Blimey – here’s a blast from the past! I remember buying their second LP ‘Interstellar Experience’ (with its dodgy zombie / scarecrow / Wolverine artwork) from Shades in about 1988.
Assassin were a bit different to other German bands of the time. Much faster than Destruction & Sodom with more of a ‘hardcore’ sound than Kreator – singer Robert Gonnella sounded a lot like D.R.I.’s Kurt Brecht – they occupied their own little niche in the world of Teutonic thrash metal and I loved that album. So when I was offered ‘Combat Cathedral’ to review – and let me say right now that that has gotta be my favourite album title for years – I jumped at the chance. I was under the mistaken belief that Assassin hadn’t done anything after ‘Interstellar…’ as I just hadn’t seen 2005’s ‘The Club’ or 2011’s ‘Breaking The Silence’ in the racks – SPV be ashamed of yourselves!
Anyway, as soon as I hit play on ‘Combat Cathedral’ I was very pleasantly surprised. Full on chunky riffage, classic frantic sounding speed metal, melodic, memorable and …. hold tight, is that a new vocalist? A quick glance at the promo blurb confirms this. Robert Gonella had left, replaced by Ingo “Crowzak” Bajonczak who’s voice, to me at least, sounds a lot better. A fair bit of ‘Schmier’ with a dash of ‘Zetro’ and a sprinkle of ‘Chuck Billy’ to taste.
As it happens that’s not the only line-up change from my beloved ‘Interstellar Experience’ in fact the only member of the band from that era still present is riff master general Michael Hoffman, and boy does he shred. Don’t believe me? Check out ‘Slave Of Time’. Michael and 2nd guitarist, Jurgen Scholz, give a brilliant performance on this record as does drummer Bjorn Sondermann with some of the finest thrash drumming you’ll hear this year I reckon. These Düsseldorf veterans absolutely nail it. Album opener ‘Back From The Dead’ sets the pace early doors and barely maintains control of itself while charging onwards – a thrash classic if ever there was one. ‘Frozen Before Impact’ slows things down a shade & ups the melody while still remaining aggressive.
It’s quality track after quality track however with some gnarly time changes and riffing that’ll make your eyes bleed on ‘Undying Mortality’, Slayer-esque chug on ‘Whoremonger’ and the groove laden ‘Ambush’ surprises with its jazzy opening. The whole album is a thrash metal fan’s dream.
(8/10 Mark Eve)