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Hell turns again, but this time doesn't yawn - 83%

Gutterscream, September 21st, 2013
Written based on this version: 1983, 12" vinyl, Mausoleum Records

“…deep inside there’s something wrong with me…”

Yeah, I was a little hard on this Belgian trio’s ’80 debut, Ready for Hell, and yeah, me of all people should be more understanding and/or forgiving with this particular time period of heavy metal. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. Y’see, for me it seems to stupidly boil down to two time periods and where they intersect - in this case, one period is the real time actuality of 1980. The other period is admittedly the dumber one, the space in my personal timeline where I bookmarked my initial discovery of and reaction to the object in question: Killer’s Ready for Hell.

Dates really meant nothing to me around ’84, ‘cause by then everything but the known mainstream of hard rock and metal was a new frontier. What was easily available then was anywhere from scarce godliness (Screaming for Vengeance, Mob Rules, Under the Blade) to usually merely decent, adequate, and average when not on the outskirts of crappy, then after being leveled by a collective scattershot blast of ‘underground’ ’83 heaters and ‘84’s nominal thrash, all I really wanted to feel was aggression, power, fury…mincemeat-making material that could chew up Def Leppard and Krokus (even if I was listening to ‘em) without so much as working up a sweat.

Since I didn’t know anything about these ‘underground’ acts and for lack of anything else logical lying around, album covers and album/song titles were my chosen guides, and it woulda been even more like running in the dark without ‘em. What about great record clubs like Columbia House with their outta sight, twelve-records-for-a-cent bargains? Fantastic for yer mainstream urges, but that’s about it. Magazines? That covered anything beyond everyday hard rock and metal you probably already owned? Even rarer than the discs I was after. Hell, I barely had a clue what those discs were. Talk about being in the dark.

So in roundabout ‘84, when an album stares back at the thirteen or fourteen year old from the rack with a name/title/jacket that all but promises everything insidious and heavy in metal, like Witchfynde’s Give ‘Em Hell, Demon’s Night of the Demon, or, in this case, Killer’s Ready for Hell, only to wilt as it spins with such a dismally small percentage of this expectance that he wings his emptier wallet at it and curses whatever ground the band may walk on someday. Oh how some of us can’t let the past go.

Don’t know when I finally got this or actually threw it on, but let’s say it was, um, later and probably after a few more shaky albums went down my gullet with decreasing heartburn. It’s also when I started more seriously checking album dates, ‘cause it’s fairly obvious that around two year's worth of progression – in thought, aggression, initiative, and research, even if it was still from ’80 to ’82 - had bailed the burlier hay of horsepower around Killer’s stable, thereby fueling a newer breed of horse that all during Wall of Sound whinnies with more road hog confidence and biker leather appeal, and is a breed I could see myself riding at least side-saddle on this newly-raked thoroughfare.

If you’re a guy like Fat Leo (“Rockstone” Felenstein - R.I.P., the debut’s drummer and producer, this thing’s producer, and an important early figure in Mausoleum Records’ history) who’s actively on the lookout for bands to stick your label’s logo on (re-released on Mausoleum, originally on Lark), then you’re bound to hear the changing of the tide even if thicker Motorhead and bits of stalwart Priest are still sloshin’ almost chest high. Then with Spooky and Shorty still spitting on the mike, the vocally Kiss-able split personality hasn’t totally receded, yet thankfully seems like less of a distraction (to me, anyway – if the choice was mine, sacrifice Paul to the Demon and let’s get on with it). And if you haven’t guessed, Leo handed his kit over to some peace pipe called Double Bear.

Not only does more dirt thud against Wall of Sound that’s tougher, quite chunkier, and of all things more fulfilling, these nice bikers smother the other end of the fuse and spare us most maudlin romance moments that seemed like their “Secret Love” on the debut, however skirt the premises when over-titled ladyboy “Hellbreaker” comes lookin’ for hard love tedium unless, y’know, that’s the way you sway.

With that weirdo aside, the ground around here is trampled with deeper and darker hoof prints, with the widest and wildest gouging up the front entrance thanks to a bucking title ride that was thrown into that spot not at all by coincidence. Except for horse steroid “Kleptomania”, don’t bother looking for a better song to ease guests into this album’s hectic idea of rough comfort. “Battle Scars”, “No Future”, “Blinded”, and “Maybe Our Interests are the Same” are nothing short of this disc’s backbone - catchy, self-assured, and resolute in the knowledge that guarding the rear is “Kleptomania”, an almighty mule-kicker if Killer ever bred one. In fact, they may as well be the Wall’s entire skeletal system.

Moreover, an uncommon anthemic pulse pushes this eight-tracker’s chest out further, pumping from the unafraid Battle Scarred Wall all the way and especially to the unfortunate ho-hummary of “Bodies and Bones”, two types of soldiers comrade-bound by the shout-along choruses of the warrior psychology. Sounds good, anyway.

With really only a pair of songs lame enough to waste bullets on, Wall of Sound easily puts some distance between its maker and metal’s legendary glue factory.