Gather ’round you tow-headed members of Generation Y. Put down your iPads and smartphones, whatever new piece of hardware you’re carrying these days. I’m going to tell you about a time long ago. Before the Internet if you can believe that.
The year is 1988. I am a two-year old boy living in desolate Canadian suburbia (I will later learn about the year 1988 properly through Wikipedia and John Hughes movies). Metallica is on the road with Van Halen, The Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come as a part of something called “The Monsters of Rock”. Defying human reason and the band’s best efforts, it will be another 12 years before people notice Metallica are sellouts.
Beside perfectly-coiffed L.A. morons in brightly coloured jumpsuits and spiked bracelets, heavy metal is awash in what we urbane, modern listeners call ‘thrash’. A freak accident involving a deadly vat of punk and hardcore had radically altered a generation of Black Sabbath fans and turned them into (barely) politically literate speed freaks. Don’t let anyone tell you differently; the 80s were fucked up.
From 1984 to 1988 the greatest examples of thrash emerged: “Reign in Blood”, “Among The Living”, “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” Even those mighty ‘Monsters of Rock’, Metallica, released two of the greatest albums ever made: “Ride The Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets”. Even before the internet, things could change quickly, and your friends could release “Master Of Puppets” one year and be on tour with ‘Van Hagar’ the next.
Morbid Saint were among those contaminated with this fucked-up concoction of metal and punk. You might not remember Morbid Saint; the band only ever recorded a handful of demos. But they managed to get enough production poured into one to release it as an LP on a Mexican label. They called it “Spectrum Of Death”, and it was great!
For starters, the vocals are fantastic. Vocalist Paul Lind must have been one of those visionaries that bought “Reign In Blood” and Bathory‘s debut album (released in ’84) when they hit the shelves. His raspy shriek is reminds me of a black metal Tom Araya (and I think we can all agree that would kick ass). The band pummel their way through the 32-minute record, leaving no time to stop and collect yourself. Amelodic solos, the relentless crack of the snare drum being pounded into submission; this is what thrash metal should (and for a while, did) sound like. “Spectrum Of Death” is the kind of record that wouldn’t be out of place in a blood-soaked scene from a Friday the 13th film (we had those in the 80s too!).
Obviously, the album has its faults. It does get to sounding a bit ‘same-y’ after a few tracks. In case you needed reminding, there’s a reason they call it ‘thrash’. But the album’s short runtime means that it’s over before the record really starts to wear out its welcome.
Let’s face it kids, as far as one-hit wonders go, Morbid Saint are one of the best. “Spectrum Of Death” is a sterling example of thrash from its seething and exciting origin period. Put down your Limp Bizkits and your Korns and enjoy this tasty morsel of metal history.