Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. In honor of the upcoming holiday – because yes, I am that lame – we have Hallows Eve’s Death and Insanity (Metal Blade).
Formed in the metal boondocks of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1982, Hallows Eve were one of those thrash/speed metal bands that had more enthusiasm than competence. Like a lot of that first wave, though, they had some interesting stuff going on, musically. After all, when they started playing metal, there was a very different frame of reference: Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Future generations of thrash acts had The Big Four and their contemporaries to bite off of. These guys had Exciter. So, at least on their 1985 debut, Tales of Terror, there was some groove to their sound, a looseness that you wouldn’t find with the faster-louder-meaner crowd. Of course, that album also sounded like it was recorded in a dryer that hadn’t been cleaned out for a year. The following year’s Death and Insanity was altogether a more polished affair, and if it was lacking some of the raw charm of its predecessor, it made up for it with great songs.
A concept record about, well, death and insanity (you can’t accuse these guys of being misleading), their sophomore effort really nails the theme home. “Goblet of Gore,” “Lethal Tendencies,” “Obituary,” “Suicide…” You get the idea. But hey, they beat a whole lot of Florida bands to that particular punch! In fact, even though they were undeniably thrash, Stacey Anderson’s harsher vocals did border on a death grunt (although the dude could still sing, though, so it isn’t nearly as one note). And their makeup-and-spiked-gauntlet ensembles weren’t too far away from what the Norwegians would do to themselves a few years hence. So you have to give them credit for some foresight at least.
They also deserve credit for some great tunes. “D.I.E.” has a pretty rad proto-Anthrax acronym shout out chorus – “D! I! E! Death in effect!” “Nobody Lives Forever” shares its title with an equally sweet Oingo Boingo song, and it’s actually pretty poppy for something on a mid-80s Metal Blade release. “Obituary” has the ever-popular acoustic intro before launching headlong into a churning pit anthem. There’s even a monster movie instrumental, “Attack of the Iguana,” which is somewhat less ambitious than “Call of Ktulu” in regards to both the size of the monster and the musicianship, but it’s still fun. And while the rest is still thrash metal, it’s all well done thrash metal.
So, while probably not influential on their own, Hallows Eve were still part of a key movement in metal, and they deserve credit for being in on the ground floor. Metal Blade reissued their three eighties albums a few years back, with a bunch of bonus material, and the band (with not too many original members) has been active in the new millennium. So if you want some ripping thrash metal to soundtrack your Halloween with, you can’t do much better than this.