By the end of 1983 Tank had proven they were a swaggering, blow and booze fueled heavy metal band incapable of burning at both ends. Sure, they’d put out three of the most infamous and now timeless rock-fueled NWOBHM albums in the space of 18 months but it was time for the kite-string to pop. Personal conflict and escalating arena rock ambitions lead to the original trio of Algy Ward (The Saints, The Damned) and the Brabbs brothers shattering apart while retaining ex-White Spirit guitarist Mick Tucker. The best analog for this situation is Dave Mustaine dropping Gar Samuelson and Chris Poland from Megadeth as it not only lead to a seemingly inferior album but it also included a terrible cover track in the middle. That fourth album was ‘Honour & Blood’ and it set the tone for then declining interest in Tank as they set upon the second half of the 80’s.
NWOBHM lovers and purists suggest different timelines as many saw ‘This Means War’ as a shrug away from the underground towards popular hard rock songwriting, lengthy tracks and wailing guitar solos. The punkish power trio that Fast Eddie Clark had spinning plates on ‘Filth Hounds of Hades’ had forever mutated in the direction of radio rock on ‘Honour & Blood’. You can hear the spandex snapping and the panties mildly steaming from the crowd when Algy Ward‘s unique voice groans through “Wasting My Life Away” and the churlish Priest-like “Too Tired to Wait For Love”. If we’d gotten Zeppelin riffs and Motörhead-ish raw rock swagger before, ‘Honour & Blood’ was a wet t-shirt contest at a Def Leppard concert by comparison. But there are a couple of saving graces to cuddle up with all the same.
The eight minute opener “The War Drags Ever On” is certainly political, and take from it what you will circa ’84, but more importantly it is a speed metal epic that only Tank could ever pull off; The track seamlessly connects with where Ward was heading on ‘This Means War’ but gives Tucker plenty of room to shred and strut. The entirety of Side A is pretty class but things go awry with “Chain of Fools”, an Aretha Franklin cover that immediately flops and kills the momentum entirely leading into two corny, drawn out semi-ballads. Side B would be complete trash if not for “Kill” being ambitious as another eight minute moderately rocking speed metal track full of Tucker‘s wailing rock solos. If not for Ward‘s distinct vocals you’d think it was an 80’s Priest cover band getting it wrong for a solid 25 minutes.
So the ‘hits’ do hit big enough to warrant mention as a classic heavy metal record and although I have major problems with ‘Honour & Blood’ in Tank‘s legacy it holds up as a great mid 80’s rock record too. From this point they’d take a few years to release a self-titled album that blows this out the water in terms of songwriting, and features Ward at his most earnestly sour, before splitting up in 1989. I won’t get into the whole weird history of Tank post-1989 because it is an embarrassing mess but I do want to encourage folks to explore this band’s early discography. Even their ‘worst’ 80’s rock album is well worth the investment.
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To swim and then drown. 3.25/5.0
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