Having recently reissued classic albums by the likes of Kreator, Voivod, Celtic Frost, Tankard, Running Wild, and Skyclad, Noise Records continue raiding their metal pantry, this time with three albums by German thrashers, Deathrow.
Formed in Dusseldorf in 1984 under the name of Samhain, the four-piece soon discovered their band name was already being used by Glenn Danzig‘s horror punk act so had to change theirs to avoid any legal entanglements. Quickly settling on Deathrow, the band released their debut Riders of Doom in 1986 complete with a handy label on the cover (no lovely and informative internets back then, remember) stating “Ex Samhain” to help inform fans of their enforced name change.
Annoyingly, however, further confusion was headed their way when the American department of Noise requested a complete change of artwork and title to help sell the record stateside. So, with different cover art, and under the new title of Satan’s Gift, the band was finally off and running with nine tracks of raw, but technically proficient German thrash. Opening with moody, chugging instrumental ‘Winds of Death’, the album suddenly steps up a gear for the US title track, with the European title track hot on its heels. Even without the best production in the world, and with youthful enthusiasm outweighing the band’s technical ability (not to mention vocalist Milo Van Jaksic‘s sometimes indecipherable accent), Riders of Doom should be a staple of any old school thrashers record collection, especially with titles like ‘Slaughtered’, ‘Violent Omen’ and the chaotic mayhem of ‘Spider Attack’. [8.0]
Just one year later and the band’s second album Raging Steel saw Deathrow improve on their debut in virtually every department. Boasting a better production, unusually intelligible vocals, and generally all-around better musicianship, songs like ‘Dragon’s Blood’, ‘The Thing Within’, and the quite brilliant Germans-singing-about-Hitler-but-not-in-a-bad-way, ‘Scattered by the Wind’ instantly elevated themselves above anything on their impressive but unrefined debut. The guitar solos are as frantic as before but are now just played better, the riffing is tighter and the majority of songs have memorable hooks and melodies without losing any of their original thrashability. [9.0]
With guitarist Thomas Priebe leaving the band after the Raging Steel tour, the void was filled by replacement axeman Uwe Osterlehner, and because of this, according to original guitarist Sven Flügge, the band were forced into a change of direction for their third album, 1988’s Deception Ignored (Noise). Stepping up the musicianship another couple of levels, Deception… revels in its insane time signatures, off-kilter rhythms and complex spidery guitar riffs. Even vocalist Milo sounds slightly different this time as he adds King Diamond style flourishes to songs like ‘Narcotic’, and an almost Joey Belladonna style quality to the likes of ‘The Deathwish’ as the band moved into more technical and progressive areas (even introducing a classical piano at the beginning of bewilderingly schizophrenic instrumental ‘Triocton’) and heavy sociopolitical lyrical content. The results were more than satisfactory, with some even claiming Deception Ignored to be the band’s best work, but Flügge was left unhappy with the release, claiming the band had lost a big part of their identity when Priebe left. Having fulfilled their contract with Noise, Deathrow moved to a different label (West Virginia) to record their highly creditable swansong, Life Beyond, which is why that final release is unfortunately not part of this latest batch of superb reissues. [8.5]