Genre: Thrash Metal | Label: Majestic Union
Location: Ulm, Germany | Listen: N/A
R. U. Dead? (here after referred to as RUD) were a cult thrash band from south Germany that were formed in 1989. Prior to RUD, guitarist Uli Hildenbrand was in Poison, another German thrash band that released a string of demos throughout the mid 80’s. If you aren’t familiar with Poison, “Into the Abyss” is certainly worth hearing, and provides a lot of context for what Hildenbrand was doing with RUD. The brand of thrash he was after was a lot more elaborate than that of Destruction, Kreator, or Sodom. Much like Poison, RUD never released a full length, and instead graced us with several demos and EPs. This compilation contains tracks from three EPs and three demos spanning their existence.
The first three tracks are from the 1996 EP, “A Thought Before the Kill,” which right away starts off with an eerie intro that includes an almost operatic vocal approach. Before long, it builds up into something that can be more recognized as thrash, with an increasing amount of velocity. The vocals are completely unhinged, ripping through the songs with a primal roar. There’s a pretty evil sense of melody throughout all of this, and it’s mixed with some off kilter, Voivod-ian like riffs.
The next four tracks can originally be found on the “Nothing Will Be Forgiven” EP from 1995. A little more raw than the previous tracks, there’s no lack of intensity in these songs either. Riffs have a lot of well thought out phrasing as they twist around patterns and variations. The tracks from this EP were of particular interest to me, as the track “When Your Heart Turns Black” was covered by Ares Kingdom in more recent years, and you can really see how RUD’s influence rubbed off on those midwesterners. The refinement of vision with more mature musicianship can really be seen between the Poison and RUD material, much like how Keller of Ares Kingdom pushed on after the demise of Order From Chaos. These four songs, and especially the aforementioned song, are the highlight of this recording for me.
As the tracklist progresses, we go farther back in time to RUD’s original incarnation, as they broke up in 1992, only to reform in ’94 and do the previously discussed material. Here we get both tracks of their first 7″, as well as the lead tracks from their first two demos. A different vocalist is on this material, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Blume of Ares Kingdom was heavily influenced by these vocals. These tracks sound even more primitive, but still have a sense of epicness to them, especially the 8+ minute, doom laden “The Tombs Have Not Been Sealed.” As the timeline would suggest, this era of the band sounds very much between the Poison material and the second era of RUD. In fact, “Lurking Fear,” one of the demo tracks, was originally a Poison song. This song is a certified thrasher and sounds even more crushing than ever.
Jumping ahead in time, the final track on this 68 minute compilation is from a rehearsal tape that was released in 1998. It is the last recording of RUD before they finally broke up. It sounds rawer than the early demo material, but the songwriting and musicianship is as mature as ever. I can only speculate as to why they broke up at this point, and it’s really too bad they never did a full studio recording.
This compilation is an excellent way to dig into one of Germany’s cult thrash metal acts. Yes, the name is silly, but don’t let that stop you from checking out R.U. Dead?. The first couple EPs on this compilation are worth hearing alone, and the older material thrashes hard. Poison gets a fair amount of praise despite not having a proper full length, where as RUD seems to fly under the radar for most. Rest assured, Hildenbrand’s unique style that he first developed with Poison keeps following that trajectory in RUD.