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One of the earliest metal meals - 87%

Gutterscream, April 23rd, 2008
Written based on this version: 1980, 12" vinyl, Guardian Records n' Tapes

"...oh God, don't you hear my cry?

Back to back reviews of the two earliest Witchfynde lps, both sub-par in my book, have galvanized me to not only locate some of the stronger wire needed to reinforce 1980’s tension bridge connecting the lands of metal, but to resuscitate my own waning consciousness in the process. I know, Witchfynde aren’t at all complete in their folly as they put at least some sort of foot, cloven or not, forward, but honestly, when you nail Give ‘em Hell and Stage Fright to the wall next to this three-way portrait of early heavy sounds, you (or at least I) tend to marvel at the differences.

There are few compilations from that fuddled year taking bigger bites at metal than Roksnax (rock snacks, get it?), as many of the them (usually major label junk) like to obliviously include ‘70s leftover artists like Ted Nugent, Montrose, Grand Funk Railroad, and Steppenwolf, much to the woe of newer, bolder, and unexposed bands that rightfully belong and hip fans looking for fresh meat. Regardless, this is a scarce scarab shined up in the paternal hands of the warded Guardian label, and it’s the sampler’s three bands (that for all we know had grown from the company’s bosom itself) that confirm how metallically ‘with it’ the whole project is. Now while Witchfynde, along with Fist (either one), Killer (take your pick), and a slew of others were still happily crunching down rock’s gravel path, it’s a gang of inconsequential acts (considering their collective discography – none are the more known bands you may be thinking of, so see their individual entries) that really show how smooth the pavement is over the next hill.

With four tunes apiece, Roksnax’s trinity tow a line that’s still flailing its limbs in its bassinet, Saracen, Samurai, and Hollow Ground gathering a similar strength of overall sound - the future, ever-acclaimed British style – that, as we all should know, is always reasonably aware of catchiness, smilingly fluent and progressive in view of a lot of the year’s more blockily-played rock (e.g. Back in Black, Sandinista!, Scream Dream) that’s also structurally compatible with it though often more volatile, and ultimately ignites the conflict between the genres, the warfare of polished stone and burnished steel.

Unlike some of metal’s vaunted ancient compilations, you can count on these twelve tracks to skate directly on the cutting edge or at least within shaving distance of it. All three pull their weight and harvest some clear winners: with its torrid chorus and rapid fire picking, Saracen’s album ending “Setting the World Ablaze” has to be the Crown Victoria, capturing the style’s vivacity near its best. A short respectful jog behind is Hollow Ground’s cool “Flying High”, Samurai’s “Die or Deliver”, and another from Saracen, “Speed of Sound”, all of which rush ahead with a NWOBHM leadership some of us have come to know and adore the crap out of. Sure, tunes like Hollow Ground’s “Rock On” and Saracen’s “Feel Just the Same” are rather cold and clammy compared to the good stuff, but they just might be the best originals these bands had.

Belly up to the table and realize this isn’t a snack, but a meal. Of meat. Rare and juicy.

"...let the devil take command...