Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pacific Metal Project (1985 Restless Records)

This was a compilation of local Seattle based bands. It also happens to be one of my favorites. Unlike many compilations of local talent that sample a wide variety of musical styles, this one is nearly 100% metal. All tracks are exclusive except where noted.

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LP includes insert with band info.
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1. Heir Apparent – “Tear Down the Walls”: There were quite a few bands on the Seattle scene that were inspired by Queensryche’s early success, but none match the brilliance of Heir Apparent. Their very first official release is featured here and is one of the catchier tracks from their 1986 Graceful Inheritance LP. This version is slightly different.
2. Myth – “Let Me Hear the Thunder”: Not to be confused with the band from Connecticut (the page on metal-archives is dead wrong), this is the infamous Kelly Gray Myth that once featured Geoff Tate on vocals. His replacement is no Geoff Tate, but he’s still pretty good and actually reminds me of Ann Boleyn despite being male. This is a great song, but it seems to be missing something. Perhaps there are too many keyboards?
3. Mistrust – “Running for My Life”: Mistrust was formed from the ashes of a couple other Seattle based bands. The guitarist and bass player are from Rottweiller and the singer is from Culprit. Decent song that sounds a bit like Metal Church with a hard rock edge. The same version appears on the 1986 Spin the World LP (their only other release).
4. Manchild – “Keep on Believin’”: Fairly typical US metal, it has a decent chorus but overall is too predictable.
5. Ransom – “Throw the Stone”: Some heavy dark sleaze here (sort of like W.A.S.P.) The melody actually reminds me of the self-titled track by Sacred Few.
6. Look Out – “Burning Steel”: This intro to this song is a rip off of “The Lady Wore Black”, but the rest sounds more like something from Canada’s Black Knight.
7. Phaze – “Where Can We Be Alone”: Phaze plays decent but unremarkable heavy hard rock in the style of Dokken.
8. Arson – “Caught in the Web”: An excellent speed metal track, and unfortunately another band who never released anything else.
9. Xinr – “Everpresent Angel”: Now this is the reason I track down all these obscure compilations. Completely unknown band, and one of the most original I’ve heard in a long time. They sound kind of like a cross between Cirith Ungol and Hell. The vocals certainly aren’t for everyone but it’s a great song nevertheless. Tragically, members Tony Saiz and Shaun Tramel died in a motorcycle accident just weeks prior to the release of the Pacific Metal Project LP and the band soon disbanded. Second guitarist Roger DeCarlo went on to join Cruella, but until recently it was thought that no other recordings survived from the original Xinr lineup. Fortunately, Stormspell Records were able to track down the remaining members and acquired the rights to some long lost demos. The CD, Beyond Woodward, was released on December 1, 2008 so get your copy now!
10. D.C. Lacroix – “Rip It Up”: This is the same as the version on their 1986 Crack of Doom LP, but without the brief vocal introduction. Shortly after this compilation was released, the band was contacted by New Renaissance Records to have the song included on their Ladykillers compilation (which I reviewed a couple weeks ago). This inspired the band to move to L.A.

Available Formats: Vinyl and cassette.

Value: $8-10 (vinyl), $3 (cassette)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ladykillers (1986 New Renaissance Records)

New Renaissance Records, the label started by Ann Boleyn of Hellion, put out a lot of compilation albums. In fact, this was their fifth compilation LP, and their sixth LP overall. Unlike the others, however, Ladykillers features exclusively female-fronted artists. Most of them are from California, though a few are from New Jersey and Blacklace is from New York. As someone who really enjoys female vocals in metal, it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite compilations. I’ve chosen to review the cassette version here because it includes two tracks omitted from the vinyl version. All songs are exclusive except where noted.

A second volume was released on CD in 2000.

1. Blacklace – "Speed of Sound": Traditional NY metal, a bit like Riot with tough female vocals. This song is taken from their 1985 Get It While It’s Hot LP. One of the less obscure bands on this compilation.
2. Hellion – "Better Off Dead": Hellion plays a kind of commercial power metal that you often hear from L.A. bands, but with the unique vocals of Ann Boleyn. This was rerecorded for their 1987 Screams in the Night LP.
3. Pantara – "Torn Away": Straight up heavy metal with Ann Wilson like vocals (including an "Ooh" straight out of "Barracuda"). The Ladykillers album was slated to include a second Pantara track called "Nitemares" but I guess it didn’t make the final cut. The all-female quartet would disappear into obscurity again after this.
4. Queen of Hearts – "Sleeping with Dead": Somewhat of a sleazy hard rock song which is saved from mediocrity by a great, catchy chorus.
5. Judy Saiya – "Try Anything": I’ve always loved Stevie Nicks, so it’s great to hear someone with a similar voice singing over something a bit heavier. Only a bit though, as the music is very light hard rock like, say, Femme Fatale.
6. Deep Freeze – "No Last Words": The first of two tracks by Deep Freeze, this was not included on the LP version of Ladykillers. Decent hard rock with some very masculine vocals.
7. The Day After – "Fire": The only real stinker on the album is this lame cover of the Doors’ classic.
8. Syren – "Fight Or Fall": Killer power metal that reminds me of Black Knight with rougher vocals, similar to those of Leather Leone from Chastain. They also had a song called "Danger" on the 1985 California’s Best Metal LP, New Renaissance Records’ third compilation album. Singer Brenda Barboni’s career goes back to the early 70s, but she did not find metal until joining Syren in either 1984 or 1985. Syren later changed their name to Tigershark. Brenda is currently recording a new CD with her much more AOR/hard rock oriented project, BB3. You can hear "Fight Or Fall" on the BB3 MySpace page.
9. High Risk – "I Know What You Want": The beginning of this song might mislead you with its flute and light sounding intro, but it soon reveals itself as epic power metal. Maybe epic isn’t the right word to describe a song that’s only just over 4 minutes long, but it has a great build up and very strong finish. Actually it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite songs, "Troubled Ways" by Lost Horizon (no relation to the famous Swedish band) on Metal Massacre 7. Except there’s a flute. And the singer sounds uncannily like Ann Wilson from Heart. In other words, it rules! According to Blood Sisters they released a 3 song demo in 1987. If anyone can help me get a hold of that demo, I’ll name my next child after you*! High Risk first appeared on Metal Madness compilation with an inferior, male voiced, track.
10. DC Lacroix – "Rip It Up": Formerly a Seattle based band, DC Lacroix is one of the more generic female-fronted acts of the 80s. This song is taken directly from 1986 Crack of Doom LP making it even less interesting. It first appeared on the 1985 Pacific Metal Project compilation LP, but without the brief intro.
11. Jaded Lady – "On the Run": Jaded Lady began as an all-female version of Motley Crue called Obsession who changed their name to Leather Angel, and then to Jaded Lady after both drummer Krissi North and guitarist Debbie Wolf left. They seem to have become more competent since Leather Angel’s 1983 We Came to Kill EP. However, this is still not a song that is worth repeated listens. They would briefly appear on the 1988 film Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years and then break up before releasing anything else other than a few demos.
12. Deep Freeze – "Soft Touch": If you have the LP version of Ladykillers, then you only get this track by Deep Freeze. Presumably that’s because this is a little heavier, but I think "No Last Words" is the better of the two. This band also appeared on the Q100 radio sampler Mega Metal I, though I am not sure if it was one of these tracks or another exclusive one.
13. Hellion – "Put the Hammer Down": The second cassette only track is from Hellion. A different version appears on Screams in the Night.

