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“…so if you're in a disco or in a country bar, you better get the hell out, we know who you are…”
With zero doubt in my mind that its Neander-metal-thal cover caused more than a few people to easily bypass this record on the rack with a roll of the eyes, there’s also no surprise the Toronto five-piece (actually only a two-piece - only Piledriver himself and Leslie Howe perform on the disc) not only went largely unnoticed in the scene, but were pigeonholed into the ranks of metal’s goofs even if a note on the disk hadn’t been heard – not fair, but the way it is despite that its got more going for it than many of the 'serious' records released at the time. Actually, many fine points are made in The_Ghost_of_Room237’s review below (which doesn't seem to exist anymore), summing it up to a point that I almost didn’t bother writing this piece, but I feel the lp deserves more than one solidifying review. True: the debut is a quaking amalgam of traditional, power, and light thrash/speed elements, maybe like Motley Crue meets Slayer (and there were more than a few bands treading that tract of sound), but to be more of a concise pain in the ass, sort of like if Oz’s weird power supply, some of W.A.S.P.’s and Manowar’s anthemic virtue, and a slice of Exciter’s thickness had parachuted into a lake of Motorhead’s simplistically rowdy songwriting. Good luck with that one.
With glacier-like speed, more and more people are learning Metal Inquisition isn’t a ‘tard of an album. In fact, fling the original cover concept off a bridge with possibly even the band’s name in tow, then replace both with something less derivative and fodder-like, and perhaps this band would’ve stayed on the wagon instead of being run over by it.
The title cut and its guitar tone with its oddly scratchy aftertaste immediately kindle the Oz comparison in my mind. The songwriting, like much of the album, is smooth and straightforward in its uncomplicated flow and latches onto catchiness rather easily even if it doesn’t always go somewhere special, and the fighting-for-metal cause can come out swinging like Joe Frazier at times. Piledriver’s vocals are harsh and abrasive more in tone than delivery, an evilly calm, slow burn conveyance that remains somewhat buried in the thick production except in “Sodomize the Dead” where he flies off the handle a bit (for him anyway). Okay, “Sex with Satan” isn’t the most moving song of the bunch with its controlled, one-dimensional temper and nearly bootless chorus, but it does represent one of the few bursts of speed metal cacophony on the slab. The guitar scratchiness subsides after awhile and it’s hard to deny the band’s thickness of sound, especially during the quicker tunes. The long “Witch Hunt” sounds like a heavier version of something Ratt may write, something in a brooding, unhurried “Wanted Man” veneer that should’ve been chopped in half to prevent the chorus from self-destructing due to constant use.
Moving right along is side two’s opener “Pile Driver” with controlled speed taking the reins and meeting the stocky, ode-to-himself chorus head on. Wild solos via Bud Slaker (or whoever, as most of the musicians named on the album jacket are made up) coil “Human Sacrifice” like a razor-skinned boa constrictor, cutting through a rhythm that’s apparently afraid of change. Portions of “Alien Rape”’s 8+ minute lifespan are deep-toned spoken passages about alien infestation that may have perked John Cyriis’s interest over in Agent Steel, meanwhile the rest of the tune organizes itself around the theme with thankfully some rhythmic shifts and a conspicuous chorus.
At the end of the day, Metal Inquisition is a decent listen even if it's not something you’re going to march around town with overhead. It’s also stuck deeper in the novelty swamp than it should be, but the cover takes much of that blame. Now if they had called themselves simply Inquisition and featured a dusty Hieronymus Bosch woodcut on the cover, things may have been sunnier for the band, but I understand that wasn’t really the image they were shooting for, better or for worse.