The Art of War

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Back in 1986, the words "20th anniversary" probably never entered the minds of anyone in Vader. Poland was still under communism at the time, and death metal/thrash metal bands (rockers in general, for that matter) were viewed with suspicion by communist hardliners (although the glasnost program of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev -- who had come to power in 1985 -- was starting to seriously change the political climate in Eastern Europe). But Poland -- like the rest of Eastern Europe -- turned capitalist, Vader developed an enthusiastic cult following, and the band reached the 20-year mark in 2006. Early 2006 saw the U.S. release of The Art of War, a 14-minute EP that breaks no new ground for the death metal/thrash veterans but is still solid and well executed. Maintaining their strong Slayer influence, Vader continues to go for the jugular; bombast has always been a major tool in their arsenal, and that hasn't changed. But Vader -- in their own brutal, skull-crushing, mosh pit-loving way -- have a better sense of craftsmanship than many other death metallers. "This Is the War," "What Colour Is Your Blood?," and "Death in Silence" aren't just ultra-fast riffs played at maximum volume; they are songs that tell a story, albeit a dark, troubling one. And the fact that the lead vocals don't render the lyrics indecipherable is a definite plus. All that said, The Art of War falls short of essential; EPs seldom go down in history as truly essential. But obsessive Vader enthusiasts -- the folks who run out and buy their releases instinctively -- will find this to be a tasty little headbanger snack.

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