We realize you’re busy with the holidays and all, but scrap all that immediately: We have a massive metal task for you, faithful longhairs. You must help Sirius XM DJ, Bazillion Points head honcho and friend of Decibel Ian Christe figure out the perplexing mystery of a 33-year-old metal song.
It all started when Sirius XM listener Armador Thrash sent Christe, who hosts the excellent Roots show on Sirius, a tweet asking if he could identify a particularly raging old-school power metal song (Helstar is probably the best point of sonic reference) that he had taped off of Z Rock radio back in 1987 outside of Chicago. Christe could not, but started asking around on his radio show and social media.
But shit got kinda weird when a 2009 post on The Metal Archives was uncovered and revealed that an entirely different person, who goes by the username sled1025, had at that point attempted to ID this song, also using a recording from the radio from way back then. That search yielded no results.
Z Rock DJ Mike Paine, who hosted a demo show on that station, has been contacted but does not remember the song. Members of Redd Barron (one of the bands that people were suggesting this might be), Jag Panzer and Helstar have denied it is their bands. It’s also apparently not Kinetic Dissent, another band whose name has come up a few times during the hundreds of comments about this song on Christe’s posts and on message boards from around the world. Will Palmer of Angel Witch and the organizers of the Keep It True fest, among other metal musicians, experts and journalists have all sounded off on the song, but no one has been able to identify it.
The best sleuthing yet was by an eagle-eyed commenter who found a copyright notice for a song called “King’s Fall” by Bernard Cavazos (which lines up with the lyrics), from 1987, and who noticed that a Sylvia Cavazos was a program director at a Houston radio station at the time; Bernard’s copyright originated from Houston. (Decibel contacted Sylvia for this story, and while she says she does not know Bernard she said she would ask some old DJ friends if anyone remembers the song. We also contacted a Bernard Cavazos from Houston on Facebook, but he says he wasn’t involved in our mystery song.)
“As far as why this song appeals to me, well, that’s an easy question,” says Thrash (not his real name). “It fuckin’ kicks ass [laughs]. I was 14 when I recorded this song off the radio. It was just one of those songs that stood out. This song captures a time of musical discovery and excitement for me. As I got older, I became a hoarder of music. Albums, cassettes, CDs, MP3s… File sharing opened the floodgates to all this old obscure metal that I missed back in the day. Most of the songs I taped off of Z Rock I was able to find and identify through file sharing. This song, though, still eluded me. I thought I had a breakthrough when I found that post in The Metal Archives forum but it didn’t go anywhere. It definitely was a surprise to see that someone else was looking for this song, too.”
“For me, the quest has uncovered or rediscovered tons of great records by Eldritch Rite, Quick Change, Kinetic Dissent, Blackmayne, Karion and dozens of others,” says Christe. “So the search itself has been totally fun. The serious big-picture message is that if all the metal muftis of the world can’t identify a song, there’s lots of room for adventure in discovering hidden metal records—and plenty of room for new metal experts and documentation of this music. Seeing how people’s brains try to deduce the origins of this band has been really inspiring.”
For Thrash, the journey has solidified his beliefs about the worldwide brotherhood of heavy metal.
“This is an exclusive club,” he says. “You don’t chose metal… it chooses you. Unlike other genres, the music lives on throughout the years, rarely sounding dated. This whole thing has taught me that the spirit of the metalhead is alive and well. Lost songs from the past can find new life many years down the road by a whole new generation. This is one huge family. No matter where you’re at… no matter what age you are… you can be at the grocery store, mall, doctor’s office… it doesn’t matter. You see that person wearing that metal shirt and it’s like you’ve known each other for years. I once was pulled over for speeding and the officer let me go with a warning. Who knew that wearing an Angel Witch T-shirt would get me off the hook? [laughs]”
The mystery song features strong playing, good songwriting and an above-average guitar solo, putting the band firmly in the second tier of American power metal. Lots of commenters have pointed out that it sounds Texan, and I would agree with that, although I wouldn’t put Los Angeles out of the running either. The song is easily good enough to sit in the top third of any Metal Massacre compilation of the era.
It’s probably not a song that got released on a label of any note or it would have been identified by now. But the sound quality is decent, so we’re looking at maybe a smaller compilation or even a private pressing or promo-only release, or, at the very least, a demo by a band who were putting a not insignificant amount of time and money into the project.
The song has been getting lots of attention, with Dee Snider retweeting one of Thrash’s tweets about it and Divebomb Records saying in a Facebook comment that they’d reissue a demos collection from this mysterious band if they can be located. (Divebomb confirmed to Decibel that they indeed will do this.)
So, come on, metal detectives and life-long longhairs: show us what you’re made of. Listen to the song below and, if you have any ideas on who it is, hit me up at [email protected] and I’ll make sure Christe and Thrash get the info.
The king is dead. Long live the king. You know what to do. Let’s solve this.