Various Artists

Metal Massacre, Vol. 1

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This collection of early-'80s metal bands has stayed in print for one reason only, Metallica. This is the first recorded appearance of the infamous foursome, and their immense mainstream success has managed to keep this from disappearing into obscurity. The bands that they share this compilation with are typical of metal bands of the time. Influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (which included bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Saxon) but played with the fury of punk rock, this is where thrash metal really started. One of the unfortunate traits that these bands learned from their English counterparts is the shrill, high-pitched singing style that was popular in metal at the time. Malice and Cirith Ungol come off as the most dated because of their banshee vocals (and pedestrian songwriting skills). Demon Flight manages to come off slightly better, if only because singer Rick Gerard has a charming Ozzy-meets-the Flaming Lips voice. Pandemonium and Bitch contribute some average headbanging anthems, but Black N Blue and Avatar come the closest to matching Metallica's excellent "Hit the Lights." Recorded when Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine was still playing lead guitar, "Hit the Lights" is the best song on the compilation, a raging anthem announcing thrash metal to the masses with thunderous fury. James Hetfield's famous growl had not quite developed (and Mustaine contributes some uncredited background whining), but despite the bizarre vocals it blows away the rest of the compilation. Metallica collectors will probably want this, but even fans of thrash metal may be curious to hear its beginnings despite some of the lulls on the rest of the album.

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