If you had to name one German band among the first of the second wave of thrash in the wake of the 1980s pioneers, it would be Repent. Forming in 1992 when this type of metal was not a trend anymore meant that you had to be totally convinced by what you wanted to do, sticking to it without compromise regardless of ephemeral fads.
This has remained the case for the group against all odds and changes in both the business as well as on a personal scale, and their fourth record is another proof for the fact that years of experience in combination with unbroken passion for the cause are priceless – as “Comdemned to Fail” stays true to tradition and, at the same time, ahead of the pack.
During the seven years since the preceding “Vortex of Violence”, the band once again underwent line-up changes, although the outcome has been nothing but positive. Drummer Andy and bass player Alex, who already played on Repent’s second demo in 1998, are the most agile rhythm section they ever had while front man Eumel, who took an intermittent break due to private reasons, seems to put more energy than ever into his gritty voice.
“On the personal level, not much has changed because we keep playing uncommercial music as we like it even in our late 40s,” stresses guitarist and co-founder Philip Rath, whereas his current tunes couldn’t be more topical content-wise, tackling “the insanity and self-destructive tendencies of human civilization. Generally, it’s about the biological and cultural evolution of man, which we also reflect on the cover by means of numerous little details.”
Details – the intent on which being key with respect to “Condemned to Fail”: For all its straightforwardness, the album is rife with remarkable nuances that make all the difference, whether angly drumming as in the alternately belligerent and woeful ‘Hypocrite’s Tears’ or a solo as “song within the song” like in ‘Empires of Evil’, which in itself tells a short story.
“It alludes to America and the Spanish Conquistadores during the Middle Ages,“ Rath explains. „Indigenous people were slaughtered under religion’s guise for economical profit, which had nothing to do with the Christian principle of brotherly love at all.” Faith has always been one of the guitarist’s favourite topics, recurring also in the rolling ‘Theo-crazy’ to make a clear statement: “The power-hungry like to abuse the zealous, making them pawns to turn good intentions upside-down.”
Meanwhile, ‘Progress Paradox’, which is both sprightly and catchy, might be the record’s most exemplary track besides the subtly anthemic ‘Scientific Ideals’ – particularly from a lyrical point of view. „Progress is indeed paradox in that it mostly causes problems rather than furthering positive developments. It creates a vicious circle wherein you try to hem in negative consequences with new inventions. That’s treating symptoms where you should actually question the system as such.”
As far as this is concerned, Repent’s second High Roller release is a conceptual work. “I just can’t write about meaningless things such as violence, boozing or zombies. We consider ourselves to be creation’s crown but have to live in harmony with nature instead of destroying it.” Yet of course, the quintet itself cherishes its own form destruction – especially with ‘Wimpreaper’, which cites countless genre classics without contradicting the members’ ethos.
After all, thrash's stylists have offered aggression with depth right from the beginning – and in 2019, these South Germans are carrying their torch with exceptional dedication. Therefore, it’s not much of a surprise that during the ominous ‘The Worst is yet to Come’, their singer’s cool sneer harks back to Dave Mustaine in his heydays.
“Mankind’s eradication is not inevitable,” Philip believes with reference to this truly grand finale, which “ends on a hopeful note. We probably have to look into the abyss at first before something can improve." So instead of forcing a musical shift, the band prefers working towards it in real life … because if you see things in such a realistic way, you cannot fail to stay relevant as an artist.
“It’s a professional hobby, but that doesn’t mean we don’t stand a chance against more successful acts,” Rath confirms. “Songs are what matters, and people keep telling us that we did a great record or live show, which is exactly why we are still going on – as idealists and for the fun of it all, though also to compensate for every day madness. It’s metal therapy, so to say!”