Here's another band who have been there and back a number of times over their career and are doing good things again. Usually in these instances, there's a key member who was a mainstay throughout and has guided the band through whatever changes they've gone through. These four musicians have all got long tenures with the band but not one of them completed Accuser's initial eighteen year run, let alone the whole time since they were founded in 1986.
If there's a key member, it's Frank Thoms, the only founder member and the only musician here on the band's debut album, The Conviction, in 1987. He's also the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Next up would be René Schütz on lead guitar, as he joined later that year and is on his third stint with Accuser, even if four years of that were spent when the band was called Scartribe. His return last year restores the line-up to what it was from 2002-2011 before he left.
They play thrash metal, but not in the Teutonic style we might expect from a band hailing from North Rhine-Westphalia. Thoms certainly has a German accent and he's the main reason why this doesn't all sound even more Bay Area than it already does, but the closest comparisons are mostly the American bands from way back in the day: early Exodus and Megadeth, especially. The most blistering song here is The Eliminator and that's a giveaway because the riff is similar to Whiplash's Warmonger while the first words are "Killing is my business and business is..." OK, it's fine here, rather than good, but you get the point.
I love the burst of speed that song provides, because much of this album focuses on a slightly slower approach, material that ought to work really well once venues open back again and Accuser can really get their pits churning. Even technical songs like Rethink and Seven Lives ought to do that and that's a good indicator of quality. I'm interested in how the pit would respond to the final track, an unusual cover of Foreigner's Urgent, a song I last heard in a completely different version by Shannon that was a synthpop soul take.
What really elevates this album, to my ears, is René Schütz's guitar. He doesn't often stick to the tried and true, though he plays it well when he does. Just listen to the midsection of A Cycle's End, with the rhythm section keeping up the churn while he plays a fascinating solo that isn't remotely what we're expecting from thrash metal. The riff above a riff in the second half is wild too and it's appropriate to give him the the last word on this song after everyone else has put their instruments away. Frankly, I found that I was gradually starting to listen just to Schütz and had to go back to hear everyone else's parts.
That's not to say that Thoms doesn't generate some interesting aspects himself. There's spoken word on Lux in Tenebris and Temple of All is elevated by some atmospheric vocals that are almost exotic in nature, clearly an attempt to channel Egyptian ambience into the song. This may be Schütz's show to my thinking but Thoms keeps the rest of the band tight while his lead guitarist is doing whatever he's doing, whether the section is thrash or slowing down to a more heavy metal sound.
And then there's the wildest song, which isn't Urgent but Be None the Wiser. It starts out almost like a heavy metal band covering an alternative rock song. If it is, I don't recognise it. That's a really dirty and prowling bass from Frank Kimpel and a vocal from Thoms that alternates between soft and hard. I presume he's both voices. I'm not convinced that this song really works, but it's an interesting listen, the product of a band who clearly aren't trying to get by with the same ol' same ol'.
I believe this is the twelfth studio album from Accuser and they're easily in their most prolific period, with as many of them in the last decade as in the two and half before that. I believe they've dabbled in the usual side genres for thrash bands, going off the rails in the early nineties, then doing the groove thang and eventually coming back to their traditional sound with those experiments flavouring their approach. To release a self-titled album twelve in is a real statement and I hope it's because Schütz is firmly back and enjoying himself.