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The consequence of unknown players. - 82%

hells_unicorn, April 23rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 1981, Cassette, Independent

Behind every ubiquitous superstar outfit that is credited with the sun and the moon are one or more bands that did it first and are often greeted with an incredulous dismissal upon their pioneering status being mentioned. Call it the cult of celebrity that arises from the overexposure that the entertainment media places upon a few isolated players, or just dumb luck that is reinforced by generally dumb people, it's an all too common occurrence that is generally only noted by cynical recluses with the time on their hands to sift through the layers of metal history to find these forgotten pioneers, a task made somewhat easier with the advent of the worldwide web. Case and point, the extremely obscure NWOBHM outfit from Belfast in Sweet Savage, perhaps best known during their less than prolific tenure in the early to mid 80s as the original vehicle for famed Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell. Interestingly enough, though Dio's original ax man makes quite a ruckus during his brief run with this outfit (culminating in this demo and a subsequent single including one of these songs as a b-side), their limited exploits had far reaching consequences that arguably shaped the metal scene more than any could have realized.

The NWOBHM had an extremely diverse spectrum of possibilities that saw the fringe proto-thrash metal madness of Satan and the pioneering extreme death/black leanings of Venom coexist with a healthy number of bands that didn't venture far beyond the constraints of the 70s hard rock paradigm. In keeping with this, Sweet Savage's 1981 demo provides a curious and highly developed middle road between these two extremes, hitting a cruising heavy metal stride that is somewhat comparable to the faster material on Manowar's iconic debut Battle Hymns (which dropped not long after this but was likely written at around the same time), but with a highly animated riff happy approach that points pretty obviously to the earliest incarnation of Metallica. The similarities don't really end there, as alongside a collection of proto-thrashing riff monsters that are played just a tad too slow for Kill 'Em All, vocalist and bassist Ray Haller's gruff-drenched singing is so uncannily similar to James Hetfield's signature sound that questions involving how large this band's impact was the early Bay Area sound compared to better known acts like Blitzkrieg and Diamond Head are inevitable.

For the majority of those approaching this album from a post-Metallica vantage point, the picture presented for where metal would head in a couple years is remarkably clear once one is past the early 80s rehearsal tape quality of the production. The raging speeder with a riff set flashy enough to function as a precursor to "Hit The Lights" in "Killing Time", which was covered by Hetfield and company on the 1982 Ron McGovney demo, contains all the trimmings to rival said groups early thrashers save the Motorhead-infused tempo, including a solo out of Campbell that contains the same character that both Mustaine and Hammett would adopt on subsequent studio outings. Likewise, the album's near equally blazing opener "Eye Of The Storm" starts on a similarly chaotic tone to the intro of "Hit The Lights", though shorter in length, and settles into a nice cruising stride comparable to the one heard on Maiden's "Invaders". Fragments of Mustaine's signature riffing approach as heard on "Phantom Lord" and "Mechanix/Four Horsemen" can be heard throughout the somewhat heavier but still fleet footed "Into The Night". The only real outlier from this fast-paced, almost thrash display is the more mid-paced and groovy "Queens Vengeance", which is a tad closer to the rocking side of the NWOBHM paradigm, though the extended guitar soling extravaganza out of Campbell functions as a flashier and fancier precursor to what Hammett offered up on "Four Horsemen" and to a certain extent, "Fade To Black".

In all fairness to Metallica, their on and off promotion of this band by routinely covering "Killing Time" both live and on a couple occasions in the studio was probably a deciding factor in this band reforming in the mid 1990s and giving said song a somewhat better production, alongside a couple of full length LPs that coincided with a miniature revival of the NWOBHM sound via the short-lived Neat Records. All the same, it tends to be more the exception than the rule that the casual consumer of big name metal, which includes the obligatory Metallica, will have very little awareness of this band apart from being "one of those bands that Metallica covered on Garage Inc.", with a few token Metallica completists noting the earlier 1982 version when McGovney and Mustaine were still in the fold. Part of it could be chalked up to Dio stealing this band's most talented member and turning him into a household name all but overnight, but when considering the competency of the whole, this band's ongoing obscurity in the 80s was more a matter of the pioneer blazing the original trail and the 2nd stringer cutting away the final couple of miles of overgrown foliage. Given its heavily low-fi sound, this is more a historical curiosity than something to blast out until kingdom come, but the history conveyed is relevant enough that every metal head out there should hear it at least once.

Probably the most underrated metal release - 93%

TheFourHorsemen666, May 5th, 2008

Now overall, NWOBHM is a very underrated genre. Most people don't know (from what I understand) more then Iron Maiden, Venom, Saxon, Motorhead, Mercyful Fate, and Angel Witch. Which is a shame, because THIS was the genre that branched off to several other metal genres (speed/thrash, power, and even black). It really makes me scratch my head that Metallica covered this on "Garage Inc.", and yet not many people don't even know this band's existence. Anyway before I get into a long rant, I should probably talk about this album.

The first thing you'll notice is the "I recorded this in a toilet fulla shit" production. I mean this is as bad as early Bathory production and this was released a good 3 years before Quorthon's debut. You have to try hard to make out some of the stuff that's going on. The drums are muddy, the vocals are drowned out, and while you can hum the riffs, the guitar is kinda hard to make out too (it's not extremly distorted or anything). I won't even mention bass, it's completly inaudible. Now you might think that this would take away from the music, but not here, it really adds to it and I frown upon bad production. It sounds like your listening to them live in garage, kinda cool, just raw metal.

Now the first song, "Eye Of The Storm", starts out with a mini drum and guitar solo. Then one of THE catchiest riffs ever blast in. I hum this riff very often, whether I'm working, walking, or taking a shit. Then the vocals come in, and while it's not really singing (the closest example I can give you is a Hetfield who could actually sing) it's catchy too. The chorus is catchy too, one of those good sing-a-long ones. It's this kinda shit that should've made millions, stuff that's actually catchy, not the borefest that was glam metal.

The next song, "Into The Night", interestingly begins with a riff very similar to proto-metal band, UFO's "Reasons Love" off of "No Heavy Petting". I'll probably say that Sweet Savage stole this one, since the releases are 5 years apart. However, it's not the exact same riff and they change it to a more "metal" riff, if that is an adjective. This song's just as catchy as the one before it and has a pretty good solo in it to add to it.

The third song, "Queen's Vengeance", seriously blows everything out of water. I'd go far enough to say this is one of the BEST metal songs ever. It's very epic, more epic then Manowar's "Battle Hymns" (the song) and as epic as Maiden without going all harmonic on you. It begins with a clean intro then gets heavier. Then you have a minute of that great NWOBHM catchiness. Here is when it begins to be epic. You have an epic solo and ending, and you have a top-notch metal song. I can't find the words to describe this song, but I strongly recommend anyone who hasn't, to listen to this song.

And finally, the last song, "Killing Time". This is the song Metallica covered, and once you listen to it, it's easy to understand why. You give this steroids and you get Kill Em All-era Metallica. This is pure thrash metal here, way ahead of its time. It's too bad it barely passes the 2 minute barrier, for it's quite an excellent song.

If you I had to quickly summarize this demo, it's some of the catchiest metal you'll ever hear. Don't be discouraged that Metallica covered them, they listened to some good NWOBHM. Go do yourself a favor and get this album.