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Saturday, August 24, 2013

REVIEW: Vampyr (GER) - Cry Out For Metal (1985)



Introduction

It's been quite a while since the last written review. Lately, I've been fleshing out some of the years old reviews, as my English has got slightly better during the years (tolerable, I hope!), trying my best to make reviews understandable, even though I know that my English as my second, no, actually third language isn't close to perfect. Still many old reviews to go. However, here's also a totally new one, so lets go!

I dug up this Vampyr CD from under a rather large pile of records. This full length album which was released back in 1985, called 'Cry Out For Metal', is the band's only official release up to date. The album was later on re-released by Stormspell Records in CD format, which is the version I'm holding in my hands right now. The band has quite close ties to German band 'Tyrant', as guitarist Ralf Hollmer departured from Tyrant around 1983-1984 and joined forces with Tyrant's local support band in city of Ulm, Germany, where two Stertzik brothers played. The support act's name, now also featuring Hollmer, was then changed to 'Alcent' and within a year or so to 'Vampyr'.

Vampyr played quite standard sounding German heavy / speed metal and were known of their outrageously lengthy spiked leather outfits, which the guys built up and created in their garage by themselves. The evil illustration and image wasn't meant to be taken seriously, though:

"we didn't see this image too serious. The whole thing was intended to be seen as let's say 'happy metal'" (Ralf Hollmer interview. Vampyr 'Cry Out For Metal' booklet by Stormspell Records.)

This was rather common approach by several German bands in the eighties who wanted to play for fun, rather than being seriously into satanism. Evil and rebellious image was most likely brought up in favor of flashy stage-shows and for entertaining lyrics.

The review

"If you ain't enslaved to the will of the Vampyr,
You are condemned to live your unreal cruelty life,
As a subject in a kingdom, which is ruled by the prince of the night


Follow me..."


A cheesy spoken prologue called Oath leads us into the album... on that minute you know that this album isn't to be taken seriously by it's lyrics. Loosen up your ties and enjoy the German cheesiness! That's not to be said negatively, either. Cheesy evil lyrics are often fun to listen to, if they're meant to be less serious and cheesy, like in the case with 'Cry Out For Metal'.

'Cry Out For Metal' does feature very pleasant sound mix and production. It's almost the best feature of the album, while the music itself is very standard German eighties heavy metal combined with some speed metal and rather brutal guitar tone. Hollmer described the music to be meant as 'happy metal' in the interview, but I don't think he quite meant it as such per se. Sure, evil image and satanic parts of the lyrics are seen in cheesy and just-for-fun light, but the sound of the album isn't actually quite close to "happy" in terms of Helloween's Walls of Jericho for example.

Guitar sound is actually quite brutal, featuring quite much treble and distortion, being almost thrashy (but not played in such way). That combined with the great sound production makes rhythm guitars sound really powerful and ripping! This is one of the better guitar sound productions from eighties. Rhythm guitars playing speedy chainsaw riffs on fast songs and chugging power chord riffs on more slow songs are the trademark on 'Cry Out For Metal'. Guitar tone and sound really bites through your bones. Lead guitars melodies and shredding are quite minimal, however, and from standpoint of instrumental playing skills, Vampyr plays rhythm section nicely, but their lead section and solos aren't anything special really. They still get the minimum job done without sounding awkward but not really shining either. Lets just say that guitar duo Hollmer and Lubosch Sterzik can stand their ground.

Vocals of Wolfgang Schwarz are very average. He sings with very hoarse and rough voice, with occasional cleaner soaring vocals that feel bit unstable and out of place. Schwarz is like less snotty version of Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl, or less over-the-top version of Tyrant's Kerrmit, and his German accent is very present. He's bit out of key at times, but not enough to actually ruin it. Schwarz is rather unmemorable singer, just enough to fill his spot, though, his rough style generally fits into the overall heavy sound of the band.

Drumming by Roman Sterzik is generally quite good and powerful, partly due the good production, but he also uses fills (hi-hats and cymbals) well enough to keep the drumming interesting. Also, hollow kettel-like drum-sound, along with powerful bass-drum fits generally well to the heavy sound. Bass playing is also very good, again, partly because of the fine production. Markus Maier's bottom-heavy bass lines can be well heard in the mix and they add thickness to the band's sound.

'Cry Out For Metal' is enjoyable, though not very memorable mixture of heavy metal and speed metal with strong German flavor, reminding of several bands such as their "almost-cousins" Tyrant, Heavy Metal Breakdown and Witch Hunter era Grave Digger, or perhaps Execution Guaranteed era Rage. The sound is more raw, rebellious, and rough than with your average heavy metal band from the era, but thrash metal this is not, although not partially very far from it. The album is generally broken into two different kinds of songs: for one the speedier songs such as Sinner, Indianapolis, Mercy Killing, Warrior, and Vampyr, which are mainly speed metal. Second and slightly smaller part of the album features pure heavy metal songs such as Hell Bent Angels, Metal Hymn '86 and Breaking Metal.

The album is dominated by faster material, which you would think is a good thing, but surprisingly enough the slower material is perhaps the best part of Cry Out For Metal. Vampyr sounds most solid and stable with two of the slower songs Hell Bent Angels and Breaking Metal, which are my favorites of the album. Breaking Metal is some quite brutally heavy and bone-breaking kickass stuff! It features ripping power-chord riffing by rhythm guitars, so simple yet so effective. Storming bass playing by Maier adds finishing touch. Thanks for the great heavy production this track actually shines, being simple as it is. The same applies to Hell Bent Angels, and Metal Hymn '86 continues in similar fashion, though being least memorable of the three.