*If I ever do have another child, I’ll probably have to be institutionalized as well. Three is plenty, thank you!

Available Formats: cassette and vinyl (minus 2 tracks)

Value: $3-5 (cassette), $10-15 (vinyl)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Technical Difficulties

If you missed Metal Lessons Radio last week, the compilation show will be replaying this week, starting tonight. Hopefully the chat room will actually be working tomorrow night and you can join me there.

I will also have a new review for you tomorrow. I was actually about to post it but I realized I need to scan something so it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Break Out: German Metal Tracks No. 2 (1986 D&S Recording)

It's time to follow up German Metal Tracks No. 1 with a review of the sequel. The German Metal Tracks series can be hard to follow, since some marketing genius at D&S decided to use the same title and only put No. 2 on the back cover. They did this with later volumes too. Here is the sequence as I know it:

Break Out: German Metal Tracks No. 1 (1985, WK 30.616)
Break Out: German Metal Tracks No. 2 (1986, WK 30.671)
Metal Hour: German Metal Tracks No. 3 (1986, WK 30.698)
Metal Hour: German Metal Tracks No. 4 (1986, WK 30.746)
Metal Hour: German Metal Tracks No. 5 (1987, ?)
German Metal Fighters No. 1 (1987, DS 003)
German Metal Fighters No. 2 (1988, DS 005)
Best of German Metal Newcomer (1990, DS-017, promo only)

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German Metal Tracks No. 2 also came with a Ravage sticker:

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1. Advice – "No Way Out": Fairly typical German metal with very gruff vocals, sort of like a more melodic Tyrant. A good opener.
2. Arkham – "Die Young": These guys were obviously big Accept fans. This song is not bad, it's just not memorable.
3. Necronomicon – "Possessed by Evil": Necronomicon are often referred to as a Destruction clone. They certainly do sound a lot like them, but on this song I find they more closely resemble early Sodom. I can't help but think of "Obsessed by Cruelty" when I hear the chorus. I'm sure the satanic thrash/proto-black metal fans go nuts over this stuff. To me it's only mildly interesting.
4. Ravage – "Coming Alive": Great raw power metal, similar to the old Gama bands like Gravestone or early Stormwitch. This was rerecorded in 2000 for their self-titled CD. Ravage would also release an EP in 1989 called Swords and Heroes on which they sound a lot like Not Fragile.
5. Stained Class – "Recovery": Stained Class plays in a similar style as Ravage or even Dark Avenger from Noise Records' Death Metal compilation.
6. Stained Class – "Back for More": Another excellent track. Unfortunately, there were no other releases by this band.
7. Ravage – "Ravage": More raw German power metal. I get the impression that Ravage wanted their theme song to be something of a sampler of what the band is about. It starts of slow with more of a traditional sound before speeding up. Then, after a melodic, Helloween like part in the middle, you hear the only instance of keyboards in either of their tracks on this album. It finishes with a brief solo from each member making for a pretty interesting song overall. This one is entirely exclusive to this album.
8. Necronomicon – "Blind Destruction": This track sounds more like Destruction, especially with the Schmier like vocals. Both this and "Possessed by Evil" also appear in different versions on their debut self-titled LP which was released the same year.
9. Arkham – "Metal Or Chains": The fist-pounding chorus makes this quite an improvement over "Die Young". Like Stained Class, their contributions to this compilation were to be their only legacy.
10. Advice – "Children of the Dark": Another good song, but it sounds a little too close to their other track on this album. This one was also appeared on their only other release, the Persuer EP, which oddly enough was not released until 1992. I believe that they are different versions.

A bit more predictable than the first Break Out compilation, but still recommended. A great sampler of underground German metal.

Available Formats: Vinyl only.

Value: $20-30

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Metal Lessons Radio

Sorry I don't have a new review for you, though I will have a couple soon. However, I do have some exciting news. Metal Lessons Radio is doing a show on compilation albums this week. I will be on in the second half of the show talking about and playing some of my favorite obscure compilation tracks (11 songs total). The show will air at the following times:

The CMS Radio Network:

*If you can, join us in the chat room at on Thursday night. I will be there with the DJs and other listeners to discuss the songs and related topics.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Break Out: German Metal Tracks No. 1 (1985 D&S Recording)

Getting back to the theme of label debuts, here is the first offering from a very obscure German label. This LP started a whole series of compilations which I will address later. Overall, the bands on this one sound like a combination of NWOBHM with early German speed/power. Every song is exclusive, though the two Not Fragile tracks were rerecorded in 1989 for their One Way to Glory LP which was not released until 1992 in Japan (as Hard to Be Alive) and 1993 in Europe (as Lost in a Dream).

