Heavy Metal Maniac (1983)
Genres: Speed Metal, Thrash Metal
In the early days of thrash, there was a fine line between what made something thrash or just really fast and spitfire heavy metal. Perhaps no band sat on this line more than Canadian heavy metal maniacs Exciter. With their debut coming out the same year as Metallica's debut Kill'em All, it might make you wonder: "Who influenced who?"
Maybe neither did, but either way this album is going to kick your ass until you accept speed metal into your heart. Imagine Van Halen's "Atomic Punk" and Raven on steroids mixed with the debuts from Metallica and Anthrax, and you get this masterpiece. The title track is a pure 80's metal anthem, that makes you want mosh and headbang until intense whiplash occurs. Drums pounding, guitars drilling, and vocals screaming, this is pure heavy metal at its finest.
Exciter is a band that really puts the "power" in power trio, as everything is just absolutely on fire and turned up to 11. Allan Johnson's bass is always able to be heard thumping in the background, complementing John Ricci's electric drill of a guitar. "Mistress of Evil" really displays the bass/guitar interplay the best. Let's jump back to the self-titled song, and just take in the blistering raw guitar solos. It's amazing how something can be so melodic and so venomous at the same time, which is the best I can describe the guitar work on the whole album. Rounding up both the vocals and drum kit, is frontman Dan Beehler. Vocalists who double as drummers have always amazed me, especially when you're pulling off the ridiculously fast drum work on this album.
The title song is of course the main highlight of the album, but my other favorite has to go to the crushing "Iron Dogs". Like what many thrash bands would learn, there is nothing better than a good contrast between slow and pummeling and fast and brutal. The punchy slower-paced riffs flawlessly drive right into the rapid moshing till the end. Following that as best song is the seven minute long "Blackwitch". This is a speed metal power ballad at it's best, a masterful mix of beautiful yet heavy melodies and hooks, somber classical guitar work, all resulting in a rampaging finale of pummeling double bass and hammering guitar that blasts right into the finale "Cry of the Banshee", making it essentially part of "Blackwitch".
Heavy Metal Maniac is a classic album, and if you're looking for something that's both raw and has a good sense of melody, nothing fits the bill better. Exciter wouldn't show any signs of slowing down for a while, with the three albums that follow this one being excellent as well, but that anthem of a title track might just give this debut that edge over the rest as the best.