Black Shepherd – “Immortal Aggression”

 

Band: Black Shepherd

Album: Immortal Aggression

Released: 1988

Label: Punk Etc.

Take a look at the cover. Just look at it. I can imagine the conversation that got them there. “Wait, Giger charges how much for artwork? Fuck that. Igor, looks like you’re doing it. Get to work.” Despite its amateurishness, it undeniably has a Giger-esque quality to it, so… I mean, it has a quasi-cybernetic Baphomet with implants getting drooled on by a demonic snake. That’s mission fucking accomplished as far as I’m concerned.

Black Shepherd was a thrash metal band from Belgium, but they sounded like they were transplanted there right out of the contemporaneous Brazilian scene. Their sound stood right alongside Mutilator, Attomica or Vulcano with a bestial aggression that blurs the line between thrash, death and black metal.

 

 

But Black Shepherd took that sound to such an extreme level. They may have been aware on a theoretical level that music can have tempo changes, but in practice they only have two speeds: stop and batshit. The drums are cranked in both volume and speed. They’re competent and just sloppy enough to give that lovely feral, untamed sound and they rarely give you any breathing room. Quick bursts of hoarse shouts with a slight echo is the norm for the vocals, again reminding me of the aforementioned South American bands that didn’t quite go full-growly. You’ll be blessed by the first of many solos two minutes into the self-titled opener. They’re all done when the playing is at full tilt, and they’re all completely unhinged and only increase the album’s already frantic pace. There may not be a ton of variation from song to song, but some nevertheless stand out – “Animal” is a raging thrasher with a stop-and-go chorus, and “Trash” is a one-minute barnburner that with Black Shepherd at the upper limits of their speed, which is no small statement.

It’s simple – “Immortal Aggression” grabs you by the balls and leads you through a minefield at a full-on run. It’s just unapologetically relentless. The band split up shortly after this album, which is almost a good thing; it has the same sort of curse on it that Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” did, where it’s impossible to top and the only options are to slow down or bow out. Indeed, their 1989 demo “Welcome,” while still very good, doesn’t reach the same levels of extremity, and a second album would likely have suffered the same fate. But with “Immortal Aggression,” Black Shepherd released one hell of a statement, dropped the mic, and left everyone wondering what just hit them. If you want to hear thrash at its most extreme, this is it.

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