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Juggernaut was a pretty crunchy thrash/speed metal band out of Texas, who released two albums in the 80s and was probably most known for having Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Demons & Wizards, Spastic Ink, Riot, among others) on drums. Of the two, the debut Baptism Under Fire was the better.
The band's style was distinct for me because the bass was very prominent in the mix, running toe to toe with the guitar work. Harlan Glenn also had a pretty interesting vocal style, he could do the melodic mid-range but also had this almost caricature of a sneer which creates some entertaining moments on the record.
"Impaler" starts with some nice clean guitar tones before ripping into the band's noodling, percussive speed metal. You'll notice Eddie Katilus' sporadic but fun lead work which often bursts out when you aren't expecting it. As mentioned, Scott Womack is a skilled bassist and he's running circles around the rest of the band during the rhythm sections. He kicks off "Slow Death" with a flurry before the thrash triplets begin their pumping. This is one of the more memorable tracks on the album. "Cast the Stone First" is a bit more of a traditional melodic metal track. As for the remainder of the album, we get a few passable tunes like "Cut Throat", the tranquil "Purgatory's Child" or the raging, thrashing "Blizzards".
I can't say the album holds up very well, but certainly more than Trouble Within. Although Baptism Through Fire has a few vaguely memorable tracks and scattered moments of refinement, there is a sloppiness created not by a lack of musical talent, but by the occasional uneccessary displays of said talent. "Slow Death" and a few other tunes are worth hearing if you dig old school thrash, and Juggernaut certainly had a sound of their own. Fans of Megadeth and other sneering thrash bands might enjoy the charismatic vocals. I've never loved the album and nostalgia hasn't weathered my feelings.
I can't say I agree with Gutterscream's review one fucking bit, because imho this album is essential to any old, true metal collector or aficionado, because even though it may have somewhat goofy lyrics at times like "a sacrifice, taken from a skeleton's kiss", it has many memorable moments and a very strong nostalgic feel that reeks of the glory days of real metal. Not a pure speed fest either like many of their peers, these guys churn out a few mid- paced jams that are thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end, and of course the speedier tracks (Burn Tonight, Cut Throat, Hang 'em High, to name a couple) are catchy and well executed.
Why, oh why couldn't Brian Slagel have given this an original disc release in the day instead of, say, a Metal Massacre 2 on 1? Same with Sentinel Beast, Witchkiller, etc, etc... This was well deserved, but just not popular enough for it, I suppose. Aside from their shock value stage antics such as the coffin and blood spewing, they were noteworthy also for the presence of well-known drummer Bobby Jarzombek. If I could describe these guys' style, I'd have to say it was similar to a little Impaler with the essential Priest influences along with that "sound" and feel certain Metal Blade bands shared at the time.
But there's a lot more going on here, really, for instance, the beginning of Hang 'em High briefly resembles the early sounds of Tank along with the main riff of the song. So I say give this album a chance, BUT only if you're into certain things like this for the nostalgic feel as aforementioned and also for the sheer love of classic releases that never quite broke any ground or changed the world, but held their own for what they were. 100/100
“…demons ride the autumn sky in thunderclouds and rain…”
Every album that comes out can’t be a winner, and the very unremarkable Baptism Under Fire isn’t one on a pedestal wearing a wreath around its neck. Of the five or so albums Metal Blade released in July ’86, this is one that got scissorkicked off the cliff, hurling over the flailing pile of not-so-greats of the second tier and into the black, airless void beyond. Not so simply put, the band tries like hell to inject progression and technicality into their material, but the finished product just rambles on incohesive, flighty, and mostly uneventful.
Along with songwriting that unsuccessfully works up a sweat to be more conspicuous, whatever catchiness found comes off more accidental than calculated, and intensity plays a very brief game of hide n’ seek that one just may catch out of the corner of one’s ear. The property of many bands are the vocals of Harlan Glenns; mid-toned, only semi-harsh, inert, and sometimes even more unattractive yet with a malady of the nasal cavity.
The band tries to go somewhere broad-minded with “Impaler”, attempting to interlace progressivism with some average rhythms, and what little success they manage is killed by a beaten up chorus that bubbles with bass and bludgeons with backing vocals for nothing more than a combative mess. For some reason, they decide this floundering choral route should ornament the one in next song, “Slow Death”. “Rains of Death” possesses a deliberate chorus followed by a solo that’s more like an echoing explosion of feedback than anything else. Hey, do you hear that? Yeah, I do too. In a flash, intensity leaps from behind a nightstand, invigorates “Cut Throat”, and dashes behind the calm, flowing textured curtain of “All Hallow’s Eve”. And that’s the whole game. “Burn Tonight” can only try to be progressive and enlightening, meanwhile “Juggernaut” is an instrumental paced like a train taking forever to accelerate to get out of the way of the line of cars waiting. “Purgatory’s Child”, “Blizzards” and “Cast the First Stone” are all cut from a similar cloth, slow to medium in pace with signs of life just a blip or two on the heart meter. To stick the fork in side two, the listener is then treated to an untitled Christian country tune – remember Mark Wahlberg trying to sing in Boogie Nights? Obviously not a serious song, but still horrid, and if they wanted to send the last nail in the coffin home, they accomplished it like regular morticians.
Baptism Under Fire is like a novel that just drags. Interest wanes easily. You flip pages hoping to find fiery passages only to come across the same damp, snoring stuff. In the mood for third rate Watchtower rejects?