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The late 80's and more specifically 1987 were quite popular in terms of constantly producing extreme music, whatever the genre. It is the year which bore Bathory's third and perhaps most well known album, “Under the Sign of the Black Mark”, Death's staggeringly good first album and also saw the gradual rise of one of the most popular bands in the Crossover Thrash circuit, Suicidal Tendencies. It was a year where not even the worst bands were ignored, and taking that fact into consideration, gritty, gruesome and not at all gormless Scottish Punk mob The Exploited knew the state of the current music scene all too well.
One listen of their “Death before Dishonour” album, and you'll instantly realize that their sound has become faster, harder and thrashier. The band were fast morphing from a simple punk rock group founded at the arse end of Scotland into a much more aggressive and nastier force. The idea that their brand of punk rock was becoming close friends with the crossover thrash genre may have raised a few unwilling eyebrows, but it was an idea that could quite simply have united hardcore punk and thrash veterans into one, rowdy crowd.
However, even with it's slight change in sound, “Death before Dishonour” somehow falls flat on its face at various points in the album, yet still manages to stay away from being a complete musical disaster. The Exploited were still by this point a politically charged band, and the themes had only grown into bigger, and more interesting concepts. There are feelings of unity within society ('Anti UK', 'Scaling the Derry Wall', 'Death before Dishonour'), emotions of hatred and anger ('Barry Prossit', 'Adding to their Fears'), and absolutely no remorse for any human being whatsoever ('Don't really care', 'No Forgiveness')-and lyrically it all ties in perfectly. As usual Wattie vomits each particular lyric out with such malevolent force it's hard to forget moments after each song has ended. On the vicious opener 'Anti UK' Wattie orders the crowd to “rid their hellish screams/Lets all rule ourselves/let God save the Queen”, whereas in the similarly riotous yet much thrashier title track, chants of the title itself by each member of the band generate a feeling of unity amongst both the band's fan-base and those who just want to cause absolute mayhem.
Musically The Exploited's fifth album fails to impress or surprise. In particular the screaming and shouting vocals of Wattie Buchan seem to be much weaker than on any of the band's previous albums, and unfortunately, at times, he even tries to sing. Yes, you read that right, Wattie Buchan, a Scottish punk vocalist, tries to sing. Even though it sounds as if a cat was screeching from being terrorized via having it's organs scraped out, you have to forgive Wattie for trying to alter his throat-ripping vocals. The songs 'Power Struggle' and 'Barry Prossit', as good as they are instrumentally, are dragged down in quality simply because of Wattie's cleaner vocals, and it all makes for a horrible mess of a sound.
Not to worry though, because the guitar work is in fact the one thing that has changed completely. Whereas on the band's previous albums Willie Buchan simply rattled along in a punk manner with whatever sound his guitar could make, this time round the crossover thrash influences arrive and consequently make everything sound so much heavier and faster. The rabid chaos of both 'Scaling the Derry Wall' and 'Pulling us Down' are helped thanks to the much-needed heaviness of Willie Buchan's guitar playing, whereas the slower, mid-paced likes of the title track and sinister closer 'Sexual Favours' feature a slower form of all the chaos. Not only this, but the solo work is more than a little prominent this time round too. Most of the songs feature at least one solo, but every single one of them seem to be played with the exact level of accuracy and precision you would expect to hear from a NWOBHM band.
It's really the guitar work that saves “Death before Dishonour” from being just another average Exploited album, yet the similar structure of each song still manages to bore the listener into an impatient state. This has naturally been a problem within the Exploited's sound ever since their foundation, but on the band's fifth album it seems that even at 39 minutes in total, it could have benefited from a few changes in song structure here and there.
Don't expect too much from this album if you're thinking of giving it one listen, because it really is whatever it is perceived to be. The fact that the crossover thrash influences are more than a little prominent here however more than make up for Wattie's pathetic vocals and a painfully inconsistent collection of fast paced, punky tunes, yet if you've heard any of the band's other albums, and disliked them completely, it may not be a good idea to try this one out.