Joined: 30 Jan 2003
|Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:57 pm Post subject: HOLY TERROR – MIND WARS
|HOLY TERROR – MIND WARS
(Under One Flag, 1988)
“From the beginning, we realised we weren’t working with people who knew what Speed Metal was and had a very difficult time getting it to sound the way we wanted it to …”
Holy Terror was one of those ‘nearly made it’ bands who released two albums before succumbing to the thrash pox which killed off the majority of groups struggling to make a dent in the thrash scene. And this, folks, is a damn shame, for alongside your favourite non-Big 4 bands of the late 80’s Holy Terror was truly a class act who deserved better than they received.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Holy Terror formed in 1985 when ex-Agent Steel guitarist Kurt Kilfelt hooked up with ex-Dark Angel drummer Jack Schwartz. Joining them was bassist Floyd Flanary, second guitarist Mike Alvord and vocalist Keith Deen. This formation of Holy Terror went on to record a 4-track demo which landed them a record deal with UK label Music For Nations and their thrash division, Under One Flag. However, according to Kilfelt Schwartz negotiated and signed this deal on the band’s behalf without actually consulting the band members themselves, leading to Schwartz being asked to leave in not-so-friendly terms. He was promptly replaced by drummer Joe Mitchell.
Stuck with the MFN deal, (with US distribution from the temperamental RoadRacer, something the band regrets to this day) the band went on to record their debut Terror and Submission. Released in 1987, it was a pretty impressive speed metal effort. The template was there for all to hear; melodic, twin guitars, a vocalist who sounded a cross between Hetfield and Dickinson, strong, structured & catchy songs dipped in almost Rainbow-esque essence (in fact, at one time the band looked back to 1970’s Rock bands rather than their peers) and with intelligent lyrics to boot. It was a great album which would have benefited with a better production; unfortunately it didn’t really make the splash that the band wanted or the album undoubtedly deserved.
“The idea was to make an epic metal record …”
Despite the later problems that the MFN and RR deal would cause – due to mishaps, misunderstandings and mishandling it would eventually split the band – a year later, in 1988, the band released their second album, Mind Wars. This was hot on the heels of a remixed version of Terror ... for the US market. Asked in a Metal Forces interview if they thought that the two releases had come out a bit too close together, Kilfelt replied “No, because no one is paying that much attention to our first one because it came out so late and the record company doesn’t want to give it a real big push because they already think that with the import sales, people have heard it …”
Mind Wars was produced by Kilfelt and engineered by Casey McMackin (who assisted on the remix of Terror … and did a mighty fine job, too) the album was recorded at Music Grinder & Track Record studios between April and May 1988. Kilfelt and McMackin took the experience of mixing Terror … and applied it ten-fold to the production of Mind Wars. Though the budget wasn’t great and they had the shortest time of space to record and mix it in (16-days) the difference is staggering. It blew the original version of their debut away by miles (which until the recent CD re-release by Candlelight records I hadn't heard, as I don’t remember any of my European metal friends or US tape-traders at the time owning a copy of Terror ... part deux) and was on constant rotation on the Death Decks at home.
With no melodic or soft intro opener Judas Reward rumbles to a start with a heavy yet catchy riff and solo. The songs slowly builds before kicking in and blasting away, Holy Terror able to stomp along with the best of them, yet making it heavy and tasty all at the same time. If Judas Priest turned thrash during the late 80’s, turning their backs on the Rock anthems that spawned them and snarled at the corporate and religious hypocrisy which was smothering Regan’s America then I’d dare say they’d sound something like HT.
Debt of Pain, a track from Kilfelt’s days in Agent Steel pounds along, one of the shortest and fastest numbers on offer. The Immortal Wastelands, a mid-paced thrasher, brimming with melody nods to the band’s 70’s influences, even if by the time MW was released the band were distancing them from this previous observation. The song is tasty, boasting a truly classy twin solo from Kilfelt and Alvord.
