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A Thrash History Lesson - 70%

Immortal666, December 23rd, 2009

Is it proper to call this strictly a Détente release? Six out of the 10 tracks on this compilation is actually from Catalepsy, the post-Détente project of a couple of members from the band. Ah but that’s where the other side of the music business comes in which is marketing. Détente has recently reformed, had their only album re-released and is embarking on a comeback with a new album to boot. Catalepsy for its part is dead but not necessarily forgotten as this compilation would attest.

History 1 is a compilation of three demos: one from Détente and two from Catalepsy. The common fixture between these two bands is the songwriting tandem of bassist Steve Hochheiser and guitarist Ross Robinson. Yes, the same Ross Robinson who was responsible for producing a multitude of mallcore bands in the late ‘90s. But his involvement with that scene has absolutely nothing to do musically with his output from the ‘80s where all three demos come from. And most knowledgeable metalheads remember Détente more as Dawn Crosby’s pre-Fear of God band. Crosby being a rare talent during that era as one of the few thrash female front-women. Seriously, I can’t think of any other thrash metal front-persons from that era.

The first part of History 1, is Détente’s four song demo release which promo blurb for this album proudly quotes Kerrang as hailing the band as "most promising band to emerge from the thrash genre” during the time of its release. I would agree with this statement as the first four songs are a power pack of raw and pure ‘80s thrash. Dawn Crosby’s vocals shine throughout these four songs as her raw and high shrieking style fit in nicely with the aggressive thrash attack. I can’t compare “Holy War”, “Widows Walk”, “Shattered Illusions” and “Vultures in the Sky” to the versions that eventually appeared on the band’s only studio album “Recognize No Authority” since I haven’t had the chance to listen to that album. But even in its demo versions, these songs already sound fully-formed and professional sounding.

The second and third parts of this compilation are the two demos that Catalepsy was able to churn out during its very brief existence. The material here is much slower than the Détente demos but manage to stay within the thrash realm, albeit in a more groove oriented manner. The only exception are “Obituary Fear” and “Who Can You Trust” which are the speediest among the Catalepsy tracks, the former being my most favorite track among them. Vocals on these demos come courtesy of Veronica Ross whose delivery is more controlled and less-manic than Crosby’s which fits Catalepsy’s brand of more refined thrash.

The packaging of History 1 leaves a lot to be desired. No lyrics, no band photos, no album credits. All we have is just a two-fold CD inlay with a timeline of the members’ band affiliations pre and post Détente. Oh, there’s a brief history of Detente which can also be viewed in the band’s MySpace page. In this day and age of music downloading, record labels should give fans more incentives in buying the actual CD. As you see from my description, there’s hardly any incentive in buying this versus simply downloading it as far as album packaging goes.

Thrash has experienced a resurgence in recent years. But instead of going out and buying the latest retro thrash album, do yourself a favor and dig into the lesser known but still worth-checking out bands from the genre’s golden age. This compilation also sets us up for the return of Détente as we get to hear what the buzz was bout this ‘80s thrash band before we hear the 2010 version.