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1. Not Fragile – "Too Fast": Not Fragile is the only band on this compilation who would actually go on to be somewhat known. This was their very first release, from before they decided to really sound like Helloween (though there are similarities). The sound is very raw, like most of this album.
2. Satan’s Pharynx – "Necropolis": This sounds like early Satan (when they had Trev Robinson on vocals) running on one less cylinder. Very good, but the singer has trouble with those high notes.
3. Glacial Sun – "Big Feelings": A big let down after the first two tracks, this one sounds like a bad Dragster song being sung with a heavy German accent.
4. Chiolution – "Jaws of Death": Here’s an interesting one. Early Running Wild style metal with some of the most un-metal vocals I've ever heard (in a metal band). The singer almost sounds like Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria. It’s crazy, but I like it.
5. Breathless – "Duell of Wizzards": Whenever you see a gross misspelling like this, you know it's either a glam band or some really amateur metal. In this case it's the latter. This song is a good example of the kind of NWOBHM-meets-German metal I was talking about. It also has a 70s epic feel, and is one of my favorites from this album.
6. Vengeance – "Hellfire": Typical German metal, sort of like Gravestone with softer vocals. Not the same Vengeance that appeared on the MIR Heavy Metal Sampler LP. This band never released any songs besides the two on this compilation.
7. Vengeance – "Metal in Your Veins": More of the same. Really nothing special.
8. Breathless – "Back from the Attack": A step down from their last song, being more of a generic Accept styled track. Breathless would appear again on the third compilation in this series before changing their name to Glory Anthem.
9. Chiolution – "Moving Circle": Another great song, this time with more of an epic feel. The vocals also make a bit more sense now with some Kreator like screams mixed in. Unfortunately, the song ends abruptly leaving it feeling unfinished.
10. Glacial Sun – "Burning Love": Glacial Sun's second offering is still bad, but this time it has a bit of charm. Parts of it actually remind me a lot of early Witchfynde, especially the harmonies.
11. Satan’s Pharynx – "Rock 'n' Roll": Is this the same band? Unlike their other song, this is basic hard rock. However, they do manage to make it sound heavy (almost as though it were a cover).
12. Not Fragile – "Hard to Be Alive": After the last song, Not Fragile's second offering is a bit shocking, sounding like something straight off of Walls of Jericho (though Torsten Buczko's vocals are still rough and uncontrolled and don't really sound like Kai Hansen's yet). Great song but, as with "Too Fast", quite inferior to the rerecorded version.

Break Out is highly recommended and thankfully not too expensive yet, but still very hard to find. If you prefer the highly polished German power metal of today then it's probably not worth the effort, but if, like me, you find magic in hearing young musicians who haven't mastered their instruments but have a vision and a passion for metal then seek this out. Note that there was another German compilation called Break Out that was released in 1988 on Rockport, and has no relation to this album.

Available Formats: Vinyl only.

Value: $15-25

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cleveland Metal (1983 Clubside Records)

I’m back! After Evie was born back in March (yes, we’re up to 3 now) I didn’t have time to post any new reviews. Now that things are settling down a bit, I hope to get back into it.

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Here's an earlier compilation of bands from the Cleveland metal scene. This one is a bit easier to find but just as good. Comes with an insert, as shown above. Clubside Records would change their name to Auburn Records before releasing anything else.

1. Black Death – "Taken By Force": The album starts off with this awesome raw Priest-ish power metal song that grabs you right away and never lets go.
2. Black Death – "Until We Rock": Black Death’s second contribution is slower but still very heavy and just as over-the-top. Both tracks are exclusive. The band would go on to record a full length LP and 7" that were sold together on the Auburn Records label.
3. Sacred Few – "Sacred Few": Sacred Few’s anthem is a decent song with a simple hard rock beat. They would get much better on their 1985 Beyond the Iron Walls LP, and not just because they replaced the whiny vocalist with a capable female singer. This was also released as a single in 1983 on their own Skull Records label.
4. Cerberus – "Rampage": Very cool instrumental similar to Iron Maiden’s "Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)". Exclusive track.
5. Jagged Edge – "Eyes of Fire": This is an unusual song that sounds uncannily like a sped up version of Black Sabbath’s "Hand of Doom". I remember hating it when I first heard it, but it has grown on me a little. Now I consider it one of those classic "so bad it’s good" songs. Exclusive track.
6. Mistreater – "Without You": Another Black Sabbath influenced song, only this time with a vocalist sounding rather a lot like Vince Neil. It sounds like an interesting combination, but ultimately I find it completely unlistenable. I’m sure I’ll get some crap for saying that, since this band does have a few rather dedicated followers, but that’s how I feel. Exclusive track.
7. Breaker – "10 Seconds In": Everything I said about Breaker in my last review holds true for their early material as well. A great main riff and chorus keep me coming back to this song. Also released on their 1987 debut LP Get Tough, but in different form. I prefer this version, though it’s probably a case of whichever one you hear first will be your favorite.
8. Breaker – "Walking the Wire": A slower song that could be called a ballad, and therefore not surprisingly is where their Scorpions influences show through most clearly. It’s also a great song which did not originally appear on their first LP. Both this song and the original version of "10 Second In" were rereleased on the 2000 2CD reissue of Get Tough.
9. Shok Paris – "Go Down Fighting": This is an early version of their classic song recorded with a different vocalist. It’s a good song, but it lacks the power of the version from their 1988 Steel and Starlight LP. Also, Vic Hix makes this singer seem quite bland in comparison. This version was rereleased as a bonus track on Auburn Records’ 2004 CD reissue of Go for the Throat.
10. Sorcerer – "Bloodline": This song reminds me of Witchfinder General: heavy NWOBHM sound with 70s influences, but too upbeat to be called doom (except perhaps for the guitar solo). Unlike the other 70s sounding bands on this compilation, Sorcerer seems to draw as much from Scorpions as Sabbath. Their only other release is the track "Strike of the Raven" on the 1984 compilation LP Etched in Steel. However, guitarist/vocalist Pat DeLaney did release a single in 1980 called Dreams of Life, under the name Pat DeLaney and Friends, which is perhaps a better representation of Pat’s Uli Roth influences.

