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Bronze isn't so bad - 75%

Gutterscream, April 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Roadrunner Records

Having never found this to be a terribly exciting compilation, the very early ’84 Dutch Steel predictably hasn’t spent too much time rotating around my playlist, but for more avid fans of Dutch metal, I’m sure it ranks at least on the outskirts of enjoyable when speaking of various artist discs. It’s a pre-thrash project that additionally turns a blind ear to most speed metal innuendo, which prior to ’84 was arguably the most explosive style of the time, and I’ve always thought it couldn’t have hurt if even this thing’s livelier numbers had been fanned by some of that flame.

Except for Overijssel’s Revenge, all these bands predate this disc with at least a demo to their credit. Of them, Amsterdam’s Seducer is the sole act kinda professionally veteran with a previously-released ’83 full-lengther; however their initial vinylized appearance is on the earlier (and more significant) compilation Holland Heavy Metal Vol. 1 – Live in Brouwershoek of ’82, as well as Groningen’s Vortex, whose first is on the same year Vol. 2 of that same title. Utrecht’s Martyr and Apeldoorn’s Together are two acts responsible for some of the disc’s best showings despite their single song deficits, meanwhile the rest race to impress with two slots bought and paid for (not literally, of course…well, maybe).

Seducer introduce both sides of the split and are reasonably strong off the mark with the reasonably catchy “I Love 69”, however side two’s first stab, “Torcher”, quickly becomes as browsed-over as yer basic butter knife in a drawer full of blades. Mouthpiece Frans Phillipus is stiff and seemingly self-conscious about his style as he endeavors to be an official singer. Unfortunately the former song wishes for some verbal abuse-generated tension while the latter needs a helluva lot more than smarmy pipes to get it on Santa’s good kid list. A saving grace is that neither are found on their existent s/t lp.

The easiest to pick out from the crowd is Revenge, lead by tonally-obvious frontwoman Helenn Heine, who’s character is somewhere between, I dunno, maybe Blacklace’s Maryanne Scandiffio and Betsy Bitch. Despite this, theirs is a presentation that seems stuck to Seducer’s same cookie sheet, for “Evil” is to “I Love 69” as “Get Lost” is to “Torcher”.

Narrowing the ratio of cool beans to warm porridge a bit is North Brabant’s Allied Forces when moderately aggressive “Faster Than Your Neck” butts heads with high-marked and hauled-off “Attack”, which also proves to be a wise choice as the disc’s closing argument. Of the bands with paired tracks, Allied Forces is the most enjoyably cohesive.

As well as the A4 and B5 slots here, the two from Vortex own property on their ‘83 Land of the Late demo - “Mercenary”, which chugs along in an ever-so-mildly eventful anyband hard rock half-gallop/blues double time, and “Land of the Late”, which opens the throttle to a more metallic stride of blues-sacking gung-ho-ism that teleports it near the front of the pack.

In the near vicinity of “Land of the Late” is Together’s eager “Ready to Die” and, from Martyr’s ’83 Metal Torture demo, “Snow and Fire”, two surefooted and freshly-packed ice-melters that run in righteous stride with the race leaders. These tracks are some of the best, the final three, thrusting the compilation’s chest out as it pedals through to the finish, a finish so close that a clear-cut winner is not something that simply comes to me here. And while this ends with some happy high notes, it doesn’t mean the songs milling around the finish line deserve gold or even silver ribbons. More like sturdy bronze.

But bronze – the ribbon this compilation gets as a whole - isn’t so bad. The two-fer groups salvage at least one halfway decent track to keep them in the race, meanwhile the one-offs knew there was little leeway for weakness and stick some of their better feet forward. Still, some infectious spores from the “Fast as a Shark” or “Axe Crazy” schools of speed metal wouldn’t have been the worst things to catch the wind.