Fatal Embrace – Slaughter to Survive (Iron Shield Records)

Sunday, 15th November 2015
Rating: 7.5/10

Germany’s Fatal Embrace have been together partaking in the thrash scene since 1993 – beginning with the more evil Nosferatu moniker before changing names. After a series of demos they released their debut album The Ultimate Aggression in 1999. Four albums with four labels (the higher profile Metal Blade taking on 2010’s The Empires of Inhumanity) proves commitment to the cause for the quintet, despite technical problems and lineup shuffles. Another five years have passed for the fifth studio full-length Slaughter to Survive – an effort that will probably keep the cult underground hordes satisfied, as this is very much a down to earth, meat and potatoes approach here.

A lot of the riffing, gang-shouted background vocals, and natural sounds certainly transport the listener back into the early Bay Area meets Teutonic scenes – pinpointing elements of Metallica, Slayer, Kreator, and Destruction circa 1983-1986 probably aren’t difficult for initial passes of the razor sharp “Revelation” or churning pit-friendly “Captured In Spite”. Drummer Philip Zeuschner elevates his speed chops with steady power double bass and occasional flashes of galvanizing groove perfect for unison audience participation, and bassist Ronald Schulze gets a bass break during “Hellhounds” that breathes life into the stop/start riffs. The axe duo of Jörg Trabalski and Tobias serve up a potent mix of mid-tempo and faster riff choices that should snap necks and swirl endless energy for most thrash audiences – adept in a more basic fashion for “Enslaved and Fallen” while being a little more adventurous in their choices for the epic-oriented “Penetrate the Night”.

The make or break factor for most lies in the limited death and thrash grit from the larynx and lungs of singer Dirk Heiland. Old school to the bone, there are German inflections that give off a slightly death-oriented vibe against his Hetfield meets barking Schmier delivery. Militant during the band’s brilliant up-tempo rendition of Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry”, he won’t ever be considered top of the heap for thrash vocalists – and yet there’s no better person to keep the proceedings moving along than Dirk to these ears.

Hopefully many will also not mistake the cover or upside down cross in their logo for being a death metal record – in the end, Fatal Embrace know what they live for, churn out adequate offerings of old school thrash in a more primal fashion without succumbing to similar trappings as the new US or UK breed. Slaughter to Survive shouldn’t disappoint the underground maniacs into this 30 year plus movement.

Fatal Embrace official website