Available Formats: Vinyl only. There are 2 versions of the sleeve, with the only difference being the Sorcerer logo and band photo on the back. The first edition was limited to 1,000 copies. The second edition is pictured above and was limited to 1,500 copies.

Value: $15-25

Monday, March 17, 2008

Heavy Artillery (1990 Auburn Records)

Never let it be said that I don’t listen to my readers! Shortly after someone requested Heavy Artillery, I found it for sale and immediately purchased it. A lucky find, I suppose, but I wasted no time in getting the review up.

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I’ve often suspected that Cleveland had one of the best underground metal scenes in the 80s, and this compilation from the end of the decade really cements that theory. Though no band ever became successful, there were countless killer bands from the area. In addition to the bands on Heavy Artillery there were Axemaster, Black Death, Shok Paris, and others. The predominant style on this compilation is a combination of thrash and power metal (mostly power metal vocals over thrash riffs, with a bit of speed metal too). A few bands were based outside of Cleveland, but aside from Titan Force from Colorado, all of them were part of the Cleveland scene. Every song is exclusive except where noted.

1. Breaker – "Still Life": If there was one band from the Cleveland scene that should have made it big, it would have to be Breaker. I mean, as much as I love Black Death I’m in no way surprised by their lack of success. Breaker, on the other hand, were both talented and accessible combining elements of mainstream bands like Iron Maiden or Scorpions (besides the obvious Accept influence) without sounding like a copy of anyone. This song was re-released on their 1999 Accept EP, as well as the 2000 reissue of their 1987 Get Tough LP which includes a second disc of rare and unreleased songs.
2. Kraze – "Devil in Disguise": Actually a Pennsylvania based band, they were still considered part of the Ohio scene. On this song they play Hirax type speed interspersed with thrash riffs reminiscent of early Sacred Reich and Overkill. In 2002, Iron Glory Records released a compilation called Devil in Disguise that includes this song as well as their 80s demo material.
3. Chemikill – "Deadline": Like many of the bands on this compilation, Chemikill never passed the demo stage. It’s a shame because this Metal Church inspired song shows that they had a lot of potential. This is not the same band that recorded "Consumed by Hate" for the Metal Massacre XI compilation.
4. Decimation – "Silenced in Time": Decimation is a bit of a hardcore/metal crossover act, playing a style similar to Prong. Not a style I’m particularly fond of, but I guess it’s good for what it is. This song was re-released on their 2005 Forgotten Race CD compilation of demo tracks.
5. Real Steel – "I Rule the Radio": Catchy traditional metal song that also appears on their eponymous LP from 1990. The structure is very similar to Commander’s "Terror", but the style is more akin to the British band Wraith. For a less obscure comparison, imagine Judas Priest crossed with Accept’s "Balls to the Wall". The LP was reissued on CD by Retrospect Records this year.
6. Purgatory – "Blood’s the Price": Not to be confused with, well, any other band named Purgatory. This is some excellent thrash with Bay Area influences, not unlike Cyclone Temple. It’s interesting to note that on this track, only the bassist and drummer from their 1986 Tied to the Trax LP remain, though the lyrics were written by former singer Jeff Hatrix (presumably before he left the band).
7. Deus Vult – "Twilight’s Last Gleaming": Another San Francisco Bay Area styled thrash band, with leanings toward early Death Angel or even Testament (minus the vocals). Their other output includes demos and Soul Assault, a self-released cassette EP from 1990.
8. Sacred Heart – "Time After Time": Melodic metal that is similar to Breaker, but not quite as talented.
9. Terror – "Pain and Suffering": The closest thing to death metal on this compilation, Terror sounds like a less technical Sadus. They released a limited edition 1997 compilation of demo material called Pain and Suffering that includes an older version of this song in addition to this version.
10. Torment – "Epilogue": One of the highlights of the album, they sound like Crimson Glory with a thrash makeover. Torment later changed their name to Tormentor, then to Ritual and finally to Ritual of Torment. To add to the confusion, a CD called Trials of Torment was released under the Ritual name in1993, and Ritual of Torment released a CD of rerecorded Ritual songs in 2006. I have not heard any of the Ritual material, but if it sounds anything like these I will need to look for those CDs!
11. Destructor – "Storm of Steel": One of the classic Cleveland metal bands, playing speed metal like early Slayer or Exciter. Rereleased on the 2007 Storm of Steel EP with 2 live versions of this song, plus 3 other songs.
12. Attaxe – "Pedal to the Metal": Attaxe reminds me of 3rd Stage Alert with their straight forward Judas Priest/Dio type metal. Reissued on their 20 Years the Hard Way CD compilation from 2006.
13. Trigger Zone – "Trigger Zone": On any other compilation I would probably laud this band, but after 13 mostly great tracks all I can come up with now is "another power/thrash band". Sadly, their only other release was "Im Taking Over (Your Life)" from the 1994 US Rocker Magazine: Audio Sampler #3 compilation CD.
14. Hatrix – "Sins of a Bastard Angel": Here the quality starts to go down a bit. Hatrix was a band started by the ex-singer of Purgatory. Their biggest problem seems to be that they try to play too fast and the result is rather sloppy, especially on the vocals.
15. Wretch – "Life": Not a bad song, but not great either, and I don’t think that’s listener fatigue talking. Similar to early Metal Church but obviously not as good. I find that they try to do too many things, or at least the singer does. The song was re-recorded with a different singer, who sounds a bit more controlled, on the 2006 Reborn CD. Also, a live version appears on their 2007 Make This Garden Burn compilation CD.
16. Brainicide – "Payment in Blood": Noteworthy for having Tim Owens on vocals, and that’s all. I’ve always thought he was overrated anyway, but even Owens’ fans probably won’t find much to like here. While there are some of his trademark Halford-esque screams, most of the vocals are almost half-spoken, sort of like Scatterbrain. The music is uninteresting Exodus-like thrash as well.
17. Rebellious Angel – "Stand Up and Fight": Powerful but melodic metal, much like Shok Paris. This is definitely an improvement over the last few songs. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any info on this band.
18. Severe Warning – "Better Off Dead": I’m getting tired of writing descriptions, so just watch this.
19. Titan Force – "Blaze of Glory": I’m not sure why a Colorado band was included, but I’ll forgive them because this band was definitely deserving of the recognition. Titan Force is best known for featuring vocalist Harry Conklin after leaving Jag Panzer. His killer vocals are reminiscent of Jag Panzer, but the music has more of a German melodic speed touch similar to Stormwitch or Keepers-era Helloween. Taken from their 1989 self-titled LP.
20. The Spudmonsters – "I’m Not Guilty": Another slightly hardcore leaning thrash metal band, and a bit of a weak note to end an otherwise amazing compilation on. Also on their 1993 Stop the Madness LP.

