Vendetta – Black As Coal (Massacre Records)

Wednesday, 12th July 2023
Rating: 5.5 / 10

Many remember the Noise Records roster of the 1980’s mining treasures across the power, speed, thrash landscape, while other acts slipped through the cracks of even moderate success. German act Vendetta released two albums in the late 80’s – Go and Live…Stay and Die in 1987 and the follow-up Brain Damage the following year – before fading into oblivion by 1990. Resurrecting in 2002, they’ve since released three more full-lengths while revamping the lineup as bassist Klaus Ullrich is the lone original member for the quintet. The sixth album Black As Coal is the group’s latest release and first in six years – containing eleven tracks and almost one hour of material, how will it stack up against the current (or veteran) thrash artists these days?

The approach of these musicians still seems rooted in the 80’s slash and bash philosophy – riffs tailor made for maximum headbanging, supplementary tempo transitions that rise and fall depending on the necessary pace/atmosphere displayed, and simplified chorus hooks that can easily be screamed (or shouted) back to the band in a live setting. Klaus throws down a couple of bass spotlight efforts that can be funky during “No Hands But a Gun” or more Jason Newsted-esque on the follow-up “AK-47” – the latter maintaining this jackhammer speed rhythm guitar template that’s hard to resist. Twin axe harmonies for “Death Means Relief” showcase some early NWOBHM spirit, only to take another interesting groovy thrash twist, the lead break a bit Metallica-esque while there’s a bit more of a Grip Inc./tribal spirit in the main drum parts. Most of the songs sit in a comfortable four to five-minute plus window, with closer “Beast In Her Eyes” the longest track at just over seven-minutes, the longer instrumental intro featuring some circular rhythms to get your ears abuzz, the main speed metal middle sequence similar to classic Exumer or Kreator before going back to a mid-tempo crunchy passage that fades to an end.

While Vendetta provides serviceable songwriting, there’s nothing that really stands out even with multiple passes for Black As Coal. Vocalist Mario Vogel has a clearer command of his voice in a Mille/Kreator-ish way, but then the pedestrian choruses repeated incessantly for “Stranglehold of Terror” feel like nails scratching the chalkboard despite a killer lead break to bring things back in line. If this had come out maybe thirty-five years ago, maybe it would have gained some attention – unfortunately in an era where even veteran artists are putting their best creative work out now, this is a subpar record that can’t stand the test of time.

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