Album Review: Holy Moses – Invisible Queen

Album Review: Holy Moses - Invisible Queen
Reviewed by Sam Jones

When it comes to longevity, Holy Moses might just be one of, if not the, first major German thrash bands to come out of that part of the world. Predating Tankard, Sodom and a multitude of more famed Teutonic thrash acts by several years, Holy Moses can trace themselves back to 1980, from North Rhine-Westphalia, where from the outset, they were releasing material to immediately get their name out into the open. It’s curious therefore that Holy Moses is a band with no original members remaining, that is true now as it was then yet, with the hiring of vocalist Sabine Classen to replace then-vocalist Wolfgang Dammers owing to drug issues and musical differences, the band have since carved a unique niche in German thrash, potentially as one of, if not, the first thrash act in the world to have a woman fronting a thrash act for the long term. Since then, the band have released no fewer than twelve studio records, bringing Invisible Queen as their thirteenth fully fledged record. There have also been a slew of Demos, Splits and Eps however, Invisible Queen is notable seeing how it’s the band’s first album release in nearly a decade. So, can the band restore to life the fanbase they’ve built over forty years? Let’s find out.

You have to love how this albums starts, not with some ambient sample nor with an introductory piece but, with simple static as one may find as a record spins on a turntable. If there’s one thing many can say regarding Holy Moses, it’s how the band never lost their old school savagery and nearly forty-five years following their formation, they can still bring that sensibility to new fans in 2023 when many thrash peers may wish to relax a little and experiment with safer avenues of thrash. It isn’t long into the album before Holy Moses demonstrate how their long running savagery bleeds into their instrumental makeup too; their riffs and bass isn’t merely audible with great ease, but punches through the varying elements the band also offer. The riffs are far from your run-of-the-mill thrash insignia, their guitarists can clearly play and possess every intention of showcasing how that innate ability results in riffs of higher calibre than their thrash contemporaries. Riffs are as inventive as they are biting, their tone being a light yet snapping assault upon our senses.

But this relentless onslaught isn’t bound up in the guitar work alone, for the bass is just as sharp and devastating. If anything, I’d argue the bass is the most dangerous aspect the band employ across the record due to its capacity to punch through riffs, vocals and drums, all the while giving them the room to make their own impact, whilst still delivering pummelling swathes of thunder that ricochet and blunt the hard concrete Invisible Queen works off of. It’s been some time since I encountered a bass this powerful and primed to kill and only further demonstrates Holy Moses long-standing refusal to sit quietly in some corner and allow other bands to take their place. Whenever Holy Moses release material, it’s always got this merciless quality to it and the instrumentation, the bass in this instance, is a prime example of that axiom. You’ll forever be hearing the bass and how it’s less slapped but nigh on beaten to provide the baselines the band are seeking.

Album Review: Holy Moses - Invisible Queen

There is some argument that once a band no longer has any of its original members left, there’s little point sticking around for them since the essence of who they were is gone. I’d argue that, once a certain member sticks around long enough, they usurp that position. This is the case I’d vouch for Sabine Classen, who’s helmed vocals for Holy Moses since their 1982 Demo release, Satan’s Angels. Their original vocalist may have departed long ago but for all intents and purposes, Holy Moses truly is Sabine’s band and, amazingly after forty years, she can still deliver on the signature raspy vocals that jettisoned her to German metal renown back in the day. Her scathing timbre is as strong now as it was then, helping her stand out against the gruffer, faster form of vocal delivery many German bands of the time, and now, adopted. Bearing in mind how Sabine Classen is almost sixty years of age, it’s absolutely incredible, and potentially miraculous, she’s managed to safeguard her voice over the decades owing to the style of vocals she utilises. It’s become the recognisable Holy Moses vocals longtime fans know it to be, and not even time can dull their impact. They’re as powerful now in 2023 as they were in 1982.

Invisible Queen is fast. It’s very fast. It’s fast to the point that every track is a total whirlwind of destruction that will see you caught amidst its hurricane gales and wondering where you could possibly by the end, before the band reinvigorate that energy all over again. It’s loud, it’s abrasive and it shows no mercy in any shape or form; this is thrash as it was crafted and how it was meant to be, taking no prisoners and leaving you in the dust. However, since the band incorporate surprisingly technical riffs into their songwriting, and change up the flow of their music pretty often, it results in an altogether more chaotic soundscape than had their riffs merely been the straightforward variant we’re accustomed to receiving from thrash acts.

Where many thrash acts wish to take their audience along for the ride, right at their side, Holy Moses forgo that notion completely, preferring to chokehold their audience right into and through a brick wall over and again until the message is clear: Holy Moses are firmly in control and you are merely their next victim.

In conclusion, Invisible Queen may be the band’s first studio release in nine years but, from what we find inside, it may as well been seconds seeing how the band simply launch themselves into this album for twelve solid tracks straight. Holy Moses hold nothing back from start to finish and showcase why they are still a force to be reckoned with; the band may not have garnered the attention they deserved but they continue to churn out material that doubtlessly raises the eyebrows of many previously unfamiliar with their sound. Put simply, this is thrash pure and undiluted that isn’t concerned with diverse songwriting or bringing other forms of pacing to the fray, when the band confidently understand their strengths and use them to their firmest advantage. I think a lot of people will become enamoured with Holy Moses’ ruthless display of thrash and, thankfully, there’s more than plenty of a backlog that people can become immersed with. I absolutely loved this album and the erratic, technical direction their songwriting takes works wonders with their breakneck pace. A sheer thrash joy.

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