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At the beginning of the worldwide thrash metal explosion, irony was a rare commodity. Any form of more or less extreme metal seemed to be a very serious thing. Every musician looked as grim as possible on each photo. Then came the day that Piledriver appeared on the surface. Despite the fact that they also looked fiercely, their grimness could not be taken seriously. They played with clichés in a skillful manner and "Metal Inquisition" was the result of their humorous creativity. But Piledriver did not only focus on slapstick. Their compositions were characterized by their clear lines that made them easily accessible. This combination of burlesque and thrash / speed metal differentiated the band from its huge number of very hard working competitors.
The debut starts with the title track. An original and vibrant riff fills the room immediately. It leads to a coherent and gripping verse. The following merciless bridge - or is it already the chorus? - offers the key message of the whole output: "if you´re not a metalhead, you might as well be dead." The infectious chorus gives the song its final touch, inter alia because of the sound of a guillotine that often shows up. Without question, the order books of the executioner are full and he works with high precision. Anyway, there is no doubt that this earworm is a very good representative of the band´s general approach, because it does not lack of charisma while being based on a speedy rhythm.
Generally speaking, Piledriver stands for thrashing, highly effective riffs that have withstood the test of time. But the Canadians have more to offer than just excellent riffs. The memorable choruses crown intelligently designed songs that do not shy away from metal stereotypes of all kind. "Sodomize the Dead" - the entire lyrics consist of only these three words - may appear as a caricature, but it also thrives on its spontaneity and the catchy riffing. The guitar work is also noteworthy. It ennobles masterpieces like the band anthem or "Sex with Satan". The expressive and malicious voice adds even more value. None of the seven songs shows any signs of weakness. The most extraordinary track is called "Witch Hunt", because it pummels you with its doomy approach. In terms of velocity, the band is flexible and offers different tempos, slow, mid-paced, fast, but no blast beats. Contrariwise, the homogeneous riffing is very stable. But with regard to the powerful main riffs, the songs do not need surprising twists and turns.
The warm, heavy and dense production presents the guitars in a dominating position without neglecting the contributions of the other band members. Piledriver manage the balancing act between a real metal atmosphere and a somehow hilarious approach with great ease. Finally, the cover artwork coincides entirely with the lyrical and musical approach of Piledriver. It symbolises the band's triumph over these miserable wimps that do not know the true spirit of metal. In a nutshell, "Metal Inquisition" is a real cult album. Don't answer back! No dialogues, please.
“…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.