The Best of Omen: Teeth of the Hydra

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Speed metal was king during the 1980s, and just as English bands found it impossible to compete with American thrash juggernauts like Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, so did American bands pursuing a more traditional, purist's approach to heavy metal generally fall well short of their superior British counterparts. Despite their valiant efforts to the contrary, Los Angeles' Omen, along with the likes of Savatage and Armored Saint, fell squarely into the latter category. Which is why The Best of Omen: Teeth of the Hydra, which features 11 highlights drawn from the four albums and one EP released during Omen's five-year tenure with Metal Blade Records, is such an ideal career wrap-up for anyone looking to sample the band's wares. More so than all-around classic songs, Omen's music was characterized by moments -- flashes of inspiration such as the opening lick to "Holy Martyr," or the powerful riffing in "Battle Cry." Even when the band did try a little thrash (see "Termination," "The Curse"), the results felt obviously forced and unnatural. Instead, it's the old-school heavy metal of standouts like "Teeth of the Hydra," "Bounty Hunter," and the very Iron Maiden-like "Die by the Blade" (exposing the band's New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences) that find Omen in their true element. Although utterly devoid of a single example of genius, this collection's only real downer may be the depressingly self-plagiarizing "Thorn in Your Flesh," which, incidentally, was the only track featuring future Annihilator singer Coburn Pharr, who replaced original vocalist J.D. Kimball on the band's final Metal Blade album, the disappointing Escape to Nowhere.

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