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Back when Roadrunner/Roadracer Records was signing real bands and trying to find talent instead of money-making entities, they found excellence in bands like Whiplash, King Diamond, Znowhite, Pestilence and many more. At the top of this mountain was Holy Terror. "Mind Wars" picks up and expands on the aggression and unique songwriting found on "Terror And Submission." Holy Terror oozed with talent at every instrument and it shows on their swan song release. This is an album of near perfection.
Song production notwithstanding (so many bands in that era suffered from poor production), this record showed matured song structuring and composition. The songs, while still fast and aggressive, have a catchy nature to them. Whether it is a dueling guitar riff, the harsh-to-melodic vocal exchange of Keith Deen, or just a great banging riff pattern, each piece of every song is important and adds to the greatness of the whole record.
An overlooked aspect of this band is the lyrical content of the formentioned Deen. In the 80s, metal lyrics for the more extreme natured bands generally centered around violent and evil themes. Holy Terror took more of a street-level, relatable view on such topics as war, Christianity, corruption, and human emotions.
A song by song description of this record is unnecessary since each song is a classic in itself. With the recent thrash resurgence and the overwhelming number of bands that all sound alike in song style and production, one can only hope they will listen to a record like "Mind Wars" and use it as a blueprint for how thrash metal should be played.
Holy Terror. A name often forgotten when discussing thrash but once mentioned, brings a smile on all our faces. Each and every time. Not without reason since they were one of those promising groups that unfortunately vanished after only two albums. And two great albums they were.
‘Mind Wars’ has an incredible European thrash sound to it. Good to hear not all American thrash guitarists want to copy Holt, Hetfield or Hanneman. Not that there’s much wrong with those 3 masters of thrash of course but Holy Terror’s almost un-American ability to combine heavy metal melodies with faster than average thrash is amazing. Just try the chorus and melodies on ‘Debt of Pain’. Almost angelical. It’s b-side compositional counterpart ‘No Resurrection’ comes close but is not as brilliant.
Are there no lesser moments here? Well, unfortunately there are. ‘The Immoral Wasteland’ feels like a leftover from the pervious album and has little to do with thrash and firmly stays within those cheesy US power metal boundaries without excelling and tempers the enthusiasm which was built up so nicely by the first two songs. Fortunately ‘A Fool's Gold’ saves the day with its high polka beat pace and flashy melodies. And then there is of course The Riff in the section between ‘Terminal Humor’ and ‘Mind Wars’ which Dave Mustaine blatantly stole for Hangar18 two years after this brilliant album. The song ‘Do unto Others’ even has a punky feeling to it. Mostly because of the constant high pace (except for the middle section that is), the almost comical vocal line trying to put in more words than possible and the simpler than simple tremolo picking.
It’s clear this is one of those albums appealing to most thrashers out there simply because it manages to incorporate almost everything there is to love about all different kinds of thrash. Keith Deen sounds a lot less like Martin Walkyier when he puts on his raspy voice this time around. He has become much more melodic and able to give the songs more than a bit extra. He gave them a lot extra.
And to answer the last question, is ‘Mind Wars’ better than ‘Terror and Submission’? Hell yes! Fortunately this album doesn’t have a Cream Cheese chorus like ‘Evil's Rising’ or runny Brie riffs like on ‘Guardians of the Netherworld’ and sounds a lot less power metalish than before but actually manages to have a lot more melody and more aggression at the same time. Holy Terror became more than the sum of its parts right here.
As far as sophomore albums go, Mind Wars seemed a bit of an odd duck when it released. The music is largely the same pace as Terror and Submission, jet fueled trash with dense riffing that hints at some technicality. But the album's tone feels a little tighter, and Keith Deen becomes a little more unusual with his vocals. A needle-sharp, nasally clean voice permeates most of the album, which makes for an interesting contrast against the battering rhythms. He'll shift from these cleans into the grittier style that dominated the debut, and often even lower into a death-like voice. Where the previous album felt like a road race through hell, this is more like a bull run, or rodeo.
