Doro Pesch has rightly earned her sustained crown as The Queen of Metal, yet never make the mistake of discounting Sabina Classen. Well before thrash broke out of Germany and the American West Coast, Classen was on the scene, joining HOLY MOSES in 1981. Though the truly defined thrash element of the band came in the middle of the decade with the "Queen of Siam", "Finished With the Dogs" and "The New Machine of Liechtenstein" albums, Classen deserves her own dome crest as one metal's first and fiercest lady vocalists.
As fellow countrymen KREATOR, SODOM, HELLOWEEN, DESTRUCTION, GRAVE DIGGER and BLIND GUARDIAN were helping to usher thrash from a harsher style of playing (the exception being HELLOWEEN), Sabina Classen paid her dues with HOLY MOSES and has only received her proper due in the past decade. As the lone remnant to a band that has had enough personnel to warrant a roster handbook, Classen and HOLY MOSES return with their first album in six years (and now as a quartet following the recent departure of guitarist Ollie Jaath), "Redefined Mayhem".
Surviving from 2008's "Agony of Death" is bassist and creative collaborator Thomas Neitsch, who also serves as producer of the new album. Joining HOLY MOSES three years ago was drummer Gerd Lucking and in 2012, guitarist Peter Geltat. Sabina herself describes the new band lineup as "HOLY MOSES Mark 2014", and there's good reason for her to note the occasion of this lineup. DEEP PURPLE Mark IV this is not, but it is pretty damned good.
"Redefined Mayhem" is not just a standout album for HOLY MOSES, but for thrash in the metal revival. As ever, the slowdowns come incrementally on this album and even in mid-tempo modes, there are loads of underlying trip hammers and omnipresent shredding. Younger, fresher bodies withstand the stamina required from this band and "Redefined Mayhem", with Tue Madsen (THE HAUNTED, DARK TRANQUILLITY) applying the final mixes and masters, is one of the most precise albums in the band's history.
Sabina Classen's esophagus has every right to betray her after thirty-three years of being gored, but she's well on her game as ever, mincing between witch shrieks and femme demon ralphs that continue to stand up to any of her contemporaries, pick your decade. It's fascinating hearing her rip through the blitzing hustle of "Hellhound" and "Triggered" and the fixed crush of "Undead Dogs", while all but outright puking over the steady pound of "Delusion". If you're an aspirant metal screamer (male or female), here's a great mentor to study, especially now that Angela Gossow has stepped down from ARCH ENEMY.
HOLY MOSES' current recruits prove themselves well worthy. There's no tempo line Gerd Lucking doesn't sound comfortable with and his transitions and fills are superb. He manages to keep "Whet the Knife" exciting and suspicious of breakout even when it stays at a minimum pace for much of the verses before picking up steam on the choruses. Lucking lays down tons of frenzied bass pedal antics here, and of course on all of the straightforward thrashers. "One Step Ahead of Death" may never really rocket, but Lucking does keep a feverish throb to what equates into a standard power metal jam with yowling vocals.
The guitar solos (assumedly shared between Peter Geltat and Ollie Jaath) are resourceful, if slightly raw in spots. However, once the climaxes of the solos are struck and the blazing melodies are slung at hip's edge next to Thomas Neitsch, they become a stout reason why "Redefined Mayhem" succeeds. Considering Geltat will be carrying the lead burden from this point forward, it should be telling of his future prowess.
There's always a reason to celebrate the release of a HOLY MOSES record, and the party is thrown by the silly-brutal and intentionally cracked 1:17 bonus track, "This Dirt". Not every band carrying its brand for so long has had to fight so hard for respect, but Sabina Classen is a freak of nature and she has the guns in her Mark 2014 arsenal to show why HOLY MOSES still matters.