Album Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS Metal Massacre 14
Along with the two volumes of Metal for Muthas, the Metal Massacre series loom large over the history of heavy metal in the 1980's. Where Muthas was a short-lived showcase for UK artists dabbling in the freshly minted New Wave of British Heavy Metal genre, Metal Massacre enjoyed a much more extended stretch highlighting a variety of new sounds emerging (mostly) out of the US west coast. The first volume alone – a freshman release from newly founded imprint Metal Blade – boasted introductory appearances on everything from hair metal (Ratt) to shred (Steeler, featuring a young Yngwie Malmsteen) to the debut of thrash legends Metallica. Not a bad start.
Later volumes acted as coming out parties for noted heavyweights Overkill, Armored Saint, Slayer, Fates Warning, Metal Church… the list is endless. From that first volume in 1982 onward one could count on a fresh Metal Massacre – each as good as if not better than the last – every calendar year, with 1983 even seeing two landmark volumes drop before New Years. However, by the turn of the decade Metal Blade found themselves a bit slow in adopting the heavier trends of the day like death metal and grindcore – a few notable bands like Cannibal Corpse aside – and later volumes subsequently became far more sporadic, with only three total released since '91, a full quarter century elapsed with only a trio of label anthologies to show for it.
Obviously over the past decade or so Metal Blade has found their second wind, re-establishing themselves as one of the heavy hitters in the metal genre, with bands as disparate as Amon Amarth, Revocation and Battlecross calling the label home. Metal Massacre 14, the first in the series since 2006, is hardly a victory lap showing off all the notable talent the label has accumulated, though. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the ten artists showcased here have yet to release a single note of music on Metal Blade up to now. Instead, MM 14 is a fitting culmination of the various overlapping retro styles that have sprung up like weeds in the last several years. Many of these bands take their cues from old NWOBHM and the more "medium heavy" acts that used to be showcased on the early run of Metal Massacre albums.
So don't expect anything as modern as metalcore or as heavy as thrash here, but that doesn't mean every band present is aping Nasty Savage or Obsession. Handpicked by none other than Alan Averill of Primordial, MM 14 encompasses everything from Noctum, on this cut sounding like a slightly doomier version of Ghost, to Savage Master, whose Stacey Peak is arguably trad metal's most aggressive female vocalist since Leather Leone. Metalian opens things up with a super catchy tune ("The Traveller") that weds a heavy rhythm section to a melodic, gang vocal chorus. Assassin's Blade sounds vaguely like Candlemass if they'd formed five years earlier at the height of the NWOBHM. All ten of these tracks are keepers, with enough in common to provide a spiritual throughline to the album as a whole, but different enough that there's a genuine sense of variety to be found here. With the exception of Noctum and the upcoming Savage Master release on High Roller, the vast majority of these tracks were previously released on super obscure indie recordings that you've no doubt slept on up until now. Don't make that same mistake twice.