"Judas Reward" has a crunchy, warlike opening rhythm behind some brief shred, before the band begins a frenzied gallop and Deen's vocals begin their varied musings. The bridge riff here is powerful and speedy, like the matador whose life flashes before his eyes as that gate opens. "Debt of Pain" goes supersonic early with an amazing riff sprint, and the chords over the bridge shine alongside the quickly darting melodic vocals. A great song, with great leads, but it's over pretty quickly, and "The Immoral Wasteland" takes control with start leads, breaking into a very Maiden trot with some excellent chords, and a memorable chorus. "A Fool's Gold/Terminal Humour/Mind Wars" is an interesting 3 parter, posing a three-headed question about Christian upgrinding and morals. The lyrics for each part seem to reflect a separate perspective, yet together they create a before-during-after perspective. The music here is mixed, with a few striking riffs but also some I could live without.
The machine is in motion
Though few step out of time
To the drums played by the victors
Calling forth the broken lives to join
That which they can't escape
"Damned by Judges" continues the religious theme, with some samples of a court room and frothing load of barbaric speed metal, with just as much in common with power as thrash. The interplay of the lead guitars around 2:45 is excellent, and more arrive near the climax of the track. "Do Unto Others" escalates from strolling drums and vibrant, thrashing riffs to another hyperactive thrust of West Coast speed; while "No Resurrection" opens with one of my favorite riffs by the band, and Deen starts soaring over the mix with an open howl. Once more, the frenetic leads deliver another moment of caustic indulgence. The album ends on another strong note, with the rodeo-like frenzy of "Christian Resistance". Maniacal leads, acrobatic verse rhythm and an explosive riff at 2:00 which had me reeling in my seat, as Deen snarls over it like some sinister proto-black metal deity.
Mind Wars is very nearly as good as its predecessor. Technically speaking, it is superior, as the guitars have taken their razor chops to a new extreme, with bewildering solos and more speed than a med school before the night before finals. It arrived in a year overflowing with genius, and yet it still holds its ground over two days later. They don't make thrash metal records like this these days, at least not often, and Holy Terror are yet another hidden treasure of the past that warrant your attention. Looking to have your ass kicked and your faulty religious ideals questioned? Apply within.
Highlight: Debt of Pain, The Immoral Wasteland, Damned by Judges, No Resurrection, Christian Resistance
This was an essential part of my youth that was so filled with anger against so many things and people, this album full of rage and venom and vitriol against society and its sickness and its hypocrisy. Agent Steel alumnus Kurt Kilfelt wound up and gave us this vicious thrash-fest because we'd been naughty fanboys and had it coming, and what a whopper of an album this is even years after the fact.
The only issue I have with this album is Keith Deen's vocals, as unlike many folks here I find his vocal approach grating about half the time. His unhinged screaming, ranting, and growling adds a lot of character, but also adds a lot of annoyance factor as well, since he often comes off as off-key and straining. When it works, it adds a distinct flavor to the music, an edge of sincerity that is very punk rock in feel. Otherwise he gets annoying quickly, like on "Do Unto Others", when he goes horribly off-key everywhere. But on "Debt of Pain" he sounds angry and outraged, and that adds a lot to the song. Depends on the song, really.
Otherwise, as mentioned, this is a killer album musically. Joe Mitchell's drumming is rock solid at every tempo (mostly high speed thrash mania dominates this album, of course), Floyd Flanary's dense, growling bass work riffs along with the guitars note for note and steps out at the intersection of "A Fool's Gold/Terminal Humor" in a tantalizingly brief solo spot, and both Kilfelt and fellow guitar ace Mike Alvord shred up a storm with a maelstrom of leads and ginsu-sharp riffing. The production is pretty damned good too, spotlighting everyone fairly evenly in the mix. The lyrics are scathing and unrelenting in their condemnation of society and religion, and are rather intelligent, to boot. Overall, as mentioned, this album spends a goodly amount of time in manic thrash mode, and was ridiculously fast for the time, as well as featuring a good amount of melody too to balance out the frenzied thrash madness. "Damned By Judges", "Debt of Pain" with its head-spinning guitar onslaught (Maiden on speed, imagine), "Judas Reward", and "Do Unto Others" (vocal shortcomings aside) in particular bring the dynamite and light the fuse with gleeful carelessness in the best possible sense of that phrase.