Available Formats: Though the liner notes say "Also available on Compact Disc", only the cassette version was ever released. The Auburn Records website claims that they will be releasing a CD reissue later this year.

Value: Priceless! Seriously though, I really don’t know enough to put a value on it, but for reference I bought mine for $5 from Sentinel Steel.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Gorau Sgrech - Sgrechian Corwen (1982 Recordiau’r Tŷ Gwyn)

As much as I love the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, I won’t be reviewing very many NWOBHM compilations since Malc Macmillan pretty much covers them all in his book (which is absolutely essential for any fan of the genre). However, there are a few he missed, such as this live compilation from Wales. Of course he might have intentionally excluded it because of the minimal NWOBHM content, but then again he did include the similar Barod am Roc compilation.

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Every song is sung in Welsh. The songs appear to be recorded during a local “Battle of the Bands” type of competition. The LP came with a poster insert featuring photos of the live performances.

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There are basically only three artists of interest on here, the rest fitting mostly in the folk rock category. One is Rhiannon Tomos a’r Band, featuring Y Diawled’s singer from their excellent “Noson y Bladd” single, who performs two songs from her 1981 Dwed y Gwir LP. First is “Rosaline”, one of the weaker, bluesier tracks from the album. It’s practically unchanged in live form unfortunately and therefore not worth listening to. However, she follows it up with a killer rendition of “Cer â Hi” which is possibly the only real metal song she’s recorded outside of her time with Y Diawled. Again, the song is hardly changed from the studio version, but hearing it live shows just how powerful Rhiannon’s voice is.

Omega’s “Nansi” is excellent melodic NWOBHM (heavy melodic like Trespass, not wimpy melodic like Valhalla) with a catchy chorus. They released an eponymous LP in 1983, though I don’t know how the music compares to this song which was also released as a single (presumably studio version).

Finally, we have Crys’ title track from their 1981 Rhyfelwr LP. One of their best songs, it is done in a 70s epic style not too far off from their famed countrymen Budgie (minus the high pitched vocals). This is a significantly shorter version than on the LP.

1. Y Ficar – “Seibiria Serenêd”
2. Pererin – “Mae ‘Nghariad i’n Fenws”
3. Rhiannon Tomos a’r Band – “Rosaline”
4. Rhiannon Tomos a’r Band – “Cer â Hi”
5. Meic Stevens – “Rue St. Michel”
6. Omega – “Nansi”
7. Crys – “Rhyfelwr”
8. Tich Gwilym – “Little Wing”
9. Tich Gwilym – “Red Beans & Rice”
10. Ail Symudiad – “Garej Paradwys”
11. Ail Symudiad – “Geiriau”

Available Formats: Most Welsh albums (those on the Sain label anyway) were typically released everything on cassette and vinyl, but as far as I know this is vinyl only.

Value: $10-20

Monday, March 3, 2008

Heavy Metal Heroes Volume II (1982 Heavy Metal Records)

I'll get to some more obscure compilations soon, but I should probably follow up my Heavy Metal Heroes review with one of the sequel. Volume II is a bit more eclectic, including some songs that delve into AOR, prog and even new wave territory. It’s understandably less revered, but still should not be overlooked.
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Again, I apologize for the crappy scans. Still working on a better method.

