HARTER ATTACK, Human Hell  (1989, Arena)

The skull:
“Smile!” says the artist, and this skull is very happy to oblige. “Gosh, it’s just such a nice day out there!,” beams the skull, “and I’m really happy that Harter Attack chose me, out of the billions of skulls they could have chosen, to grace their album cover! I understand they’re going to be the next Metallica, or Testament, and I, for one, will help them convey a sense of danger by appearing all skully on their cover! Human hell, maybe, but it’s not hell for a skull! Oh heavens, not at all! It’s wonderful! Even those red splotches of blood and the half-assed way the artist is currently rendering my visage couldn’t get me down! Not on a day like today! It’s just so sunny and nice out there! Harter Attack, Harter Attack…yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Harter Attack!”

The music:
This is the only album released by New Jersey thrash trio Harter Attack. Not-very-cleverly named after guitarist/vocalist Rich Harter, the band were there back in 1986 releasing demos, so they’re not quite the bandwagon-jumping variety you’d see a lot of in 1989. Members of Riot and Nuclear Assault breezed through their ranks at one point, and the N.A. link runs deep: NukeAss drummer Glenn Evans produced this album, released it on his Arena Records label, and co-wrote a couple songs. Even bassist Dan Lilker got in on the fun, co-credited with a song called (I love this) “Nuclear Attack.” What you get on Human Hell is neither top-tier nor totally vanilla thrash metal. It does its job and does it well, very much in the NY/NJ mold, reminiscent of Nuclear Assault, Anthrax and Overkill, although not as distinctive as those. Think more along the lines of Jersey Dogs and Gothic Slam, but better. The playing is solid all the way through, the production punchy and dry, you get a few truly good riffs occasionally, the vocals are…okay, those are vanilla. This is not a long slog at 34 minutes, but after the first few tracks it falls flat, and that’s Harter Attack’s downfall: they lack any real variation. There just aren’t enough interesting melodic or rhythmic moments to spread over the whole album. They carved out their tiny little niche in thrash history and it’s still better than much of the retro-retro-thrash littering the marketplace at the moment, so let’s maybe give one half-hearted cheer for Harter Attack. “Yay.”
— Friar Wagner

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