(Metal on Metal 2016)
It’s amazing, really. Attacker are one of those rarest of musical institutions who seem absolutely impervious to the ravages (sands?) of time. Their debut album, ‘Battle at Helm’s Deep,’ was released more than 31 years ago. They’ve weathered departures from key members, with drummer Michael Sabatini the only remaining founding member. They’ve endured personal hardships and the highs and lows of a fickle marketplace. Yet through it all, that distinctive curved Attacker logo has always been synonymous with high-quality, uncompromising American heavy/power/speed metal. Sabatini & Co. have never released an album that’s less than excellent, or that doesn’t fit cohesively alongside their other recordings. In fact, I would argue that, as a body of work, Attacker’s six albums measure up favorably with the collected output of any other metal band in the world. But here’s the most remarkable part: Attacker’s recent efforts are arguably their finest ever. I was absolutely blown away by 2013’s ‘Giants of Canaan,’ and the same is true of the band’s brand-new ‘Sins of the World’ opus.
Once again, ‘Sins of the World’ finds the New Jersey lads confronting change. With this album, founding guitarist Pat Marinelli says farewell to Attacker and moves onto the next chapter of his life. Marinelli contributed nearly half of the guitar solos to the album, but apparently did not participate in the songwriting process. That meant that, for the first time, music writing responsibilities rested exclusively on the shoulders of guitarist Mike Benetatos, who now has 15 years of experience in the band. Benetatos was up to this daunting task. He knows how Attacker is supposed to sound and was responsible (in whole or in part) for penning some of my favorite tracks off ‘Giants of Canaan’ (such as “Trapped in Black,” “Steel Vengeance,” and “The Glen of the Ghost”). Benetatos’s songs and especially his riffs (oh my, what riffs!!!) perfectly capture the Attacker trademarks of speed, power and melody, with an underlying sinister malevolence. The same is true of vocalist Bobby “Leatherlungs” Lucas’s lyrics, which are a fascinating read in their own right. Lucas dwells on apocalyptic themes, science fiction, and high fantasy, all in an ominous, Old-Testament kind of way that wonderfully complements the aggressive dark power of the music. And these words and music are wrapped in a simply crushing production job that is modern and clear, channeling and focusing Attacker’s immense power without coming across as sterile, plasticized or mechanical. Music, lyrics and production: Each element is working together in harmony on ‘Sins of the World’ to create an intense feast for the ears of aficionados of thrashy, melodic, dark, old-school American metal at its best.
At 10 songs (two of which are clean-guitar intros/interludes) and 45 minutes, ‘Sins of the World’ is really the perfect length. The album feels tightly constructed, with no wasted movement and no songs where the quality dips even an iota (I’ve seen a few reviews picking on “We Rise,” but dammit that song rules, albeit showcasing more of Attacker’s anthemic side than its pummeling side, with an almost NWOBHM feel in parts, and I bet it’d make for a killer live singalong). Under the circumstances, it’s extremely difficult to single out particular tracks for recognition, but if I had to home in on a few favorites, I’d shine a spotlight on the fiery destructive energy of “World Destroyer,” the majestic melody of “Archangel,” the glorious Conan epic “By the Will of Crom / Where the Spirit Lies,” and the sheer sonic assault of “Carcosa” (amazing chorus with Lucas belting out tremendous high notes as the guitars dance and the rhythm section thunders underneath). A sure sign of the album’s greatness lies in the fact is that it always ends before I’m ready for it to end, prompting me inexorably to hit the “play” button and take the ride all over again.
In a world where trends come and go, and new bands are coming out of the woodwork to play whatever style is in fashion in the exigencies of the moment, Attacker are an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. They are unapologetically what they are, true to the core even to the edge of doom. They strike hard. They strike fast. They mix monster riffs with paint-peeling, no-holds-barred vocals, a blue-collar attitude and a dark “we’ll-kick-your-ass” intensity. Those who appreciate unflinching aggressive U.S. power metal delivered from the heart with grace, skill, experience and class just might find their new favorite album in ‘Sins of the World.’ Now where’s that “play” button again …
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~