1. Lionheart – “Lionheart”: The album surprisingly starts off nearly identical to the Dragster song from the previous volume but soon we hear the powerful chorus and this turns out to be one of the better songs on this LP. Quite a bit different from their more commercial sounding Hot Tonight LP from 1984. In 1999 this song was rereleased on a Japanese-only 2-CD compilation of rare and unreleased tracks called Unearthed: Raiders of the Lost Archives.
2. Shiva – “En Cachent”: Usually compared to Rush, I find this song has more in common with another Canadian trio, Triumph. Either way it’s a great prog-tinged NWOBHM song that also appears on their 1982 Firedance LP. A different recording of the song was released on their 2004 Continuance CD.
3. Pallas – “Arrive Alive”: Scottish band Pallas continue the progressive trend, but they mix it with a new wave sound. Don’t let that scare you though, it’s a song that most melodic metal fans should enjoy. This is the title track from their 1981 cassette only release which was reissued on CD in 2004. It was also rerecorded as “Eyes in the Night” and released as a single in 1984. I like this version better because while “Eyes of the Night” is arguably more metal, “Arrive Alive” is less polished and commercial sounding.
4. Mendes Prey – “What the Hell’s Going On”: An exclusive song similar to more mainstream bands like Michael Schenker Group.
5. Mantle-Swallow Palmer – “Ice Cold Diamond”: Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t find enough info on a particular band. All I could find out was that the latter part of their name comes from drummer Steve Palmer who played in Glenn Tipton’s first group, The Flying Hat Band. I have no idea who Mantle or Swallow are, or if the trio released any other recordings. The song itself is a decent but unremarkable 70s style rocker.
6. Overkill – “Out of My Head”: From a band with an all-too-common moniker we have another exclusive song with a galloping rhythm and nice chorus in much the same vein as their lone 1981 “Elemental” single.
7. Jess Cox – “Devil’s Triangle”: Jess Cox’ post-Tygers of Pan Tang career consists mostly of dull, radio-friendly hard rock. However, this exclusive track is actually kind of heavy and at least moderately interesting.
8. Twisted Ace – “This Fire Inside”: Twisted Ace finally stopped pretending to be a metal band with this unreleased single, and it works! The result is nice, catchy melodic rock/AOR which is what I think they were meant to play from the start. This song was originally slated to be released as Heavy 14 but for whatever reason was only released on this compilation, leaving a mysterious gap in the label’s catalog.
9. Witchfinder General – “Free Country”: As I said in my review of the first Heavy Metal Heroes, I was not a fan of WG upon first listen. However, when I heard this song I became an instant fan. Even “Rabies” has since grown on me. This is the same version as on their 1983 Friends of Hell LP.
10. No Faith – “Oh Well”: Perhaps taking a cue from Judas Priest, No Faith decided to cover an old Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac song. Unfortunately, the song they chose was never that good to begin with and the end result is absolutely terrible. This song is exclusive, the band’s only other output being a rare private issue single in1981.
11. Persian Risk – “Calling for You”: Some classic Welsh NWOBHM that is much more metal than their later material. Powerful vocals by Carl Sentance and some good guitar soloing make this one of my favorite songs of the genre. The song was originally released as a single in 1981. According to Malc Macmillan’s NWOBHM Encyclopedia, the two versions are different, but I can’t tell them apart. Given that the single is quite rare and usually exceeds $100 when sold, this compilation is a cheap way to get it.
12. No Quarter – “Power and the Key”: Another fine song from a band out of Wales. As their name would suggest No Quarter was strongly influenced by Led Zeppelin. However, on this exclusive track they take a more traditional and energetic NWOBHM approach.

Available Formats: In addition to the vinyl release there was a 1996 CD reissue (split with volume 1) on British Steel.

Value: $15-20 (LP), $25-30 (CD)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Heavy Metal Heroes (1981 Heavy Metal Records)

Staying on the subject of label debuts, one of my favorite NWOBHM compilations is also the first LP on Heavy Metal Records. They had released a few singles earlier in 1981, but this was their first full length album.
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Oddly enough the “cover” (for this version anyway) was actually issued as a separate insert:
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1. Twisted Ace – “I Won’t Surrender”: Most people who have heard this band don’t seem to like them, but I do. The biggest problem with this song seems to be that they aren’t sure what they want to be. This is particularly obvious in the vocals, such as the falsetto chorus or the “Hocus Pocus” bit near the end. A slightly different version was released as the B-side to their “Firebird” single.
2. Grim Reaper – “The Reaper”: In my opinion this is one of the best Grim Reaper songs, despite (or perhaps because of) the different singer. This song eventually evolved into “Final Scream” on their 1985 Fear No Evil LP.
3. Jaguar – “Stormchild”: One of many NWOBHM songs to have this title. A decent song, similar to their “Back Street Woman” single, though Jaguar would get better than this (before getting much worse). Rereleased on the 2002 Power Games – The Anthology compilation CD.
4. Soldier – “Storm of Steel”: The first and probably heaviest song by this solid NWOBHM band. Rerecorded by the recently reformed band for their 2005 Sins of the Warrior CD.
5. Bitches Sin – “Strangers on the Shore”: This song was rerecorded for their 1982 Predator LP, but the version on this compilation is so much better. It sounds heavier and surprisingly less sloppy, in addition to being about a minute longer.
6. Metal Mirror – “Hard Life”: This song is OK, but I’ll never understand why their similar sounding single can sell for $150 or more. Rereleased as a bonus track on the 2006 II LP.
7. The Handsome Beasts – “Local Heroes”: A decent, slightly bluesy effort with a catchy chorus, also on their 1981 Beastiality LP. Later rerecorded for their 2004 CD which was rather unoriginally titled 04.
8. Buffalo – “Cold As Night”: I love everything about this song, from the epic, almost doomy intro to the awesome riff to the fist pounding chorus. Originally exclusive, but later released on the 1999 Best of Buffalo CD.
9. Expozer – “Rock Japan”: The most commercial sounding song on here, but still an enjoyable piece with a great solo. Also on their sole release, a 1980 single titled Exposed at Last.
10. Split Beaver – “Running Wild”: Exclusive track from this AC/DC clone. Like the similar band Starfighters, they’re good but ultimately unremarkable.
11. Dragster – “Do It!”: An energetic and well-done song, though the BDSM lyrics are a bit silly. Also exclusive.
12. Witchfinder General – “Rabies”: This was actually the first Witchfinder General song I had ever heard and when I did my reaction was, “this is what all the hype is about?” That would later change as you will see in my next entry. This is the same as the version on their 1982 Soviet Invasion EP, and therefore was also reissued on their 2007 Buried Among the Ruins CD.

Available Formats: There are 2 versions of the vinyl release – the one pictured above and one with a proper cover showing the above insert. A cassette version was also released as well as a 1996 CD reissue (split with volume 2) on British Steel.

