There’s no denying a decent band when you hear it and Godslave are just that. Faultless in delivery, packed with energy and no doubt an entertaining proposition in a live environment. They also produce a faithful reflection of speed-thrash metal from the 1980s. Or certainly the modern version of it but with a level of production and a polished edge that would have been alien to teenage thrashers back then. There are plenty of chugging riffs, self-referential tracks with a dose of humour and perhaps a bit of NWOBHM flair creeping in here and there just for the hell of it. This is a band having a good time and it’s infectious and imbued with, as all good thrash metal should be, a bit of a punk-rock streak that invites the audience to kick-off.
But the current trend for endless revivals troubles me. Twenty-first century production aside, this album could have been made at pretty much any point since 1985 – three decades later here we are: saluting, emulating, wringing what we can from the past. To put that in perspective, if someone had revived something in 1985 from three decades earlier they would have been trotting out pre-Elvis rock and roll standards like All Shook Up or Harry Belafonte’s Mary’s Boy Child. What I mean is, the average hardcore kid would not have been interested enough to sweep his hair in Brylcreem and don his Brothel Creepers. In 1985 there was no revival: a bunch of guys had just invented thrash metal that would go on to spawn death metal, arguably black metal and any other kind of metal that anyone wanted to make your ears bleed, your eyes water and invoke the gods of war and, normally, predicting the end of human kind. They didn’t need a revival.
Some strands of music don’t seem to have moved at much of a pace. So, here I am, 28 years later listening to Godslave and their admirable but not exactly original version of thrash metal. Like a metal 70s night, albeit with more blood, sweat and beers. Am I on thin ice here? True, heavy metal is derivative by definition but there is plenty of innovation out there even within the confines of the genre which has widened way beyond its natural borders. And there is plenty of scope for bands to dig up something and just be so good it feels like the last 30 years never existed. But I worry that Godslave’s version of thrash metal is like a party CD with all the tracks you really wanted to hear missed out. Don’t new generations want their own music? Is thrash metal that good that it deserves its back catalogue to be infinitely expanded?
Do Godslave care about my petty rant? As long as the fans are stage jumping and hurling each other from one side of the pit to the other. I’ll be honest; I don’t think they could give a toss. In Hell is delivered with the passion of a band with a clear sense of purpose and that purpose is to produce one hell of a party and to destroy live venues in their native Germany and anywhere else they can find that will have them. There are the obvious Anthrax-style self-checking tracks like Here Comes The Crew – a concert opener if ever there was one – and the high-octane S.O.S. (Slave Our Souls). Slavegrunter’s vocals are a mix between a classic thrash growl and the occasional high-pitched screaming a la Gerrit Mutz from fellow countrymen Sacred Steel. There is a brief flirt with a Hammond organ on Intermission Accomplished but Godslave are not tampering with the formula here. Merely stocking up their live cannon with as many furious thrash anthems as they can muster.
Now on album number three and honed to perfection in their chosen thrash act Godslave’s In Hell achieves everything it set out to do. Persistence can be a virtue in some circumstances and this is arguably one of those. I’d almost certainly venture out if they were playing down at the local but I probably wouldn’t be ordering one of their patches for my denim jacket any time soon.
(6/10 Reverend Darkstanley)