Thanatos is the daemon — not demon — personification of death and was a minor character in Greek mythology. Thanatos is also a dutch metal band celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, though the band had broken up in 1992 and wasn’t launched again until 1999. Global Purification is their sixth full-length album; they’ve also released two EPs. As for what type of metal they play, well, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Traditionally, they were either considered a thrash or death metal band, but the lyrics on this album, along with the album cover, are in the black metal vein. There are melodic elements to some of the songs on the album as well. But all that should matter, ultimately, is whether the album is any good or not, right? To that end, I think it’s fan-fucking-tastic.
The album opens with “Global Purification,” which immediately catches your attention as it starts off with what sounds like a hammer hitting steel while people scream like they’re being murdered in the background. Musically, it actually reminds me of early Metallica, though it’s tempo is considerably faster. By the time its over you’re inclined to feel like that hammer is hitting your head, but the sound will actually be generated by your head hitting your desk as you head bang along to Yuri Rinkel’s aggressive drumming.
“The Murder of Innocence” follows and is even more vigorous with guitars that might have one feeling like they’re flossing with steel dental floss, bloodying up their mouth. But the salty taste will have you wanting more, more and more of this infectious song, which features some insane thrash guitars along with some clean guitar playing to add pepper to the mix along with some screeching that will make you feel as though you’ve just swallowed a mouthful of hot red pepper.
One thing that separates Thanatos from other bands of the death/black metal ilk is the fact that you can actually understand what Stephan Gebedi is singing much of the time, his vicious vocals more of the growling sort than the guttural. I suppose some purists might hold that against them, but it’s one of the reasons why I think this is one of the year’s best metal albums.
Another highlight is “Nothing Left,” which finds Stephan singing about life being a hopeless bunch of lies. And he makes a convincing argument. “Nothing left to fight for / Nothing worth the pain,” he growls. This one calls to mind Skeletonwitch, my favorite death metal band, this being the biggest compliment I could give them. I especially like the arrangement of this one, which starts off loud and dynamic but eventually ends with a beautiful instrumental outro that comes out of nowhere yet feels natural.
“The Demonized Minority” makes me picture skeletons battling demons, bashing away at each other with swords, machetes, knives and cannon balls. I don’t see anyone winning the battle, just the brutality of it, all inspired by the way this song switches from what I’d call marching music to chaotic blasts that mean war. It might make you feel like someone is hurling rocks at your head. Some might find it unpleasant, but I consider it a welcomed jolt that’s ten times as strong as that coffee I drank this morning. And that battle I picture continues during the following song, “Feeding The War Machine.” At this point half of the skeletons and half of the demons are shredded to pieces but they’re all too foolish to realize that nobody can win this battle.
Ultimately, I think Global Purification is the perfect title for this album with its themes about things being wretched and humanity decaying because we’ve all betrayed each other with lies and violence. But one thing is for certain: Thanatos is not on the losing side of this Armageddon. They’re out there giving the world a taste of its own medicine, fighting until the bitter end. Thirty years in, they’re still alive and kicking ass. Kudos to them, then.