Rather Death Than False of Faith reviews

morbert on April 7th, 2010

Sabbat’s younger brother?

Nah, calling them that wouldn’t do them enough justice. And it’s mostly Mike Keen who actually sounds a lot like Martin Walkyier. Musically the comparison with Sabbat would end by saying HydraVein balanced between Sabbat’s History of a Time to Come and Dreamweaver albums with more Slayer thrown in.

Yes, you heard me. Slayer. Just listen to the opening of the album. Those first 13 seconds, now that’s almost pure plagiarism. It comes straight from the middle section of Slayer’s Raining Blood before it becomes an interpretation. And don’t tell me you can’t hear how the intro from ‘Misanthropic’ sounds like a variation to SOD’s ‘March Of The SOD / Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues’ main riffs.

But apart from the plagiarism and borrowing complaints there’s are but a few other flaws worth mentioning. And that would be A: the artwork and B: the production. Both are below standard and these songs deserve so much better. I don’t know who designed that album cover and who put a gun to someone’s head to make’m accept it but those responsible should’ve been sacked. Come on, a pink album with some green monster?

When listening to this album more often, it becomes clear Hydra Vein were so much better in terms of catchiness, technicality, riff writing than more well known British thrash metal acts from those days like Xentrix or Acid Reign. Of course Hydra Vein were slightly more extreme and more comparable to the earlier mentioned Sabbat or Onslaught. Not forgetting to mention that what often was a weakspot in eighties British thrash, namely mediocre powerless vocals, didn't count for Hydra Vein.

Are there highlights? Yes there are. ‘Crucifier’ is catchy and the titletrack ‘Rather Death Than False of Faith’ a long epic which has enough variety and catchiness to stay entertaining the full length. The biggest highlight however is the mighty ‘The House’ which perfectly combines speed metal and thrash, goes through various paces and has a superb stompin’ midpaced verse which you just can’t get out of your head.

More than twenty years later, one wonders why on earth so few people recall this band but do remember some of the shittiest third rate underground thrash from Brasil. Sometimes life just isn’t fair I guess. When talking eighties British thrash, Hydra Vein is a name that should never be forgotten. And now all of you out there, go find their music, immediately.

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MosquitoControl on February 11th, 2009

Overlooked thrash gem from '88.

Quick! Name three 80s British thrash metal bands... Can't do it? A few true diehards might remember Xentrix, Deathwish, Virus or Acid Reign; some old crusties probably headbanged to Sacrilege and Hellbastard, but for most people the list of British thrashers begins with Sabbat and ends with Onslaught. Is this a reflection of the quality of those lesser known bands or is it a reflection on a generally unsupportive scene? Hydra Vein is one vote for the latter. Rather Death than False of Faith was Hydra Vein's debut, released in the slightly less thrashing 1988 (at least compared to the prior three years).

Rather Death... compares favorably with other late 80s thrash, although it is not top tier, it's damn close. A word of warning though-this album suffers from the same malignancy as so many other thrash albums of the time: the production is serviceable at best but is actually bad in certain spots. First, the bad aspects: the recording levels fluctuate between songs (and in a sometimes annoyingly, within songs themselves), so that at a few points the guitars or drums seem to drop out of the recording. Add to that too much reverb and the entire album sounds a bit echoey. But on the plus side, the guitar tone is very good for the time, reminiscent of the first couple of Slayer albums; the riffs can actually be heard (hear that Dark Angel? Guitar-based music should have prominent guitars). There is audible bass in the mix too, which already makes it better than half the contemporary albums. And it's not thin! Despite the echoey sound, this is fairly heavy, even by today's standards.

Hydra Vein writes a pretty decent riff and aren't afraid of tempo variations. This is not total ripping thrash like Darkness Descends or Pleasure to Kill, even if tracks like "Crucifier," "Misanthropic," and the title track thrash with the best of 'em. Nor is this simple speedy thrash like Bonded By Blood or Go and Live... Stay and Die; there is too much variation and surprisingly the slowest song "Harlequin," is one of the best on the album. It's a pounding, slow to mid tempo song, with a heavy galloping riff, like something off Master of Puppets, but slowed down. The solos aren't much to speak of, stolen straight from the Kerry King/Jeff Hanneman school of random notes and speed runs. They don't detract from the music, but neither do they really add anything to it; some of their intensity is lost in their sheer aimlessness (I'm not asking for Maiden or Priest solos, but basing the solo on the song in some way isn't always a bad thing). Mike Keen on vocals doesn't have the screams like Stace McLaren (Razor) or Tom Araya, but his vocals sound like a combination of them with a pinch of Martin Walkyier (Sabbat); the vocals fit the music quite well, aggressive without getting into death metal territory: mean without getting into hardcore punk territory.

The key thing about all eight songs on the album, something so many early thrash bands got away from (and most later thrash bands never realize in the first place), is that they all thrash and thrash hard: even the slower sections are forceful and propulsive. Hydra Vein also does one thing especially well that the new crop of retro thrashers would do well to learn; they write songs with shout-along worthy choruses: "Raise the guillotine! The war of class begin!" and "Crucifier, die in pain, I'll burn your flesh away!" and "Disbelieve the Harlequin!" (I'm not asking for pop songs, but there's nothing wrong with writing something memorable; as good as some of the new thrashers are at writing riffs, there isn't hardly a one that can write an actual song.) Between the riffs and the choruses, Hydra Vein wrote a better song than most thrash bands out there.

Unfortunately, Hydra Vein in 1988 couldn't do much to separate themselves from a genre that was already woefully oversaturated. Between the speeding thrash insanity coming out of Germany, the ugly thrashing protodeath stylings coming from Canada and the Bay Area's more technical thrash mastery, fans had an incredible number of bands (and scenes) to pick from. Rather Death... is not technical, not even for '88; this has nothing in common with Deception Ignored or Punishment For Decadence or Killing Technology. It's not especially fast, not compared to Signs of Life or Reign in Blood or Spectrum of Death. Instead, already in '88, Rather Death... sounds like a throwback to '85 when bands were content to write good, heavy, thrashing songs with good, heavy, thrashing riffs. This is just really good thrash metal, nothing more, nothing less.

Hydra Vein is easily the third best British thrash band ever. Rather Death... even gives Onslaught a run for second place; had it been released a few years earlier they might even be discussed in the same breath. This is straight-ahead, no-nonsense thrash metal in the way only the late 80s could provide; any one looking for older (relatively) unknown thrash gems has a great one here. I would put this on the same level as Raging Steel, Torment in Fire and Endless Pain. It's too bad more people didn't hear this in '88, they might have gone somewhere.

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Rather Death Than False of Faith track list

3The House03:34
4Right to Die07:14
5Rather Death Than False of Faith04:43

Rather Death Than False of Faith lineup

Damon MaddisonBass
Nathan MaddisonDrums
Mike Keen (R.I.P. 2002)Vocals
Danny RangerGuitars
Stephen DavisGuitars