If you remember Abandoned, give yourself a round of applause. The German thrashers released a pair of generally well-received albums (‘Thrash Notes’ via Dockyard 1 in 2006 and ‘Thrash You!’ via Locomotive in 2007) a decade ago, then vanished without a trace. Vocalist/guitarist Kalli Kaldschmidt has remained active playing guitar in the excellent Masters of Disguise and the magnificent NWOBHM tribute act Roxxcalibur (as well as a stint as guitarist in Jameson Raid) and guitarist Holger Ziegler also plays in Roxxcalibur, but Abandoned went dormant. The band never formally split up; however, there were key temporary defections, as both Ziegler and drummer Konny Cartini departed for a few years, then rejoined the fold in 2012. Their return (along with the arrival of third guitarist Torsten “Mr. T” Schweickart) sparked a reactivation and a rejuvenation of Abandoned. They started playing shows again (with Holger and Mr. T dividing up bass duties from song to song as needed), rebuilt their following, regained their momentum, wrote some songs, and have now unleashed a new EP, entitled ‘Still Misanthrope.’ The title will no doubt bring a smile to the faces of long-time fans, as it hearkens back to Abandoned’s 2003 demo, ‘Misanthrope.’
‘Still Misanthrope’ is a fascinating and enjoyable listen, not only for what has stayed the same but also for what has changed. Right off the bat, be reassured that Abandoned are still very much an old-school thrash band, albeit one with a slightly modern take on the classic, time-honored German thrash style. The songs are mostly quite fast, but they have enough melody and personality to balance out the aggression and catch your ear from the first time you hear them. There are ample moments of overt catchiness on here to provide a respite from the all-out speed assault. “F**k You Bastard,” especially, gets embedded in the listener’s brain immediately! Throughout the EP, the guitar riffs and leadwork are uniformly excellent, with healthy doses of both the German and Bay Area sounds, and even at times a dash of NWOBHM or USPM, if my ears don’t deceive me. Abandoned have also retained their charming tradition of listing the beats per minute (“bpm”) for each song, just as they did on the older albums. (For the record, the listed bpms range from a low end of 185 to a scorching 210/220 bpm.) What pleasantly surprised me, however, are the areas in which ‘Still Misanthrope’ improves over its predecessors. The production choices are far more to my liking here than on ‘Thrash Notes,’ for example. Gone are the overly-processed, mechanical, grating guitar tone and irritating snare drum sound. In their place, Abandoned have achieved a powerful sound that is neither faux retro nor annoyingly modern. Another fine improvement is in Koldsmith’s voice. He is still more of a shouter than anything else, but his vocals are deeper, throatier somehow today than they were before, and there’s more of a melodic aspect to them now. Think of him as a cross between Pro-Pain’s Gary Meskil and Testament’s Chuck Billy, and you’re probably not too far off the mark. For my taste, it’s a more effective delivery, so those who may have been disenchanted with the vocals in Abandoned in the old days may yet find ‘Still Misanthrope’ to their liking. Nowhere are these sonic and performance upgrades more evident than in “Holy Terror” and “The Oncoming Storm,” both of which are remakes of ‘Thrash Notes’ songs that blow away their original versions in all departments.
The sad thing is that this EP runs just six songs and 23 minutes in length. It definitely ends too soon and leaves the listener wanting more. For clarity’s sake, ‘Still Misanthrope’ contains four brand-new songs, all of which are strong and worthy, and the aforementioned two re-recordings to give a facelift to a pair of old ‘Thrash Notes’ tunes. It’s a very solid package and thrashers with an affinity for the Teutonic variant of the style will find much to enjoy here. At this stage of the game, Abandoned are totally pro in all facets of the game, from writing to performances to production. They know their thrash, and their sincerity and devotion to the genre shine through at all times. I’ll be eager to hear the next full-length, but for now ‘Still Misanthrope’ serves as a welcome appetizer to reintroduce the heavy metal public to Abandoned and stoke the flames for what comes next. We will, we will … thrash you!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~