Value: $20-30 (LP), $8-10 (cassette), $25-30 (CD)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Metal Clogs (1982 Rave-On Records)

At the same time that Brian Slagel was doing the New Heavy Metal Revue and starting Metal Blade Records in the US, similar things were happening over in the Netherlands. Stefan Rooyackers, editor of Aardschok magazine, teamed up with Jac Hustinx in 1981 to start Rave-On Records. It was Stefan's work at Aardschok that got Mercyful Fate on the label. Mercyful Fate's 1982 debut EP would be the second album released by Rave-On Records. Of course they have nothing at all to do with the Metal Clogs LP, but since I was making a rather bold comparison between Metal Blade and Rave-On I wanted to point out that Rave-On did at least one significant thing for metal.

Rave-On Records' first release was this compilation consisting of 3 Dutch artists and one from Belgium (Crossfire). All of them play in the typical NWOBHM-influenced heavy metal style of the day. Every song on Metal Clogs is completely exclusive except for "Crossfire", "I Sold My Soul" and "Motorcycles".

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1. Crossfire – "Crossfire": No surprise that these guys would later sign to Mausoleum as they exemplify the generic West European heavy metal sound that the label is known for. This song isn't necessarily bad (except for the vocals which are kind of bad in a good way) but it just goes nowhere and takes a long time to do it. Wait, it's only 4 minutes long? Yikes. Of course, I may be alone in this opinion. Crossfire sounds a lot like a less talented Sweet Savage, who I’ve always thought were overrated anyway. They obviously liked Motorhead a lot as well. The same version of this song was included on the 1985 Rave-On Hits Hard compilation LP, and a live version appears on Crossfire’s 1986 Sharpshooter LP.
2. Impact – "Looking for Trouble": A little better this time with still more of those good-bad vocals. At least they had the sense to end after 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
3. Frankenstein – "I Sold My Soul": This band has more of a 70s vibe to them, which is always a plus in my book. The song ends on a comical note too when they yell "I! Sold! My! Soul! For! [dramatic pause] Rock and Roll!" Originally recorded with a different singer for the 1979 Northern Lights compilation LP.
4. Gilgamesj – "Heavy Duty": Finally, someone to inject some melody into this album. This is a great song, though still not as good as their Take One EP. I love Frank van Stijn's deep vocals, though they are a bit rougher on these tracks. This song has a strong Judas Priest vibe too.
5. Crossfire – "Real Steel": Crossfire gives a better offering this time and the attempts at harmonies are cute.
6. Impact – "Drop Dead": Impact deliver an almost great song here that is only marred by a rather stupid and repetitive chorus. Excellent main riff.
7. Crossfire – "Motorcycles": Any hopes I had after the last Crossfire song were dashed with this, another boring song with some really awkward vocal melodies. And let’s not forget the motorcycle sound effects. On second thought, let’s do that. A live version of this song appears on their 1986 Sharpshooter LP.
8. Gilgamesj – "Ticket to Heaven": Gilgamesj take a slight step back with this one but they're trying and I appreciate that.
9. Frankenstein – "Lady Luck": The second offering from Frankenstein has more of a 70s rock style. It's another exclusive and it's good, but I don't know if it's good enough for me to track down their only other release (a privately issued 7" from 1984 that sells in the range of $50).
10. Crossfire – "Be Crazy": Whose idea was it to give the worst band on here the most songs while Gilgamesj and Frankenstein only get two? They aren't even Dutch!
11. Impact – "Misanthrope": Not as good as "Drop Dead", but I like the break in the middle that starts out all doomy and Sabbathy then gets really fast. Shortly after contributing to this compilation, Impact released their debut LP which consists of 10 new songs of similarly varying quality.

OK, I know I was pretty critical of this record, but it really isn't bad at all. Definitely worth getting if you like any of the bands present or are interested in the early Dutch scene, as almost every track is exclusive. Just don't be suckered by anyone saying it's a top rarity because it just isn't.

Available Formats: Vinyl only release, with 2 different covers – the black and white one pictured here, and a blue and gray one.

Value: $10-$20

Monday, February 11, 2008

Metal Massacre (1982 Metal Blade Records)

Well, I suppose I’m not making a good first impression by waiting a month to do my first review. The main cause for delay was trying to get good pictures. I should have realized when I started that I don’t own a scanner and I suck at taking pictures. Oh well.

After much deliberation over what album should be the focus of my first review, I decided not to do my favorite compilation or my rarest, but the one that I think is the most important in the history of metal. This is of course the very first record on Brian Slagel’s Metal Blade Records label. In 1982, Slagel was publishing an underground ‘zine known as the New Heavy Metal Revue and decided to make an album showcasing several of the bands he wrote about. It started a series of compilations that exposed several huge bands to the world (Metallica, Slayer, Overkill, etc.) and continues today. Metal Massacre isn’t an obscure compilation by any means, but some people might not be aware of the differences between the original release and the reissue, or between these songs and their album versions (if any).

