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Excitement to Be Savoured Only After Dark - 83%

bayern, October 5th, 2017

Just when one thought that Exciter had gone back on track with the pretty decent, “back to the roots” “Kill After Kill” came a disruption in the line-up that led to the briefly returned Dan Beehler’s packing up and leaving once again, supposedly to concentrate on his solo project Beehler. That left John Ricci, the band’s founder and main driving force all these years, alone in the middle of the most difficult for the old school decade. The man had no choice but to take some time off for retrospection, and also to look around and see if he could find any fellow musicians with whom to revitalize the Exciter career…

He did find like-minded metallers eventually although that took him about five wholesome years. When the album reviewed here finally saw the light of day, things were looking a bit brighter on the classic metal horizon although tributes to the groovy/post-thrashy vogues were still dominant. Were our favourite Canadian riff-mongers going to add another one to the roster?

No, they weren’t; they were going to persevere with their lofty retro metal visions regardless of the circumstances. A fairly capable team Ricci has managed to assemble for the recordings comprising the Charron brothers (Marc (bass) and Rik (drums) respectively), plus the vocalist Jacques Belanger, largely unknown musicians, but perfectly fitting Ricci’s intentions. Said intentions, though, were to not to repeat the old formula from the band’s earlier albums note-by-note, but to inject a certain doze of power metal with morose, dark overtones that worked very well with the ever-reliant speed metal template.

The title-track expectedly raises the flag of old school speed metal high with fiery blitzkrieg riffs and Belanger’s excellent dramatic, high-strung vocals the man a more proficient performer than Beehler behind the mike, providing a wider range of vocalisms including a few forceful deathy semi-grunts. “Burn at the Stake” is a more officiant stomper with sudden fast-paced outbursts the alternation between the two sides creating the requisite tension. “Aggressor” has no choice but to justify its title with a portion of speedy vitriolic guitars, and “Assassin in Rage” obediently follows suit with more raging classic speed metal. “Ritual Death” is a choppy, angry proto-thrasher with heavy abrasive riffage, but “Sacred War” safely brings things back to the speed metal formulas, a short concrete exploder. “Let Us Prey” notches up the atmosphere with a haunting doomy intro which later grows into a formidable epic cut with echoes of early Jag Panzer and Omen; an awe-inspiring battle rouser which lofty aspirations are “intercepted” by the next in line fast-pacer “Executioner”. And this is where the album stays for the remaining two cuts, energizing hymns that could have been leftovers from “Long Live the Loud”.

The diehard Exciter fan will find little to complain about here as the good old speed metal has been kept firmly in place for a large portion of the time, the mentioned power metal ingredients only adding more flair to the proceedings without ruining the staple for the band “façade”, and are not that radically different from similar old tunes from the past (remember “Pounding Metal” and ”Delivering to the Master”), to tell the truth. The new guard did a very good job to replace Beehler and the others, and it seemed as though this new chapter from the Exciter saga might as well be more exciting than the old one…

Alas, this scenario never materialized as “Blood of Tyrants” was a pretty formulaic affair the band suddenly having decided to pay tribute to “Painkiller”, a hardly necessary step and one that has led to repetitions of this trite template all the way to the present day without too many positive returns. Belanger stayed around for two more albums until Beehler’s return, and one of the brothers, Rik, became a full-time member of the Exciter squad before his departure in 2014 due to, again, Beehler’s rejoining the crew. The entire original line-up, including the bass player Allan Johnson, has been together for the past three years, but at this stage nothing new has been cooked…There’s no rush; the fanbase would always be happy to hear another “speed metal machine” whenever it’s ready to roll with all the violence and loudness the guys could muster.