Album Reviews (1986) vol. 3

A few reviews from 1986…

Purgatory – Tied To The Trax

PurgatoryIt seems that Ohio had a pretty formidable metal scene in the eighties.  A handful of Ohio-based bands wound up on Cleveland’s own Auburn Records.  Though none of the bands on Auburn’s roster broke nationally, there were a few cult faves on the label including Black Death, Breaker, Shok Paris, and Purgatory.

Purgatory’s Tied To The Trax is a spirited album of speed metal, some thrash, and traditional metal.  Vocalist Jeff Hatrix wasn’t exactly a world-class singer, but his enthusiastic (and at times campy) vox lifted Tied To The Trax a notch above the riff raff.  Drummer Kenny Easterly also shined with his fill-tastic performance.  The thrashing Crush The Black Cross is the best cut on the album.  (I love the lyric; “Crush the black cross!  Smash the bastard’s skull!”)  Also check out Tied To The Trax and Lost Angels.  Old school metal up your ass!  My score: B-

Fifth Angel – Fifth Angel

Fifth AngelQuite possibly the best album to ever come out on Shrapnel Records (IMO) was Fifth Angel’s 1986 debut.  An album so good, in fact, that a major label (Epic Records) signed the band and re-released Fifth Angel in 1988 (with a different cover).  Epic obviously saw some commercial potential in this Washington power metal band (though commercial success never really materialized as hoped).  Fifth Angel’s style of metal was very accessible and ear-friendly.  While quite powerful and epic, Fifth Angel stuck to conventional song structures, with modest drumming and down-to-earth vocals.  Unlike many U.S. power metal bands of the era, Fifth Angel didn’t stretch out into progressive territory, or flirt with thrash.  They also didn’t feature theatrical, wailing vocals like many of their peers.  Ted Pilot’s crisp and clean vocal performance has allowed the Fifth Angel LP to stand the test of time very well.  And since Fifth Angel was originally a Shrapnel release, you can expect some solid axe work — and indeed the album contains several excellent solos.  Faves include Call Out The Warning and Cry Out The Fools.  My score: A

Elixir – The Son Of Odin

ElixirUnable to secure a record contract, the British band Elixir released The Son Of Odin on their own in 1986.  Though seemingly spawned from the dying embers of the NWOBHM, Elixir’s sound was actually pretty well in line with that of the surging U.S. power metal movement.  In 2011, Elixir re-released The Son Of Odin on CD as 25th Anniversary Edition on their Cold Town Records label.  Overall, The Son Of Odin is a very solid piece of metal hardware with well-written songs.  In fact, I think Elixir was on the precipice of something quite special with this batch of tunes, but unfortunately they fell short on account of a few deficiencies.  First, the audio itself could use a little more brightness from the high frequencies.  Second, and more importantly, I think this is a case where a charismatic singer with a high register voice may have really helped bring the hammer down for Elixir.  Their vocalist Paul Taylor, though technically sound, had sort of a blue collar voice that wasn’t exactly a great fit for Elixir’s epic power metal.  A more dramatic vocalist with a good high range might have brought some balance to Elixir’s bottom-heavy sound, and elevated The Son Of Odin to a new level of awesome.  (A man can wish, can’t he?)  My score: B

Griffin – Protectors Of The Lair

GriffinGriffin returned with album number two in 1986 (Steamhammer Records).  For your daily dose of ridiculousness, check out the insane outfits these guys were sporting on the back cover photo.  Jesus H. Christ!  Protectors Of The Lair was a thrashier and more cantankerous album than the likeable debut, 1984’s Flight Of The Griffin.  I don’t think we needed Griffin to join the hordes of other low budget thrashers clogging up bargain bins.  What we needed was for good ol’ Griffin to deliver another American power metal feast like their first.  As such, I can’t really recommend Protectors Of The Lair.  Available on CD via Old Metal Records (probable bootleg).  My score: C-

Dammaj – Mutiny

Dammaj2012 saw the CD re-release of this old fossil on Skol Records.  Mutiny originally came out in 1986 on Par Records in the United States, and Roadrunner Records overseas.  The album cover packs a healthy spoonful of cheese with its depiction of the fabled, elusive “hobo pirate”.  (He was thought to be nothing but an urban legend before Dammaj finally provided proof of his existence.)  One can’t deny that Dammaj cooked up a fiery brew of U.S. steel on Mutiny.  The hooks aren’t great, but the metal warms the gut like a shot of Jack.  However, I am disheartened that the vocals are buried in the mix.  Greg Hill was a decent singer, and I wish I could hear him a little better.  This unfortunate distraction really keeps me from embracing Mutiny.  My score: C+

Gravestone – Creating A Monster

GravestoneThis was to be the final Gravestone LP.  The German metal band’s last three albums were rock solid offerings of muscular Teutonia.  The high water mark for Gravestone (IMO) was their 1984 masterwork Victim Of Chains.  Their swan song, Creating A Monster was not quite up to the level of Victim Of Chains, but it was another brisk attack of old school Germanity.  The Gravestone catalog sits along side under-appreciated collections by German bands such as Tyran’ Pace, Veto, and Trance as quality stuff waiting to be rediscovered.  My score: B

Avalon – The Third Move

AvalonThis Dutch rarity (Dynamo Records) contains just six tracks, three of which are instrumentals under two minutes.  The centerpiece of The Third Move (and the only song really worth multiple spins) is Hard Loving Man — a warm, melodic rocker, and a lost gem.  Hard Loving Man sounds somewhat anachronistic for 1986, but therein lies its charm (IMO).  The first pressing of The Third Move had the cover depicted to the left.  A second pressing had a different cover.  In total, only a couple thousand copies exist.  My score: C+

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2 thoughts on “Album Reviews (1986) vol. 3

  1. Spot on about FIFTH ANGEL and GRIFFIN.

    The FA debut is one of the best things Shrapnel ever did, like the perfect blend between Dio and Queensryche. No wonder Epic Rec. wanted them. But even though they had massive potential, they were behind the curve timing-wise – by the time ‘Time Will Tell’ came out the Grunge writing was already on the wall. Plus, FA couldn’t tour because Ted Pilot wouldn’t. I hope he is happy being a dentist……..

    GRIFFIN – POTL was a huge letdown for me, similar to SWORD going from power metal on ‘Metalized’ to a thrashier style on ‘Sweet Dreams’. ‘Flight of the Griffin’ was such a kick ass epic power metal disc – Maiden and Metal Church seemingly being 2 big influences. Great songs, take-no-prisoners attitude, distinct, edgy vocals from William McKay, cool overall vibe. And then POTL comes out and it’s just shit compared to the debut – weak songwriting and fittingly low rent production.

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