Best of the faster speed metal songs are in my opinion Sinner, Indianapolis, and Mercy Killing. Sinner opens up with hammering drum-intro along with chugging guitars, that soon turns into speedy ride of good German speed metal. Lack of Schwarz's vocal skills holds the track's quality back a bit. Feel the chainsaw-riff attack on Indianapolis, another good chapter on speed metal department. Rallying Mercy Killing is also decently good speedy track, rushing on like out of control locomotive train, though not as memorable song. Speed metal number called Vampyr closes up the album, and ends it rather awkwardly. The song is far from the best material in the album, with utterly stupid lyrics:

"She a vampyr of a rock'n'roll band, she's bad as a bat, bad as a bat,
Come on, bite me, suck my blood! Come on vampyr, bite me tonight"


...of which I wouldn't even mind about, but Schwarz's lyrics are badly out of key and rhythm in this song, and he mutters out the chorus so awkwardly it's hard not to laugh. Especially, when the song features cheesy "evil laughter" interlude after this. Luckily, it's the only song where vocals totally fail. However, last song, Vampyr, leaves slightly bitter and unprofessional taste behind of the album. The band should had chosen better song for the last or perhaps cut this one out, as it's not up to par with the rest of material.


Conclusion

Vampyr's 'Cry Out For Metal' isnt' really reinventing the wheel, and is in danger to disappear in masses of other records of similar style. Running Wild already topped Cry Out For Metal in 1984 with their debut Gates To Purgatory on heavy/speed metal fields by far. But that's not the say Vampyr are one of the worse bands out there. The band does decent job blasting out heavy power chords and pacey chainsaw-riffs, with some not-bad-but-not-impressive-either guitar solos and lead melodies that are, rather scarce. The guitarists know their rhythm guitar section well and play solid, but lack either some playing or composing skill on lead guitar and solo department, and creativity on rhythm side to make things bit more interesting. Very average rough-edged vocalist doesn't help to raise the band above other "b-tier" bands either, while drumming and bass playing deserve a slight praise. However, Cry Out For Metal does have some standout areas. One is aforementioned fine and quite tight rhythm guitar section, but biggest of all is production and overall heavy tone of the sound ("happy metal" this is not!). The tone is almost thrashy, and this is reasonably heavy record for it's time. From technical standpoint the album is great, as the production is quite top notch for it's time and this really embraces it's the heaviness and thickness. Guitars do actually sound so fine, that it raises a few songs to another level, such as Hell Bent Angels and Breaking Metal.

Cry Out For Metal is quite average German heavy / speed metal record, that has it's high points worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of the genre and German raw sound. Fans of bands such as Tyrant, MP (Metal Priests), High Tension, and Noisehunter should enjoy this one. However, it lacks memorable lead guitars and some complexity on riff department, as well as more professional vocalist, which could had risen the band closer to a-tier bands. It isn't a bad record by any means, but not exceptionally memorable either. But it is quite fun ride if you give it a chance, and the band did have some potential, too. It's one of those records you want to give spin or few sometimes, if you end up randomly browsing the right pile of records. It has couple of bit more memorable songs too, which may pop to your head years later. Bands like Vampyr are always welcomed and interesting discoveries, so thanks for Stormspell Records bringing this out.

Stormspell CD version does also contain a full live gig a video from the same era than release of the album with nine songs, and a booklet with interview featuring guitarist Ralf Hollmer. Both are great bonuses.

Aftermath

After the release of 'Cry Out For Metal', Vampyr had plans for a second album. However, they fell into internal band problems between the members. Gama Records (their label) was pushing them similarly into direction they didn't want to head to. Gama demanded that most of their metal bands, including Vampyr, had to head towards heavier and faster thrash sound of Slayer, whose fame was growing rapidly. Members of Vampyr didn't want to head into thrashier direction at the time. Internal and label problems led the band to disband few years after the release of Cry Out For Metal in 1988:

"we had some material recorded on a 4-track recording, but the tape got lost somewhere, I wish I had a copy for myself. [...] I believe that we gave up with VAMPYR too early. we had achieved quite much within a short time without much effort. it's a shame that we somehow lost the drive to carry on. the second album would have been way better than the debut"  (Ralf Hollmer interview. Vampyr 'Cry Out For Metal' booklet by Stormspell Records.).

...I guess we'll never know.



72

(An average German heavy/speed metal record that has some high points such as great production and tight rhythm guitars, reasonably heavy for it's time)
Buy Cry Out For Metal at Amazon.
-www.kultmetal.com | reviewer: dungeoncrawler



(Vampyr - Sinner)


lineup:

  • Markus "Nil Conan" Maier - Bass
  • Roman Sterzik - Drums
  • Ralf Hollmer - Guitars
    • ex-Tyrant
  • Lubosch "Ironhead" Sterzik - Guitars
  • Wolfgang Schwarz - Vocals
tracklist:

  • 1. Oath (Intro) 00:43  
  • 2. Sinner 04:53  
  • 3. Indianapolis 03:42
  • 4. Hell Bent Angels 03:42  
  • 5. Scytherman 02:58
  • 6. Mercy Killing 03:40  
  • 7. Metal Hymn '86 04:49  
  • 8. Warrior 03:48  
  • 9. Breaking Metal 03:33   
  • 10. Vampyr 03:00
    • Total running time:  34:48

For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction, my bet is that you can double them up, but be sure to also check prices from services such as Ebay, Amazon, and popsike.com)
Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

Label – Hot Blood/941385
Type – LP/G/86
Near Mint – $18
Very Good+ - $10






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