It’s almost impossible for young people to grasp how important compilation albums were in the seventies and eighties. In the internet age, new music is the click of a mouse away; thirty years ago, unless you were a rabid tape trader or had a mate that was one, the compilation album was – one national radio show (in England at least) and fanzines and magazines like Metal Forces aside – just about the only way to tap in to what was happening in the underground. Metal Blade’s Metal Massacre series was the daddy of them all.
American metalheads October 31, led by Deceased alumnus King Fowley, have given themselves the onerous task of selecting a meagre ten tracks from the first seven volumes of MM (which originally spanned the years 1982-86), all delivered with the sort of spirit and faithfulness you’d expect from a band that has always had good taste in cover versions. There’s at least one track from each of those albums, with 1983’s Metal Massacre IV the most heavily represented with three cuts. The band sensibly steer clear of anything too histrionic vocally, playing to Fowley’s strengths as a committed mid-range powerhouse (though he does unleash some great screams on the band’s take on Sacred Blade’s The Alien), the result being a satisfyingly cohesive collection that will spark many memories for those that were there at the time. Standout cut for this reviewer would be the band’s version of Hallow’s Eve’s Metal Merchants – you’re sure to have your own, which is the joy of releases like this. Nobody loses!
The opening one-two of Death Dealer’s Cross My Way and Way Cry’s Forbidden Evil make for an exciting introduction to the album, but really there are no disappointments here and your enjoyment of the album is going to be predicated merely by how much you liked the originals. If you’ve never heard of any of the artists here, then permit October 31 to give you a quick 101 of US underground metal of the eighties – you won’t be disappointed.
Metal Massacre 31 is released by Hells Headbangers on November 25.