Accuser – The Forlorn Divide (Metal Blade)Tuesday, 23rd February 2016
Chances are most North American thrash followers may glance at this German band who’ve been around in one form or another since 1986 and know the name, but never take in any albums due to a lack of proper distribution through their smaller label affiliations. Moving up from their own Red Shift imprint to Metal Blade will make a noticeable difference, as The Forlorn Divide is their 11th studio record – and my third exposure after 1994’s Reflections and their last album 2013’s Diabolic. Only vocalist/rhythm guitarist Frank Thoms remains from those early years – although drummer Olli Fechner and bassist Frank Kimpel have been around Frank for over a decade between the 2000’s Scartribe name/style shift and latest Accuser reincarnation, while gaining their latest lead axe man Dennis Rybakowski in 2014.
Now that we’ve got the background story clear, what you’ll hear through these 10 tracks is an ideal study of speedier techno-thrash with proper mid-tempo groove transitions and a lot of fiery triplet salvos. When the axes and drumming lock into a heads down riff made for ultimate neck strain such as the main component of “Unreal Perception”, it’s hair raising stuff, the kind that put Destruction and Sepultura near the top in their prime. Frank Kimpel’s low thump often provides a third supplementary melodic element depending on the passage at hand – joining up for some killer Metallica-esque crushing harmony moments during “Arbitrary Law” where the momentum builds and builds through a lot of progressive, off-time circular action. Dennis knows his way around arpeggios, tapping, and tasty breaks – studying a lot of Bay Area greats from Alex Skolnick to the Forbidden troop.
Mr. Thoms as a singer has a bark and bite that is very militant and often mirrors the speed of the arrangement – check out “Fifth Column” for that Hetfield meets Cavalera vengeance aspect that spits out visions of assassins issuing silent commands while he churns out solid triplets during the instrumental sections. There are times where you wish a little more of a clean singing nuance could come into play to allow the insanely catchy parts of say “Sulphur Rain” to gain stronger cranium retention, but that’s a minor qualm on an otherwise riff-tastic thrash parade.
Better late than never for the world to discover Accuser’s brand of semi-technical thrash. The Forlorn Divide never forsakes hooks and groove, but also is musically exemplary. The younger generation could learn a thing (or ten) from these gentlemen.