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Decades later, I've still not made up my mind as to whether Don't Metal With Evil is one of the best, or worst album titles I've ever come across, but there can be no debate over the contents: some of the most entertaining Midwestern speed metal I've ever heard. The band name Halloween must have been in hot contention back in the 80s, after all it's about the coolest holiday on the calendar and just an utterance will conjure nostalgia for demons, spirits, witches, black cats, pumpkins, candy and horror in even the most stiffened, jaded mother fucker out there. This was a fairly theatrical act, fully embracing the subject matter into which they delved, and to this extent they might be compared to a King Diamond or Lizzy Borden, two of the 'shock metal' greats.
The music is also comparable, because it's melodic and well written, accessible but raw in that delicious 80s aesthetic. I won't claim that Brian Thomas has the vocal chops of those masters, in fact his voice is the weakest link on this debut, but he does attempt some shrill, frightening notes on the album, and even at his worst he fit the splattering speed momentum of the band very well. The guitars are the dominant 'evil' here, Rick Craig spring loaded with riff after riff of thrusting, tasteful dirt rooted in Venom and Saxon, but a lot busier, with a propensity to shred off with numerous fills in pieces like "Trick or Treat" and "Don't Metal With Evil". The rhythm section was also well versed, Bill Whyte's drums crashing all over the mix and George Neil's bass strutting along as the perfect foundation for Craig's eccentricities.
Don't Metal With Evil also has a great mix of material, between the vicious roadsters like "Busted", "Trick or Treat "and "Fight the Beast" to the mid-paced heavy metal hammering of "Scared to Death", "Haunted", and "What a Nice Place", reminiscent of a more complex Twisted Sister. There's only one arguable power ballad here, "Justice For All", and a potent, plodding piece called "Tales from the Crypt" that definitely channels a Maiden-esque appeal akin to what you'd find in late 80s Running Wild. The band doesn't take itself all that seriously, so you'll hear some cackling fun to inaugurate "The Wicked Witch", or some male cackling in "Trick or Treat". Lyrically there is some confusion, as the band veers through horror themes, typical 80s glam seduction ("She's a Teazer"), and even a few more poignant and serious ("Justice for All") themes, but such a blend is not uncommon for this period, and for 1984, Halloween's lyrics were actually decent.
'Demon spirits, hiding from the light
Beggars and liars, roam the windy nights
Witches and warlocks, die in bloody fights
Trick or treat, it´s Halloween tonight!'
You're goddamn right it is, and Detroit's Heavy Metal Horror Show had a breakout record here which sadly never quite reaped the attention it could have. To it's credit, though, Don't Metal With Evil is one of those inspiring efforts that just hasn't seemed to age through the intervening decades, easily trumping everything the band have released since (though their output is sparse, they've continue to roll out new material every few years). Halloween were performing at an interesting nexus between the more radio prone glitz metal of their day ala Twisted Sister, Malice and Lizzy Borden, and the USPM of Liege Lord and Omen, and thus there's at least something here for anyone that craves poisonous, obscure 80s candy corn.
Today we are taking a look at Halloween's debut, Don't Metal With Evil. Alright I'm going to save some of you a couple of minutes and just tell you that if you're really into traditional or speed metal, you need to hear this, because there is a good chance you will like it. Even better, if you're a fan of Grim Reaper or Mercyful Fate consider this the end of the review and seek out a copy of this album at once. Moving on then. In case you missed the other sentence, we have established that this album is traditional/speed metal (or “heavy metal” if you prefer). What we get here is melody, speed, high-pitched vocals in the hard rock vein, guitar solos, and humorous lyrics. What we do not get here is aggression, which is alright since the album is clearly not aiming for it, but it IS a shortcoming for those of us who are looking to get our asses kicked by an album. In other words, if you just want to get drunk and listen to “oldschool metal” this album will do the trick.
The strong point of the album is really the songwriting, and when you get down to it, that is at least 90% of what determines an album's quality. Whether you dig this kind of music or not, you will agree that this is no half-assed effort. For example, listen to the first track, Busted. Ok, now listen to it again. Alright, now try it a third time. That chorus is part of you forever now, you can't miss it again. What's that called again? Catchiness I think. This is solid speed/heavy metal with cheesy vocals and lyrics, and it delivers just about how you'd expect it to. Plus it has a lot of solos, and they're not Kerry King style either (which can only be a good thing).
Let's put this into perspective. This was released in 1985. If you're a hardcore thrash metal fan as I am, you will probably add this to the spectrum of second tier albums considering some of the albums that were released that year. If you are used to Bonded by Blood or Hell Awaits, you will find this album weak and cheesy (unless you happen to also be a heavy metal fan, in which case you will use different criteria for judging it). On the other hand, this is not thrash metal nor does it aspire to be. So if you have a thing for heavy metal with a touch of humor to it, there's no reason why you should skip this album.
Oh man this is such a FUN album. Really, that's the best adjective I can come up with... it's got catchy riffs and these fun singalong vocals with over-the-top, slightly cheesy, and just in general not-to-be-taken-too-seriously lyrics. Textured soundscapes and deep introspection, this is not. This is just fun heavy fucking metal to be played loud.
We have here such classics as "you're busted!!" and "we're hitting you in your dreams tonight!" - the vocals take some getting used to, they're almost the Mister Rogers of heavy metal. Come on, kids, sing along... just a victim of HALLOWEEN!!! "Run before I kill you", etc etc. Need I go on?
The songs are pretty much the 80s style of classic metal, some more uptempo than others. Busted!!! is a classic speed metal wrecker, as is Trick or Treat, and then we have a few more anthemic midpaced numbers like the title track - "it might be too late now, can you hear the bell?" and also the occasionally thrashier "What a Nice Place". "Justice for All" is the ballad but it gets heavier... and then there's also "She's a Teaser" - with a title you expect some kind of disaster, but it turns out to be a nice midpaced banger... she's a teaser (she keeps you up all night!) We close with another dose of blazing fury in To Fight the Beast, with a solo that goes on forever - oh yeah most songs have those too, including the random triplet-based Richie Blackmore solo for about a second and a half in The Wicked Witch.
Plain and simple kids, this is just heavy fucking metal. No modern atrocities to be found here... crank this one up... or die!!!