Assassin
The Upcoming Terror/ Interstellar Experience (Reissues)

SOOO I am a huge Thrash Metal fan.  In the 80’s while I was trying to find the hardest and heaviest music possible one of the scenes, which for me, has always been on par with the American Thrash Metal scene, was Germany.  The main staples of Kreator, Sodom and Destruction were crushing it.  However there were so many numerous acts and while some of them never reached the heights of those big three and I’ll throw Tankard in there with the above three, although I was never a fan of their goofy brand of thrash, some of these bands and personal faves were and still are Deathrow, Darkness, Protector and Assassin.

Let’s get into Assassin’s first 2 albums, which have been once again reissued, but I’ll first focus on the music rather than the reissue enhancements.  After a few underground demos, Assassin was signed to German Label Steamhammer, and in 1987 The Upcoming Terror debut album was released and I received it as a Christmas present on vinyl, from my parents, later that year.  It blew my head off, because remember, Germany was trying to keep up with the likes of the American thrash bands like: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Dark Angel, Death Angel, Sacred Reich and the numerous USA bands who were getting tons of exposure.  Germany wanted to be on the map as well, however, they started carving out their own scene whereas the German bands went towards a heavier and faster direction than their American counterparts.

The Upcoming Terror is unbridled in many ways, which of course, with some of the younger bands, was also a tad sloppy.  Psycho was drumming wayyy too fast than his abilities could handle, but hell I did not care.  “Nemesis” is the perfect example of this with the sloppy drum roll intro, but Christ the song is excellent and blistering at the same time with an absolutely terrific guitar tone throughout.  The band name song is also a stunner with the chest-thumping beginning, once the metal hits after the acoustic intro.  This mighty and patriotic anthemic beginning is not unlike some of the German patriotism we would see on other German bands albums, like Accept, for instance.  Robert Gonnella’s thick German accent, is evident throughout this album, such as the unique way he phrases and sings “Assassin” and his pronunciation of the word, makes me wonder if the band thought this is how the word is pronounced.  Additionally some pronounced words, because English was not their first language, comes across interestingly enough, with this song, such as :… you can see his anger in his face.  He pronounces anger as anjer, but I cannot imagine this song without that moment or the way “Assassin” is pronounced.  This album put the band on the metal map and a year later the band followed it up with Interstellar Experience.

The American influence is highly evident on this album, first with the album cover of the Freddy Krueger-like character adorning the space-themed album cover then down to the music where the band incorporated more of the American crunch style guitar tone to their sound, still it was Assassin.  The band became tighter and more proficient and that was in part to some of their new members, such as Frank Nellen on drums and Michael Hoffman on guitar who would eventually leave Assassin to join Sodom and then return to Assassin again in 2005.  Whether it be thrash or death metal, I could care less, but the guitar tone on this album is one of the heaviest guitar tones ever recorded.

The opening guitar riff of “Abstract War” still sends shivers down my spine to this day on how frickin’ ridiculously heavy it is.  The band, also with a bit of the tongue-in-cheek album cover started to incorporate some of this “fun” side to their lyrics with “AGD” and having an inner circle conspiracy-themed espionage fun go with the lyrics by incorporating members of Kreator, Destruction, and Sodom into these interesting lyrics.  Of course, the fun continued with the now legendary song “Junk Food”.  Talking about their favorite sweet foods they liked, as well as members from other bands and one of the funniest lyrics ever in music is about meeting some cute chicks at a store and sex was on the girls minds, but the guys in the band chose junk food – again remember English was Robert’s second language:  In the store were five cute looking girlies. And we asked them for the best teeth killer. They were not interested in answering our questions, ’cause sex was on their minds. We were thinking now if we should take off with them. We said no to this great offer. The girls were surprised and asked for an explanation. I said Junk Food is what we want.  Outside of some of these fun moments, with obviously wanting to cash in on the American Anthrax style crowd, there is so much blistering heaviness and thrashing on this album such as “A Message to Survive” and “Baka” with both closing in on blast beat territory –  Frank gets to with his incredibly insane and tight AF drumming.   Due to line-up shifts and not getting a proper label push Assassin broke up but came back in 2002, still are active with releasing albums ranging from the awful “The Club” in 2005 to the pretty kick ass “Combat Cathedral” in 2016.

So both of these albums have previously been reissued.  I have had both albums in the original vinyl and CD formats.  Then some years back Axe Killer Records reissued both on CD-remastered, and hand-numbered.  The remasters were not from the source material, I can tell you.  The sound is rather good, louder, but they were vinyl rips.  You can especially tell with The Upcoming Terror because the skips which were on the vinyl are also on the CD remaster; shame since this is not how you remaster material folks.  Holy Roller has now come back into the fold and both albums are properly remastered from the original recording and the CDs both get slipcases and posters with the album covers sharpened up a bit.  The skips, snap, crackle, pops etc.. from the vinyl and previous reissues are all cleaned up thankfully by the Remastering at Temple of Disharmony.  Both albums sound crisper, louder, and punches harder.

Interstellar Experience has a bonus song “Strange World” which was originally recorded during the album’s session, but was left off the album – until now I never knew this song existed and unsure why it did not make it on the album.  It has a little more melody than some of the other songs on the original album, however, this song thrashes pretty hard and is great to finally hear it.  These editions you want.  They give proper credence and respect to Assassin’s first 2 albums which, still to this day, is some of the best thrash metal ever recorded. 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
June 14th, 2024

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