Holy Terror, sadly, were ahead of their time in that they could've been the future and saviors of the flagging thrash movement, borderline death metal though they were musically, but they were too much for most folks, I think. Couple that with the hit or miss vocals and it's no wonder they slipped through the cracks, which is a real shame, since they were really onto something. Since they're back together now, I hope they can bring back some of the intensity of real honest to god thrash madness unlike all these young wannabe bands who are blindly copying their big brothers' Exodus albums. I hope for the best here with them.
I could just submit a review with these mere words:
And I’m sure any mod would approve it and put the link in the “newest reviews” section (gathering some attention from the visitors) with a big grin in his/her face. Just because this album is THAT good.
Gay fanboyisms aside, this is one of the best metal albums ever recorded. There’s no heresy about saying this album is better than “Painkiller” or some Death album. “Mindwars” surely lays waste over many unfairly overrated efforts in the metal world. Why? Every instrument is played with great technique and emotion. When they are gathered, the results are something that’s still hard to find on bands that try to create music with such a powerful emotional appeal.
This album is different from what you would expect from the average thrash metal recording: The atmosphere it creates is not one of evil, oppressive aggression like Reign in Blood and Darkness Descends nor the rabid, nor the terror-like environment created by Clandestine. The melodies and vocal lines suggest an aura of sadness instead of pure hatred for anyone. The lead guitar busts out some lengthy, very tasteful solos, drenched in pure melodic brilliance. Sometimes it complements the rhythm guitar with some beautiful counterparts, resulting in amazing choruses, like the ones from “Debt of Pain” and “No Resurrection”. Some solos are to be remembered as lost gems of quality guitar playing in metal.
The vocals are the voice of the indignation, be in form of the furious semi-growls featured in “Judas Reward” and “No Resurrection”, the crazy punkish screaming scattered in the faster moments or in the more controlled, high-pitched clean vocals present in the midpaced, more melodic songs. The vocal lines are incredibly catchy and fluid, in a sense it almost compels you to learn the lyrics just to sing along. Without any of these tricks, his vocal delivery is vaguely similar to a much faster version of Steve Souza, just 100x more versatile.
Of course, that does not mean this is a wussy power metal album by any means. Mindwars has its fair share of power, crunch and genuine anger. Sometimes, the harsher riffs seem to take thrash metal to its extreme (kinda like Anacrusis on their first album). They are fast, exciting and prone to give you a good headbanging time. Although the technical level is not on par with Sadus or Ulysses Siren, there’s nothing exactly banal here. Innovation is also a key factor: you will find little to no riffs borrowed from other bands. The same guitar that oozes melodies has also its “maniac” side: There is some great shredding/drilling action all around: for example, listen to the “Damned by Judges”’s excellent solo.
The rush of speed provided by the drums is intense and precise. When slowing down, the drummer shows some interesting patterns. Too bad the double kick drums and bass guitar are totally muffled by the production.
The songs are jewels: “Judas Reward” is great, alternating the aggression with melodic solos and vocal lines, “Debt of Pain” is very catchy and fast. “Damned by Judges” has top-notch vocals. “A Fool’s Gold / Terminal Humor / Mindwars” are glued together in the CD pressing, creating an epic of huge proportions even better than Postmortem / Raining Blood! But I gotta say, the cake here goes to “No Resurrection”: This song blends everything I like in this album: speed, crunch, melody, great vocals and solos in a very natural way, not sounding like a collage of ideas. This song is at my Top20 best thrash songs ever.
Few albums sound as honest as this. This reason alone is enough for you to get this album. If you want to listen to something original (even though it was recorded circa 1988), this is perfect. One of the best albums ever recorded.
"...the evil chariot, the swinging mace of hatred..."