Coming to the album’s highlight, the melody that is A Fool’s Gold, Terminal Humor and the title track, Mind Wars … oh man, this is something else. Fool’s Gold pounds forth, guitar solos everywhere, Deen spouting venom at the Church … it slows down near the end, allowing room with a small yet unexpected bass solo for something of an interlude that is Terminal Humor to have its say with a punk-like rush before breaking out with another solo. Suddenly, Mind Wars crashes its way in, not missing a beat, arrogant and abrasive, thundering to a climax with even more of those wonderful, syrupy solos and a spectacular vocal performance from Keith Deen.
And that was just side one.
Side two opens with the brilliant Damned by Judges, which on any other album would be the record’s stand-out track. Complete with a recorded (Re. borrowed) intro of a judge instructing the jury regarding a priest accused of murder, this fantastic track stomps in true HT fashion, throwing in solos whenever they felt like it. Come the end of the track, Damned ... is just so satisfying, and if it wasn't for the trio of tunes which ended side one this would be the album's highlight.
Do Unto Others is a heads-down-see-you-at-the-finish stomper, proving that though they may have added spicy solos and melodious harmonies they could still thrash with the best of ‘em. No Resurrection almost strays into the realm of death metal what with near-coarse vocals from Deen and riffs and solos last heard off Possessed’s Beyond the Gates album, and yet, the catchiness and foot-tapping appeal remains. Album closer Christian Resistance (noticing a theme?) is another fast ‘un, that rumbling, tumultuous thrash layered with Deen’s vocals – witness Bathory-like vocal performance during the bridge – and those soaring solos. The song roars to a finish and the listener is left stunned.
Lyrically HT was a step or two above the average thrash band at the time, second perhaps only to the essays penned by Dark Angel’s Gene Hoglan:
"Judas reward to collect and to hoard/Scum lizards of fashion pray to their gold Lord/Their prejudice eyes see societies lies/To bear witness and to laugh about life aftermath/Tribe of the street the clan smells the deceit/Corporate serpents live off the dead meat/The carcass of death now is all that is left/Into the ground goes another soul bound/To another financial plan" – Judas Reward.
“Keith (Deen) wrote a lot more lyrics this time,” stated Kilfelt, “basically they’re just complaining, speed metal punk songs … I dunno, we just look around and find things to bitch about I guess, that’s all it is, just a bad attitude played with some melodic music.” Are they a political band? “There’s a lot of shots at the Church, which is not to say that we’re anything like some Satan band.”
An understatement if ever there was, HT’s stance on all matters religious was to crack open that particular ranking tomb and stare it straight in its jewel-crowned eyes:
"Knowing God is having the promise of Life that now is. Break that religious curse over you. It’s held you in bondage. I’m convinced by the spirit of God, that the majority of Christians have been held in bondage by stained glass prisons, held in bondage by a religious spirit that tells them that the days of miracles has past" – Terminal Humor.
The album cover was similar to their debut, both painted by a guy called Rick Araluce. Mind Wars features a two-headed, Alien-like serpent wrapped around a cross which has cracked and torn, complete with splintered cartilage and flesh against a background of barren desert. Both the band’s logo and album title are a collage of animal bone. The back album cover featured a grotesque Mummy figure that would have made for a dazzling t-shirt design (if it already hadn’t).
It’s easy to forget that Holy Terror sounded nothing like their thrash peers, they were no Slayer, Sodom or even Metallica clone when so many other were. One can hear 70’s Rock and even very slight Prog influences amongst the crash, bang, whollop ruckus which, though this may have made them unique perhaps worked against them in the long run. Regardless, Mind Wars is a thrilling listening experience and a definite thrash metal classic.
They are sadly missed. I can't recommend Mind Wars enough. And while we're at it, pick up Terror & Submission, too.
Judas Reward (promo video):
Damned by Judges: