Rosenfeld – Pigs of the Empire (1991)

When I think of Japan, I usually don’t think of Nazi shock “rock”, but maybe I should, because Tokyo has its fair share of bands that fall into this unconventional category. One of these bands is Rosenfeld, and today I review their album “Pigs of the Empire”. It’s an unconventional piece of extreme thrash metal of the same caliber as Morbid Saint, Demolition Hammer and Num Skull. Sadly, this album wouldn’t see the same underground success that the aforementioned bands did, as it never really got exposure outside of Japan.

This album is a no holds barred, full blown, vicious piece of Japanese thrash metal. Pounding drums, extremely distorted guitar, masterful bass, and vocals that sound like a banshee from Hell make this album entirely restless. As soon as you start listening, the hate flows through you like a river, and doesn’t stop for the full 52 minutes that this album offers.

The riffing on this album is extremely fast, somewhat technical and quite varied. The drums are fast, pounding and have the occasional fill to ensure that they never get too dull or overbearing. The vocals are absolutely feral, and almost sound like something found in a black metal album. On top of the vocals is a distortion effect that, while not necessary, adds to the ferocity and “girth” of the mix. The bass has some hardcore punk moments, where all the instruments stop except for the bass, as it riffs on, until everyone joins back in.

Some elements not usually found in thrash metal of this caliber are present in this album. One of these elements happens to be acoustic interludes, which appear in songs like Pigs of the Empire, Leather, and Storm Trooper. They work well, especially in Storm Trooper; the interlude comes in right when the song is getting dull. It also helps that they are well written and pleasant to listen to, and not just something that Rosenfeld has grabbed from more traditional American thrash metal, without really understanding what purpose they might serve. Even more surprising is the ballad, Rest in Peace, which is quite phenomenal. It is easily one of the best thrash metal songs ever, which is somewhat shocking, seeing that it’s a ballad from a relatively unknown band, no less.

The bass on this album has many parts where it plays independent to the guitars. For example, on Caught in a Trap, the bass at one point plays a somber, somewhat optimistic riff, while the guitars play a faster, more typical thrash metal riff. The bass also plays fills here and there throughout the album, something reminiscent of the Speed Metal genre. Unfortunately, this is really the only time the bass is really pronounced, as it is usually lost in the mix, buried under extremely distorted guitars, drums and vocals.

The lyrics range from the typical death and destruction to, oddly enough, lyrics about love lost, regret and remembrance. This is just one of the elements that I really love about this album. Rosenfeld stayed away from the established thrash metal conventions, did something different, and it payed off. All of these elements make “Pigs of the Empire” stand out from the crowd, which is something Rosenfeld should be proud of.

“Pigs of the Empire” is a true diamond in the rough. Somewhat unorthodox, but extremely vicious on all fronts. It did something that not many other bands did, and it succeeded in doing so; a perfect balance of somber lyrics, speed elements, acoustic pieces and instrumentation from Hell. I highly recommend it to anyone that is able to sit through its 52 minute running time, it’s definitely worth it.

The album can be listened to here.

Youichi Horizoe – Guitars
Hisayoshi Hiraga – Vocals
Gish – Bass
Kouchi – Drums
Hiromi – Guitars

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