“Judas Reward” slowly bludgeons its way into a tilt-o-whirl frenzy of riffs and velocity. Keith Deen’s potent lung delivery is just as I remembered; a sandwich of sandpapered, pulped vocal cords. I had seen them in Trenton with DRI and Kreator about a year earlier (with HT not being top of the list, mind you), and the show still rattled around some backlit memory of mine. Their debut leaps to mind....
I felt Terror and Submission was acceptable in its speeding thrash delivery, but knocked my socks off only to a point, which is why I made only a lackadaisical attempt to stick Mind Wars into the tape player when I received it as a promo from Roadrunner.
It was the verse starting with ‘a Judas reward to collect and to horde, scum lizards of fashion pray to their gold Lord…’ that really jerked my attention from the road as I drove up NJ’s Route 1 in ’88, hiking home from classes of my first semester of college. It wasn’t the lyrics themselves (the promo didn’t come with lyrics and deciphering required a compass and a cartographer), but Deen’s low and distorted stone-crunch conveyance of them is what threw me into siren alert. Suddenly, the verse’s end is sliced by an impromptu unsoiled shrill; a third lane of vocals to accompany his road salt rapport and belt sander squall. Now this sounded promising. With the whole song, unfettered speed careens oddly into unhurried power...impressive. Through telepathy I tell the stereo it has my attention.
Recorded at the tail end of '87, Mind Wars is an often undiscovered thrash/speed classic that still wows fans of those closely-knit genres hearing it for the first time today. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the most underrated metal albums of all time. Keith Deen's vocals are a little stranger than most. He can go down deep for a menacing tone or two, can scream to high heaven, and even nails fairly high, clean notes when the urge hits him, and is just enough to throw your instincts into a swerve.
Following “Judas Reward” is the quick "Debt of Pain", a bullet train of a song even more feverish than its precursor that is actually a disguised version of Agent Steel’s “Back to Reign” (Kurt Colfelt has writing credits on both tracks). Except for the first chorus, the lyrics are completely different, and the pace is incomparable as new supersonic rhythms pass everything on the road while a coalition of harsh and scrubbed vox greenlights the chorus with a subtle, yet despairing urgency. Reigning in the velocity is “Immoral Wasteland”, gliding elegantly into a slower vein with semi-galloping rhythms, a surplus of wily solos, and multifaceted songwriting that's as traditionally-gilded as anything pre-'84 to the mindset of a later band like Demons & Wizards. "A Fools Gold”, “Terminal Humor”, and “Mind Wars" melt into a songwriting beast of an entity with no pauses or breaks. The musicianship maneuvers wildly, beating its chest in front of thrash/speed hecklers that believe musical competence in thrash is as probable as the Titanic resurfacing on its own. Rhythms and melodies just uncoil without notice, reaping unpredictable changes in timing and structures like the titles imply.
Side two starts at the very peak of the rollercoaster with the lengthier "Damned by Judges", a heavy, mid-paced jogger that peers just over the edge of the monster hill. Impending fear churns as the abyss beyond is devastated by three hurricanes: "Do Unto Others", "No Resurrection", and "Christian Resistance" - a trio of giants storming anything placid, mild, or weak. “Do Unto Others” is possibly sung three times too fast at times, sounding amateurish in its inherit chaos, but the rest of the track mangles nicely. “No Resurrection”’s frantic chorus is a highpoint, sung recklessly yet again with inflections flying chaotically like confetti to the roar of speed metal cacophony. “Christian Resistance” is the crème a la crème, the Big Bertha track with leaden, tightly stroked rhythms breathing with a life of their own, ordaining a chorus that magnificently finishes both song and album with a wind of pious denial and brilliance.
Anyone I've let hear this usually wants a copy yesterday, and if you’re lucky you can find the two-on-one cd with the debut for a few more coins. One can imagine the band’s disenchantment with the scene when the mild gust of recognition from Mind Wars barely managed to blow out the matches of less eventful and fulfilling albums. Unfortunately for the five-piece, most listeners are just now seeing the light (but that's better than nothing).
“…in the name of Jesus Christ we massacre...”
