Germany’s Noise Records has been one of the most important record labels for metal, and especially in the 80s and the 90s the label has been responsible for the release of many albums, from which many are considered classics today. In 2001 Noise was sold to Sanctuary, but ceased to exist after the latter one went bankrupt. In 2016 (if I’m not mistaking) a saviour was found in BMG, who bought the label’s entire catalogue. The resurrection was celebrated by a series of “best of” compilations from the “Noise-years” from many now-classic bands such as among others Running Wild, Helloween, Kreator, Kamelot, and Sinner. And for a while now BMG has also started re-issuing many of those classic albums. One of the bands that was spontaneously signed by Noise at the very beginning of their career was the young thrash quintet Tankard, who were under contract with Noise for almost a decade and released seven studio albums for the label.
Noise/BMG has just re-released the entire Tankard discography that was released via Noise (though only the studio releases), on both CD and on vinyl. In November last year the 80s albums, ‘Zombie Attack’, ‘Chemical Invasion’ and ‘The Morning After’ were reborn. You can read more on that in the first part of this special. And now the remaining four Noise-albums have also been unleashed. Sadly I have not yet seen the vinyl versions, so in this review we’re only talking about the CDs. And they appear in a beautiful digipak, and an exclusively for this release designed booklet in which vocalist Gerre expansively talks about the album in matter. Very informative and fun to read. More importantly, all the albums are remastered. Fortunately the original recordings have been left in their value, and the only thing is that the sound has been cleaned up and pushed, so that the whole thing comes across more powerful than before. Unlike the first three albums the new series do contain bonus tracks, being all audio tracks from the ‘Open All Night’ video spread over three discs. So, let’s have a quick look into the early 90s.
With their first three albums the Frankfurt thrashers had established their name and built good reputation. For their fourth LP, ’The Meaning Of Life’ (1990) a bigger budget and more studio time was made available, and the band got the chance to have the album mixed at the legendary Hansa Studios in Berlin; the same studio were for example David Bowie’s ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ were recorded. Needless to say that sound-wise the result was obviously more powerful than the previous releases. The music itself had remained unchanged and the gentlemen had remained true to their powerful thrash, and also to their peculiar sense of humour. With ‘Beermuda’ and ‘Space Beer’ the album contained a couple of tracks that would become classics that almost three decades later still find their way to the band’s live setlist. With more than 50.000 units shifted in Germany alone ‘The Meaning Of life’ remains the band’s most commercial success to date.
Two years after the successful ‘The Meaning Of Life’, and having released their first live-video (‘Open All Night’) Tankard released ’Stone Cold Sober’ in 1992; another solid record, with one of the greatest cover artworks ever (in my opinion), which also emphasized the band’s drinking image. From a commercial point of view the album did less well than its predecessor. This however had nothing to do with the music or the band’s qualities, but with the rise of the compact disc and the fact that this was the first records that wasn’t released on vinyl, but only on CD; back in the day an expensive medium. Also the fact that thrash (and metal in general) wasn’t as popular anymore and the rising popularity of grunge were responsible for the disappointing sales figures. Nevertheless ‘Stone Cold Sober’ was and is a fantastic album. With ‘Freibier’ the album also contained the first Tankard track with German lyrics, by the way.
On their sixth LP, Two-Faced’ which was released in 1994 the band wanted to step away from their drinking-image. The – in my opinion – fantastic cover artwork had nothing to do with the subject, and also lyrically there were no songs on the album that were dealing with alcohol and drinking. It is of course no secret that this was a failed attempt and that the band never got rid of that image, but that aside. Sonically the album sounded more rough than its predecessor, but stylistically ‘Two-Faced’ was not a surprising record in general, but simply a high-quality thrasher. Although the album sold better than ‘Stone Cold Sober’, ‘Two Faced’ remains one of the most underrated albums in the band’s career.
In 1995 Tankard released its last album for Noise, The Tankard’. Although this was a true Tankard release and still showed a thrash band, in comparison with their previous works ‘The Tankard’ was a lot more melodic and more accessible, though not commercial. Gerre also showed a different side of himself and was more actually singing on this record. Unfortunately the album hardly got noticed and has gone in the books as the band’s least successful album.
Alongside Tankard the gentlemen had started a side-project as “Tankwart” (German for Gas station attendant”) with which they played metal/punk cover versions of Schlager and other German-language songs. With Tankwart the men released two albums, from which the first, ‘Aufgetankt’ was released in 1994 through Noise (the following ‘Himbeergeist zum Frühstück’ appeared in 1996 on Century Media). The reissue of ‘The Tankard’ contains the entire Tankwart debut as bonus disc. A nice addition.
Due to the better sound and the beautiful packaging these new versions are worth the while, and especially the younger generation now has the opportunity to own these classics by one of the veterans of thrash metal. And finally I must say that I find it a pity that they have skipped the ‘Open All Night’ video and the ‘Fat… Ugly & (A)Live’ live album in this series of reissues.