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Proof of a wellspring for a stronger assault - 85%

Gutterscream, August 24th, 2013
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, RCA

“…beyond the mountains where the wind cries out its pain…”

Round two. And a round two made possible often means something went right in the first. Some familiar names from the original’s fight card last year sign on again, if not to further enlarge their fan bases, then to bask in the magnificence of an even more stunning jacket pictorial, this time Philip Carl Wahlbom’s 1855 painting, Gustav II Adolf's Death at the Battle of Lutzen (only a featured section; the wide view just may be the very definition of breathtaking art, but this work deserves way more than my mere word). It woulda been a shot in the foot if Tyfon cheapskated out and followed Vol. 1’s art with Thor’s sense of Unchained.

A trio of Swedes, namely Trash, Oz, and Bathory, give us some familiarity to cling to while we find out if there are any campfire stories to be shared about the basically groundless Biscaya, Mentzer, and Highscore (the first two also Swedish while Highscore may as well be from southern Utah for all the high hills of info I can’t find on ‘em). As a purchaser of the first attack, it was nice to feel the safety net of Oz and Bathory beneath me as I plunked this down in view of the cash register. Sometimes warm fuzzies like these throw cold water on any hesitancy a trip to the checkout counter may have.

Again we’re handed more tracks that already decorate homes on other discs, grooves cheap with not one, but both selections from four bands, and really, the only way to justify digging the cash out for this is if those homesteads are ones you haven’t visited yet, and believe me, that was entirely possible.

Once more, stalwart Oz is wisely the first to fight, “Third Warning” (named after their ’84 lp) entering the fray with the well-produced brawn and occult-singed appeal the quintet were known for during this time. Over on side two, despite being head honcho of its own ’84 hard-to-come-by ep, off-anthem gem “Turn the Cross Upside Down” will use this compilation as a semi-remote vacation cottage where, along with its main house ep, it will hide out from the world, at least for awhile. Obviously no complaints are lodged against these two.

Biscaya is this volume’s Spitfire surprise, kidnapping two from their ’83 self-titled lp (on big shot RCA, no less) which, incidentally, still hasn’t been noticed to this day. Somewhat of a shame since colorfully-driven “Rockin’ Vehicles” and especially total meat n’ potatoes “Howl in the Sky” are two of the best that could even consider waging war against Oz and Bathory. Something on the bizarre side is this five-piece’s unabashed use of off-color keyboard variants, from those with lofty, horn-like drama to a gaggle of mutating corny ones that can be found goofing up a song like “On the Loose” by progressive rockers Saga, sad stains on an admittedly cool tune. These songs, however, are quite strong enough to drown out their own distractions.

There was little doubt Mentzer was a member’s last name (why else would anyone bother?), and Christer Mentzer is that guy, a vocalist who already fronted Silver Mountain’s stage to promote their ’84 Universe lp. The band’s double feature is exclusive stock here primarily because outside of this sleepy-eyed pair, Mentzer as a band did little more than what statues do. Their point of inclusion beats the shit outta me as well, ‘cos the more awake “Voodoo” is mid-measured, failed hit-fodder still inkling with far-off likeability that maybe Vanadium or Anthem would’ve invented, yet is a dangerous creature compared to 15mph disc finale (?!) cruiser “Russian Roulette”. I’ll personally give it a dollar if it swallows a bullet.

In other great news, more Trash has piled up to block exposure for more interesting bands, another two song heap blown in from ’83’s Watch Out, made up of the playfully AC/DC-ish “Bombay Mail” and the slow, bluesy road to boredom known as “Drop and Die”. With patience gone with the wind, I wish they’d take their own advice.

The most clandestine band here by tons is weirdly-named Highscore, another surprise that, while not quite reaching the score of Biscaya, does its part to affect the heaven/hell band ratio these compilations have been silently competing for and slide favor to this volume in terms of good-to-bad band (but not necessarily song) quality. Apparently deemed unworthy of the Archives (which I should correct), Highscore’s sole tunes (apparently anywhere as far as I can tell) only strafe hard rock’s radar when they’re not flying out of its range altogether. The energy of “Power Drinks” is slower than its shaken up namesake and tears a page from more methodical and serious diaries possibly kept by a dryer Keel or manlier Vandenburg. “Knock the Boss”, however, puts money where its grinning mouth is and snaps with momentum and enthusiasm leaked from wetter Keel and perhaps a happy Black Rose.

Wasn’t gonna wait ‘til the end this time to heave Bathory into the fire, but there’s more to say about their damnation stinking up things than usual. Basically, here their din is freshly-tormented and thrash-feral - the ultimate update for anyone who thought the black bibles they contributed to Vol. 1 were still cool regardless of their lack of legendary Bathory ferocity that would arrive with the self-titled debut released toward the end of a finally thrash-infused ‘84. Well, here's the proof of Quorthon having his ear to the grindstone when his first taste of thrash metal (likely) swarmed over him. His response to this new genre’s savagery is spelled out here in big 'ol letters - the influence is nothing short of palpable; metal's most recent style explodes within “Hades” and “War”, and both are easily more sloppily viral as they speed untamed and way closer to out of control, resulting in making Vol. 1's Motor-Venom-souled duo seem almost stuffy and outdated in comparison. In light of the band's new scathing style, it seems (and sounds) almost silly to stand Bathory next to their contemporaries here. I mean, imagine the disc was a show billed with this line-up. Who’d be out of place by a mile?

Y’know that ’83/’84 change in metal weather I always seem to be babbling about in reviews, that ’83 heat-up period of ‘84’s future, toothier generation of sweathogs to come? Well, unwittingly documented by the collective Scandinavian Metal Attacks is my longwinded case-in-point as well as a conveniently clear example made sonic by Quorthon and his two cronies - a before/after picture of style. Vol. 1 is Bathory’s before picture, showing a mentality that could only capture ideas that were already out there - well-worn traditional and however worked-over and heated up speed and power metal had gotten. Vol. 2 is the after image taken not even a year later (with their debut yellow goat released in Oct. '84), showing the 'band' indeed discovered a sound-altering wellspring along the way, a tumultuous body of aqua apparently hidden well enough that the majority didn't catch on 'til '85. (Re)Born from this is a leaner, more agile and more ferocious Bathory...one of the few entities stoking the furnace of ’84’s new steaming design.

That wellspring? Thrash metal, of course.

“…prince of darkness leads us all, strike the Christian down…”