You find them lurking at the back of bins full of old second hand records. They are easily recognised by a thin patina of dust, which shows they have not been touched in months, if not years. Looking closer, you see amateurish artwork, which looks like an art student friend of the band drew it, and inside is a collage of photos of the band in full mullet glory trying to look "metal–as–fuck", but doing silly things with bottles of beer at the same time. These are archaeological deposits of a bygone era, pearls cast before the present day nu–metal swine, but buried treasures to be unearthed and coveted by the self–proclaimed metal intelligentsia. Mind Wars is just such an album.
Holy Terror may not have ever made much of a dent in the world of metal, such is the injustice of it all, but deserved to. Balls to the wall thrash, anti–Christian rantings, and tales of death, destruction and dementia abound. It is easy to visualise the band playing live, bullet belts, windmilling hair, foot–on–the–monitor poses, stage divers dragging themselves out of and hurling themselves into a swirling mass of chaos in front of the stage.
Holy Terror seem to take their musical cues from the early days of the Bay Area scene. There's a big helping of Exodus, a definite Testament influence, a hint of Possessed, and perhaps a dash of Slayer or Dark Angel.
"The Immortal Wasteland" is a bit of an odd track out. Rather than the biting thrash of the other songs, it is reminiscent of Iron Maiden with Exodus' Steve Souza on vocals. Twin leads, a bouncing bass line, and perhaps the most conventional vocal performance on the whole album. Maiden–isms slip into other tracks too, particularly the twin lead guitar sound.
"No Resurrection" is the pick of an excellent bunch. A tirade against some of the points central to Christianity, like the afterlife and the resurrection of Christ, the argument against it is posed in a thought–provoking manner. The song kicks off with a riff which is essential air guitar material. From there, it's neck–snapping thrash through til the end, with the odd detour into some unusual territory, with unexpected key changes, off kilter solos, and some tasty drum work.
If you are ever in need of a good dose of thrash, and you're sick of the big names, check this out and try to figure out why Holy Terror got left behind.
So you thought the Vio-lence vocalist was incomprehensible? Well, think again... if you listen to Killian enough times, while reading the lyrics, you will at some point realise "yeah, I suppose he is saying that".
Now as for Keith Dean... uh no, there is no possible way he's actually speaking English at times... he's just kinda making up syllables as fast as he can, taking the "ram it down" approach to verbalisation. See "no resurrection", where he just goes on this really long rant about three times and that's the verse.
And ya know what, it fucking works. Combine this with good production, and very good riffs, and you've got yourself an excellent thrash album. What does it sound like? Think of the LA punk/thrash sound - Suicidal Tendencies, if they got their shit together, would probably sound EXACTLY like this... the guitar tone isn't particularly heavy, and there aren't any Kreator-like "snap your spine in three" moments, but pretty much every section of every song is a good headbanging piece... think Overkill in that regard, especially Taking Over era, or maybe a cross between the two Heathen LPs. There's a lot of flat-out speed metal here, as well as a lot of overt thrash - the first Agent Steel is also a good comparison for the speed-metal parts.
Solos are thrown in liberally, and most of them are of the classic-metal variety - noodly enough to not be mistaken for Randy Rhoads precision, but certainly not of the cat-in-a-blender approach of Slayer... at times the last few bars finish off in Judas Priest style (see "The Immoral Wasteland") with a simple, catchy section - at other times, the solo continues under the verses, which is not something you usually get in a metal band... usually it's just the rhythm guitar, while the second guitar plays power chords or something. No, here they go on and complement the vocals.
Highlights... probably Debt of Pain (feeling down and out!!), or the epic "The Immoral Wasteland", or the aforementioned chaotic "No Resurrection", which probably the fastest song on here - and while Keith goes on his bender, the instruments maintain precision... Judas Reward is probably the heaviest song, with the midpaced bludgeon thrash intro. There are no weak points, no things that must be skipped... even the intro of Damned by Judges ("the accused is a priest, under holy orders", blah) is short as to not break up the continuity of the matter.
Worth getting? Fuck yes. Well above average thrash metal.