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Saturday, January 24, 2009

CD Review: Exciter - s/t reissue

Exciter - s/t reissue
2008 MVD Audio / 1995 Magnetic Air Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One thing Depeche Mode and Exciter have in common: both released albums called Exciter at transient points in their careers and neither exactly lived up to their titular implications. A decent, stripped record for Depeche Mode, but their Exciter fails to leave a blazing trail of electro-heat like their previous recordings.

In the case of the Canadian thrash legends who made a small dent in the U.S. metal market with speed metal classics such as Heavy Metal Maniac, Violence and Force and Long Live the Loud, their changeover self-titled fifth album (also known around the way as O.T.T.) is a bit of a controversy unto itself. Prior to this album, Exciter had offended some of their contingency with 1987's Unveiling the Wicked courtesy of a nutty face-ripping cover, less emphasis on thrash and more on tunability, plus an overtly silly ploy to hop aboard the Headbangers Ball cashola-via-teen-angst plot that made Motley Crue, Krokus and Britny Fox richer with "I Hate School Rules." Consequently, brutal accusations of selling out were suddenly pinned to Exciter's backs.

Come the time Exciter released their 1988 no-name album, the lack of inspiration for a catchy title was the least of its problems. Drummer Chuck Beehler relinquished his vocal duties as the band expanded from a trio to quartet with the addition of new vocalist Rob Malnati. Sure, the trade allowed Beehler to pound harder on Exciter, but when the majority of the album is played at a mid-tempo power rock style with an unapologetic ply for a more mainstream sound--akin in its day to Breaking the Chains era Dokken--Beehler and Exciter inadvertently cashed in too many borrowed chips as a result.

Thankfully, Exciter bears a few thrashers, praise God, such as "Enemy Lines," "Scream Bloody Murder" and "Back in the Light," and honestly, they're all damned-fine metal songs yielding genuine respectability for a band that was right there at the beginning of the speed metal movement.

Alas, the exchange for these cool bursts of velocity comes in the form of embarassing jughead rawk tunes with prototypical lyric lameness reminiscent of the hairball hucksters Exciter was apparently seeking to rub elbows with. Is there any real excuse for a song about waking up with a hangover and drinking it away at the ass-crack of dawn, all in the name of living up to a metalhead stereotype with "Ready to Rock?" An absolute one-eighty in the wrong direction from more honorable songs such as "Victims of Sacrifice" and "Beyond the Gates of Doom" from Long Live the Loud.

The failure to generate much excitement, pun intended, on this album is a sad statement reflective of many proud metal bands who released self-capitalizing makeabuck (and certainly their most lacking) albums during the period of 1987 to 1988, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Krokus and Motley Crue being a few of the obvious offenders. The problem with Exciter is they were never a huge band, though their run with Megaforce Records in the eighties gave them a bigger share of the pie than they would've had otherwise.

Slow and sluggish in comparison to their first few albums, Exciter flops with philandering hard rock measures on "Playin' With Fire," "Dying to Live," "Eyes in the Sky," "I Wanna Be King" and the gang-chorus-assisted LA wannabe "O.T.T." (standing for the falsely advertised over-the-top, for the record) Some cool bass lines, a few shredding guitar solos from Brian MacPhee (his best manifesting on the all-too-brief instrumental closer "Termination") and Beehler's snub-nosed drum attacks (in particularly good form with the thundering rolls introducing "Enemy Lines") are the only reasons to stay put with the album's overt tawdriness.

Exciter squanders the talents of its inhabitants (the shadow of original guitarist John Ricci was still creating a phantom despite a gallant effort from MacPhee) with profit-flushing partyhead wannabe-ism all over this album, while the presence of Rob Malnati and his ear-scraping falsettos benefit them on the speedier cuts only. The slower Exciter goes, the more painful Malnati's coyote yowls become in accordance.

Worth a listen for its nostalgic value, Exciter is nonetheless a bit of a smudge on the tally sheet of a band who at least saw fit to return later with Ricci and Beehler in a mixed bag effort to restore what once was on The Dark Command, Blood of Tyrants, 2004's re-recordings collection New Testament and last year's Thrash, Speed, Burn. You get the feeling this reissue came with hesitation. 3 Inches of Blood may have resurrected the art of high-pitched wailing, but some shriekfests sound outdated no matter what codes of revival honor you can try and pin them to.

Rating: **1/2


rene said...

I listen from HARD ROCK till BLACK METAL, thats why i never carred when a band make a more melodic or more brutal album in their carrier. For me the most important thing are the songs, and i think the songs on this album are great, same with the songs on the CHANGE OF ADDRESS album by KROKUS or the sell out album by JUDAS PRIEST, TURBO for exemple. They didnt sound like other albums by those bands, but the songs were killers.
Okay, this is not my fave EXCITER album but i still love it.
By the way, their last album THRASH SPEED BURN ended number 1 in my top 25 of 2008.
thanks for the review.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Glad for your comments, Rene. I can't say I'm a fan of Change of Address, though I like Krokus of course. I do own Turbo since Priest is Priest and I love them dearly, although it took me eons to listen to it all the way through again.

Glad you dig this album as much as you do. I really love the thrash songs on it and I'm not saying the album is low on my totem pole because they slowed down, not at all. For me, it was just too watered down on the midtempo rock songs and unfortunately it really dates itself. Doesn't take away the fact Exciter is a great band otherwise. Every band goes through their "phases," shall we say, if you want to use Saxon for example, who had that brief period of blah in the mid-to-late-eighties, but they've rebounded terrifically since