In the Beginning...

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The 2010 release of Salem's career-spanning collection, In the Beginning…, provides further proof that no stone will be left unturned when it comes to anthologizing every last band to ever mount a stage during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. After all, here was a group whose brief existence between 1979 and 1983 yielded but one independently released commercial single and nothing more. Zilch! But, like most hard-working bands of the immediate post-punk era, Salem's D.I.Y. ethos drove them to keep cutting demos, keep playing live, and keep treating every small-time pub audience like they were patrons of the Hammersmith Odeon, whether record companies showed any interest or not. And since none ever did, this ethos is the only reasonable explanation for how Salem managed to amass over a dozen originals with which to populate In the Beginning…, and most of them are surprisingly impressive, audio fidelity notwithstanding. Not only could the band power its way through electrifying, galloping head bangers like "Coming for You" and "Reach to Eternity," but more restrained, urbane fare like "Hangman's Noose" and "Fools Gold" showcased the chorused vocal ability that allowed these guys to cover the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" in a former lifetime (when singer/guitarist Paul Tognola and drummer Paul Conyers were members of the "immortal" Ethel the Frog). Elsewhere, melodic hard rockers such as "Make the Grade" and "Save the Night" echoed the likes of Saxon and Demon ("Rock Fever" went for Van Halen), and the band's creative range was truly revealed by the epic storytelling and dynamic variety spread across the 16-minute, three-part "The Keeper of the Keys" trilogy. A few too many alternate versions of some songs and the odd disappointment ("Other Side of Hell," and the troublingly Krokus-like "Run for Your Life") make this set anything but perfect, but it should still exceed expectations for nine out of ten N.W.O.B.H.M. fanatics who deign to give it a chance. All of which confirms, yet again, why these reclamation projects for obscure bands from that period and place just keep coming and coming and coming.