Holy Moses

Agony of Death

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The 1990s and the 21st century have seen plenty of women singing loud, heavy, forceful, in-your-face rock, but they tend to be concentrated in certain areas of rock. The harder side of alternative rock has been very female-friendly (Lunachicks, Courtney Love, 7 Year Bitch, Babes in Toyland, Soraia, L7, Bikini Kill, among countless others), and goth metal is famous for its abundance of female vocalists. But thrash metal, like death metal, black metal, and metalcore, has remained very male-dominated. Sabina Classen, Holy Moses' lead singer since the early '80s, is a rare example of a female thrash vocalist. Classen's gruff, abrasive, guttural vocals have long thrived on harshness, and that harshness is right at home on Agony of Death. This 2008 release favors a take-no-prisoners approach to thrash; there is some melodic and harmonic nuance at times, but for the most part, Holy Moses thrive on head-kicking metal/punk brutality delivered at breakneck speed. While Agony of Death isn't full-fledged death metal, Classen's vocals do have a certain amount of death metal appeal and remind listeners that death metal and black metal would not have come about were it not for thrash metal/speed metal (which was the first time metal became seriously influenced by punk). The heaviness-for-the-sake-of-heaviness approach has its limitations, but instead of being apologetic about those limitations, Holy Moses passionately celebrate them -- and while Agony of Death isn't in a class with Slayer's best work, it is definitely focused, inspired, and exciting. Agony of Death is hardly groundbreaking by 2008 standards, but when it comes to delivering an effective dose of mosh pit-friendly exhilaration, Classen and her colleagues definitely get the job done.

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