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Also interesting to note is that the center label did not yet have the familiar "bloody axe" logo.
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1. Steeler – "Cold Day in Hell": The album starts off well enough with this song from Ron Keel’s (and later Yngwie Malmsteen’s) first band. This appears to be the same version as the A-side to their 1982 single which had all different members aside from Keel. Malmsteen, Rik Fox and Mark Edwards would join the band to record their 1983 LP which includes a rerecorded version of this song with added guitar twiddling. I actually think I prefer the original. I’ve never been a fan of that kind of musical exhibitionism.
2. Bitch – "Live for the Whip": I’ve always thought of Bitch as one of the prototypical Metal Blade bands, combining NWOBHM influences with the emerging LA sound. In fact, this song actually sounds a lot like an early Girlschool song to me, with the addition of Betsy’s usual BDSM themes. A different version appears on Bitch’s 1983 Damnation Alley EP with more whipping and moaning, plus a new bass player.
3. Malice – "Captive of Light": With the exception of the vocals, Malice sounds much less like a Judas Priest clone than on their later works. This track was also released 7 years later on their Captive of Light EP. The EP featured 2 different vocalists in place of James Neal, but I believe they didn’t even rerecord this song, instead opting to include it as is.
4. Ratt – "Tell the World": Looking back on this now, it seems strange to have glamsters Ratt on a Metal Massacre album, but in reality it doesn’t stand out that much from the other songs. On the off chance that there’s a Ratt collector reading this, this version is slightly different from the version on their 1983 self-titled EP, featuring a different bass player and a different drummer.
5. Cirith Ungol – "Death of the Sun": Brian Slagel has always said he is a big fan of 70s rock, so it’s no surprise that he picked up these legendary 70s-influenced metalheads for his label. Unlike most of the bands on this and future Metal Massacre compilations who were making their debuts, Cirith Ungol already had one LP under their belts when they recorded this song. A new version of "Death of the Sun" would also appear on their first LP for Metal Blade, King of the Dead.
6. Demon Flight – "Dead of Night": Following up Cirith Ungol is another good band marred by an irritating vocalist. This song is also one of 3 on their sole, self-titled EP. According to the EP sleeve that one is a new version, but it sounds exactly the same to me. It’s worth mentioning that of the other 2 songs on their EP, one features much better vocals and the other is an instrumental.
7. Avatar – "Octave": Not the same Avatar that would later become Savatage, I actually have no idea what became of this band. This, their only recording, is a pretty interesting instrumental. It would’ve been nice to hear what they could have done if they had a singer.
8. Pandemonium – "Fighting Backwards": The best metal band featuring twins from Alaska! And even that couldn’t save them from mediocrity. It’s not stab-a-pencil-in-your-ear bad, but it won’t inspire you to buy one of their 3 LPs that Metal Blade mysteriously decided to release. Exclusive to this album.
9. Malice – "Kick You Down": While Bitch and Warlord were afforded the opportunity to appear on more than one Metal Massacre compilation, only Malice had 2 songs on the same one! "Kick You Down" is slightly more memorable than "Captive of Light" and also exclusive to this album.
10. Metallica – "Hit the Lights": The production on the rest of this album is typical indie metal fare: bad, but in a good way. "Hit the Lights" still sticks out like a sore thumb, the production is that bad. They would rerecord this one twice (once for the Metal Massacre reissue and once for the 1983 Kill ‘em All LP) before getting it right. Compounding the amateurism is the fact that Metallica is misspelled "Mettallica" and bass player Ron McGovney is listed as "Ron McGouney". It’s not even clear who really played on this track as there are five members listed but I’ve read it was just Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, and Lloyd Grant. As the story goes, Ulrich was friends with Slagel when he had the idea to make the Metal Massacre LP. Ulrich wanted to be on it, so he got in touch with Hetfield and thus Metallica was born.

Available Formats: This album has a bit of an interesting history. The original 1982 LP was limited to 4,500 copies which sold out immediately. Brian Slagel was on a tight budget so later that year he had a repressing done by the Metalworks label who, according to Slagel, ripped him off. I’m not certain of the exact tracklist but I believe it is the same as the first, minus "Octave". The cover is plain silver with just the words "METAL MASSACRE" rather than the familiar skulls picture. In 1984, after Metal Blade Records was established as a serious label, they made another reissue on vinyl and cassette with a different tracklist. The Steeler track was replaced with Black and Blue – "Chains Around Heaven", Ratt’s contribution was removed altogether, and the old version of "Hit the Lights" was replaced with a new one (which is also different to the version on Kill ‘em All). This version was also reissued on cassette and CD in 1994. Then there’s the 1984 picture disc box set with Metal Massacres 1-5 (limited to 1,000 copies), and in 1998 all 12 CDs (at the time - now there are 13) were reissued as part of another box set called Grim Harvest.

Value: $40-$60 (LP), $20-30 (Metalworks LP reissue), $20-$30 (1984 LP reissue), $5-$8 (1994 CD reissue)

Monday, January 7, 2008


While I work on putting together my first review, here is a summary of how the reviews will look.

Title (Year Label): The album title, year of release and record label, obviously.

Pictures: I will include pictures of at least the front and back of the outer sleeve, and anything else I think might be of interest (inserts, center labels, etc.)

Review: First I will give a review of the album as a whole as well as any pertinent background information. This will be followed by a track-by-track review. For albums where only 1 or 2 tracks are of interest (the rest being album versions or non-metal songs) I will review those songs in the main review portion, followed by a simple track listing.

Available Formats: Here I will attempt to list all available formats (LP, CD, cassette) and any reissues I am aware of, with close attention given to any differences between formats.

Value: An estimated value in US dollars will be given for each format. Values are based partly on eBay,, GEMM, online dealer lists and Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide. I take into account the fact that most dealers’ prices are very high and the end result mostly comes down to my own personal experience. The item is assumed to be used and in VG to NM condition (based on the Goldmine Grading System for records). I also assume some effort and patience on the part of the buyer to get the lowest price possible.

If you’re reading this and wondering how the soundfiles will fit in, I’m sorry to disappoint you but there won’t be any. Without getting into a debate over the ethics or filesharing, as a collector I feel that being able to hear any album with a few clicks of a mouse really takes away a lot of the fun of the hobby. If you disagree and want to download an album I’ve reviewed here then by all means go find it, just don’t ask me. Thanks,


Friday, January 4, 2008


Compilation albums are far too often overlooked by heavy metal fans and collectors alike. They are a great, and often inexpensive, way to get rare and exclusive tracks by obscure bands. I hope to expose some of these overlooked gems in this blog. I will also give details on which tracks are exclusive or differ from album versions and any other useful information I may have.

What genres will I cover? Everything from melodic rock to black metal, but the focus will mainly be on my favorite genres which are NWOBHM, power metal and good old fashioned heavy metal.

From what time period? Primarily 80s metal, but don't be surprised to see some albums from the early 90s or even late 70s.

When will I post? That's a good question! I'd love to be able to post a new album every week, but due to time constraints, this may my last post. Let's hope not.