Last Tribe Standing
One of the more exciting 80s reunions in recent years is Ostrogoth. The Belgian metal warriors lit up the heavy metal underground in 1983 with the release of their classic EP, ‘Full Moon’s Eyes.’ Proving that lightning sometimes does strike twice, Ostrogoth delivered another winner the next year with the ‘Ecstasy and Danger’ full-length. I’ve heard these recordings described as a Belgian take on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and that characterization is fair, albeit with a bit more Euro mainland flair (think German bands of the time). Unfortunately, Ostrogoth’s success was short-lived, as two subsequent albums failed to fully capture the magic of the early stuff. The band disappeared for a long time, only to be spurred into reforming (with several new members) by the Keep It True festival organizers in 2012. The band were so favorably received at that event that they decided to give it another go on a more permanent basis.
This ‘Last Tribe Standing’ album is the first fruit of that reunion. Technically, it’s more of a double-EP than an album. The first part is four brand-new studio songs, written predominantly by original guitarist Rudy “WhiteShark” Vercruysse (who sadly passed away shortly after the album was recorded) and new guitarist Dario Frodo. Although the songs are new, they are very much in the style of the olde, with “Return to the Heroes Museum” being a sort of homage/sequel to the famous “Heroes Museum” track off the ‘Full Moon’s Eyes’ EP. Meanwhile, the fast-paced “Clouds” being one of the greatest Ostrogoth songs ever, capable of going toe-to-toe with any of the classics in the band’s arsenal. Part two of ‘Last Tribe Standing’ consists of high-quality 2014 live recordings of each of the four ‘Full Moon’s Eyes’ songs recorded by the present lineup, with mostly faithful renditions that fully do justice to the spirit, power and magic of the original versions. It was actually a very wise decision to do this, for a number of reasons. By having just four new songs, Ostrogoth could focus the writing sessions on quality over quantity, thus avoiding a pitfall that ensnares many reuniting bands. And by releasing live versions of the ‘Full Moon’s Eyes’ stuff, longtime fans can hear how they sound with good sound and the capable voice of new frontman Josey Hindrix at the helm; meanwhile, new fans can discover these otherwise difficult-to-find songs (‘Full Moon’s Eyes’ can go for a pretty penny on eBay).
With the recent tragic loss of WhiteShark, Ostrogoth now features only one original member (drummer Mario ‘Grizzly’ Pauwels) in its ranks. Don’t let that discourage you, though. ‘Last Tribe Standing’ is very much worthy of the Ostrogoth legacy. What’s more, having witnessed Ostrogoth absolutely own the Chicago audience at the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse Festival earlier this month, I can assure you that Ostrogoth are alive, well and fully awesome. So if you’ve ever loved the band before, ‘Last Tribe Standing’ should be mandatory listening. If you’re a newbie, what are you waiting for? This album really is the perfect introduction to a legendary 1980s band that still has a lot to offer in 2015.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~