arsenal.

Album opener “Imagination” has a cool start that shifts to a frenzied tempo at the drop of an eyelash. This early on, Holy Moses already offers both new and old fans (however small this demographic may be) a taste of things to come. Despite the epic flavor of a few noodly guitar solos, “Agony of Death” is predominantly an hour-long exercise in face melting tempos that never betrays just how freakin’ old these Krauts are. On a rare display of their melodic side, smoking leads take center stage at “World in Darkness,” but the band quickly returns to business-as-usual for the vicious “Pseudohalluzination.” Among the album’s numerous cameos from the ranks of Power, Death, and Thrash Metal, the most prominent (again-next to Destruction’s Schmier) is Metalium’s Henning Basse on “Schizophrenia,” whose ear-piercing vocals can have him mistaken for Ripper Owens.

Excuse the cheese, but “Dissociative Disorder” brings home the pain, being the kind of song that can trigger riots inside a packed club while Holy Moses deliver its bits and pieces with relish. A riff extravaganza from the band’s trusty twin guitar duo prevails on the rest of the songs except for the closing “Through Shattered Minds/Agony of Death,” which has enough sense to finish using an orchestra’s horns and violins. Not the most original Thrash record, but given the band’s seniority, “Agony of Death” easily puts most like-minded practitioners to shame. For their twelfth album, the indomitable Holy Moses gives the world a Thrash Metal textbook bursting at the seams with brutality.

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