Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Legion of Thor - Complete Discography

This isn't normally something I'd review, but curiosity and duty called and required a listen. The band's genre was reported as being incorrect on Metal Archives, and it stood out, though not for good reasons. I knew the band solely from this comment by admin Azmodes:

"Just FYI, that band is blacklisted for being "NS Deathcore". Now there's a constellation of words I was hoping I'd never see... :ugh:"

As Tom G. Warrior said, "are you morbid?" Morbidly curious, that's for sure. Full disclosure, this all sucks. 

Winds of Change (1999)

Legion of Thor started out as a punk band before later shifting to a metalcore/deathcore style. This album is almost entirely simple power chord punk played over a drum machine, no nice punk basslines or anything fancy. I'd guess the main influences are Skrewdriver and Landser - LoT play a similar, minimal form of hardcore punk/RAC, though this lacks the anthemic feel of RAC. The essence of RAC, as those bands played it, was shouting the message - big choruses shouting a simple phrase, the music focused on the vocalist, since the lyrics are the focus. LoT have none of that. The vocals have no charisma, they're just boring, sharp shouts. They don't lead the music, nothing really does, and the guitars overwhelm the vocals in the mix. I suppose it's about attitude, but it's got a shitty attitude and no character, so what's the point?

2000 (2000)

Legion of Thor's second album is an improvement on the first in many ways, though not much better. The guitar tone is a bit thicker, which conceals the drum machine a little. Still hardcore punk in nature, the guitars now have a metallic flair with muted chugs to accentuate riffs, even some guitar solos. There's even some semblance of hooks in the guitars, though not nearly enough to redeem this. The vocals are up front - gruff shouts reminiscent of Landser. Once again, they fail to lead the music. There's just no charisma here, they don't even attempt the anthemic shouts and sick sing-alongs that are normally highlights of their kin. They don't even go for the signature backing shouts of Oi/street punk/RAC or whatever you want to call it. It's just brash and boorish with no charm to it. I guess this sort of stuff was pushed by ideologically driven labels at the time, just for the sake of having their own music to legitimize their ideology in young minds. I'll just look back on it for the incoherent shit that it is.

Blood, Pride, Pain (2000)

After releasing two albums of the world's most boring hardcore/RAC, Legion of Thor took a quick turn when they seem to have discovered the contemporary NS scene in Germany. Tacky artwork was replaced by a painting from a Games Workshop book on dwarves (take that, symbolically, as you will) and the album introduced by the clanking swords of battle, and outroduced by a folky acoustic guitar bit. It seems they discovered Absurd, Aryan Blood, and Totenburg, perhaps even foreign influences such as Graveland! These elements provide the frame for a new era of Legion of Thor...

...which sounds more or less like their previous album, only the guitarist got a lot better at chugging. Most of this album seems fairly thrashy as a result, a hardcore punk band getting really aggressive on the chugging parts in addition to power chord riffs. Aside from the intro/outro and an infusion of gallops and melody on the second track, this isn't much more than the same old punk band this always was with a newfound tremolo/chugging attack. The drum machine is now programmed with double bass to complement the guitars, and it's better masked in the mix, but it hardly improves the music. The vocalist is still a hoarse barker so devoid of personality that he could suck the hate out of a Skrewdriver anthem. This band still sucks, even though they've found a streak of new blood to imitate.

The 4th Crusade (2004)

After a rapid evolution from simple punk to thrash-tinged metalcore seemingly driven by an improvement in guitar picking technique, Legion of Thor leapt forward to a more modern style with a heavy emphasis on downtuned chugging and palm muting. That is to say, their style started to sound like mallcore. From the harmonics in "Berlin" to the awful System of a Down cover, this band has found a new way to be terrible.

The puzzling thing is that the band still doesn't bring in any of the strong qualities of what they are clearly imitating. The 90s-style metalcore chugging is slurred but has no character, the d-beats have no swing, and the chugs have no groove. They can't even pull off a breakdown, as sad as that is. The songs aren't anthemic or catchy like most RAC, the heaviness feels lethargic rather than energetic like hardcore could be. The performances are tight enough that it isn't an accident, but this sounds like a garage rock band where the only time they seem to be trying to express anything is a handful of squibbly leads.

The persistent mediocrity through four albums shows how this style was manufactured and marketed on ideology, while the music itself was reheated chop suey. Ugh, no pun intended.

Amen (2006)

In case you were ever wondering if NS deathcore was as bad as it sounds... yes, it is.

This is a mix of dirty, slurred groove/death metal riffs and deathcore breakdowns that are puzzlingly reminiscent of punchdafuckup mallcore. The former is like a dumbed down modern Napalm Death, the latter like a retarded Soulfly clone. For all the downtuned chuggy mallcore feeling here, the vocalist is still grunting background noise and can't even work out a hook, nor can anyone else in the band. How the fuck is this band on their fifth album and still this bad? They can't even copy the templates of the shit they're aping - they lack the bounce of mallcore, the groove of any sorta death/groove/grind, the aggression of metal, the catchy hate of RAC. They have none of it, just limp, slurred downtuned guitars and low grunts. This is a band who has repeatedly failed to ape others throughout their "career" and this bad? They can't even channel their hate/angst into their NS deathcore. How the fuck does that even work?

It doesn't.

Feuer & Flamme (2009)

Continuing their evolution into sounding slightly better while still creating shit music, Legion of Thor play a pretty tight and heavy beatdown hardcore/nu-metal hybrid. The latter is purely for the phat chugz, because these bozos still don't have an ounce of radio rock sensibility. They hardly have a sense of how breakdowns work either, diving headlong into long stretches of chugging interspersed with guitar squeals and gang vocals while not being very effective at getting there. Rather than buildup up energy and breaking it down with beatdown sections, this is more breakdown than not, and the contrasting sections don't really make any sense within the songs. Most of a song will be a breakdown, and there will be an odd, out-of-place section in the middle.

The second half of the album has a fair number of melodic metalcore riffs, and while the riffs and songwriting are still poor, it is pretty standout in such a mediocre discography. There's half a dozen songs here which could probably moshed to. Legion of Thor could've been a legit D-list local hardcore opener five years before this album came out.

Wir Wollen Leben (2013)

It isn't every day that I get to soapbox about a bunch of cultural appropriation by a group of German Nazis, but these guys couldn't be any worse at jacking Hatebreed riffs and aping New England metalcore/melodeath. True, I was raised on scattershot melodeath riffs with random breakdowns, but I haven't got the slightest clue what these guys are doing with them, though this has the most variety of their discography. Maybe their imitation of European bands simply reminds me of local bands imitating European bands, but this band's whole discography astounds me as they've been at it for over a decade and still sound like amateurs a decade behind their time.

While they lead the album off with more breakdown-oriented stuff, the majority of this album sounds like every teenage kid I knew who figured out how to play string skipping melodic riffs (think "Slaughter of the Soul") interspersed with tremolo picking, interrupted by breakdowns before a few parts could be sensibly strung together. The songs have no structure - there's no verse/chorus structure, they don't build up to breakdowns, they don't frame the anthems of the hardcore gang vocals, and they certainly don't have the interwoven melodic structures of early At the Gates. Oh yeah, and have I mentioned the random Hitler samples? I think it is apparent that the band have never played for a crowd either, because the vocalist has less charisma than a rusted-out Volkswagen and the drum machine stands out here more than ever, with bonky samples punching through more than the guitars.

As the great philosopher Azmodes once said, "that band is "NS Deathcore". Now there's a constellation of words I was hoping I'd never see..." So please, Legion of Thor, stop stealing my state's culture and playing crappy, utterly derivative metalcore.

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