When I was a teenager, Tankard always looked like they were having more fun than anyone else. It wasn't hard to see bands drinking beer because that was a part of the culture, but Tankard went a step further and wrote songs about drinking beer too, at a point when other thrash bands were all moving away from Satanism to the impending nuclear apocalypse and Metallica in particular were writing deeper lyrics. It was a refreshing break to throw on a Tankard album. Now I have grandkids and I'm in my second half century, it's somewhat quaint to see that they're still writing songs such as Beerbarians or the title track. In fact, as much as Lockdown Forever is very much about now, it's a rather timeless song.
What matters is that it still seems like they're having fun. Not every song here is about beer and a few are surprisingly poetic, like the environmentally focused Veins of Terra, but even at their most serious, they seem to be enjoying what they do. Maybe their liquid diet has kept them from taking themselves too seriously! Certainly they've never left the scene over four decades, even if they do have day jobs to pay the bills, and there have been shockingly few line-up changes, with two of the four members consistent since their founding 1982. And, crucially, they still play their thrash metal at a predominantly speedy pace, any slower section there to keep everything fresh.
And so it didn't take long for me to realise that I wasn't just enjoying this album just because it's a solid thrash album with fast riffs and clean vocals, my happy place for as long as Tankard have put out albums, I was enjoying it because the musicians who made it were enjoying it too. Who else in 2022 is going to write a song like Metal Cash Machine that talks about an increasingly crazy range of merchandise? And who else could write a song like that and not have us rolling our eyes? It even has a seriously good riff and the way it grows into a call and response song at the end is joyous.
What's more, they throw out neatly acerbic songs like Ex-Fluencer and Dark Self Intruder with just as much ease, as if thoroughly topical subjects like social media as an on screen job, the lockdowns for COVID-19 and a post-truth world of alternate facts have been around forever. These don't only cover surprisingly deep topics for Tankard, they do so with neat turns of phrase and some glorious lines that we just aren't ever going to see from anyone else. I adore Lockdown Forever, which isn't just the expected laddish response to getting stuck at home for the safety of the nation. Sure, we can stay home, drink beer and eat pizza, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. "Knitting and yoga! Never felt ashamed!" is telling. "It's my favourite outbreak!"
I was always going to review this album, but I can't say that I was entirely looking forward to it. The presence of Tankard in the Teutonic Big Four never seemed quite right to me, even if they were an important part of the rise of thrash metal in Germany in the early to mid eighties. I bought those early albums and, even when I was enjoying them in my teenage bedroom, I wasn't thinking of the band as ranking with the mighty Kreator or my personal favourites Destruction. However, I cannot remember the last time I had this much fun with a thrash album. I certainly didn't with the recent releases from both those bands.
So, at a time when the world's tortured with apparently insurmountable problems and nobody in a position of power seems to be doing anything to solve them, this is the positive antidote that I'd not realised I needed. It plays well as a thrash album, the band on the top of their game musically, throwing out effortlessly good riff after effortlessly good riff and keeping nearly an hour of songs utterly fresh with adept touches like the playful pauses in Memento. But it plays well as a pick-me-up too. It ends with On the Day I Die, a look back at a life well lived with no regrets. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple and start this playing. Sláinte!