Monday, March 07, 2016

Holy Terror and Keith Deen

On December the 13th 2012, a great singer of thrash and metal in general passed away. Keith Deen. The following article was published in Metal Hammer October 2012, two months before his untimely death. A small text follows, which was part of the August special (2013) on fallen heroes.
R.I.P. Keith Deen. R.I.P. Holy Terror.

Holy Terror: Far right is Kurt Colfelt and right next to him the great Keith Deen.
Have you ever dug up something you haven't heard in years and relive the love all over again? That's what happened to me with Holy Terror. The reason was the speed metal special, where in a sense they define my obsession with the label. “Terror and Submission” is "more speed metal" according to the Agent Steel a posteriori "rule". But under the “Speed Kills” rule, “Mind Wars” destroys the speedometer and feeds Agent Steel with dust, in the head-to-head race between “Debt of Pain” (Holy Terror) and “Back to the Reign” (Agent Steel). It's a head-to-head race because they are basically the same song, by the same composer, a case like The Four Horsemen/Mechanix (without the underlying venom). Kurt Kilfelt (or Colfelt as is his real name) wanted to rework it with his new band. And the result, I think, justifies him.
In any case, since that day, Holy Terror set camp in my stereo and there they are still. I'd like to say a few words because from the ocean of unlucky ("unfairly treated") bands, they are probably my favorite. Kurt was a great asset and equally great was Keith Deen, that characteristic voice of their, which gives them so many points of uniqueness and grandeur.
In 1987's “Terror and Submission” they play thrash metal, although on the one hand it has huge amounts of melodic, sometimes epic heavy metal and on the other heaviness that owes as much to hardcore punk (they did a tour with "Crossover" era DRI at the time) as it does to Slayer. The ace in their sleeve are the vocal lines. “Distant Calling” would have been a heavy metal masterpiece even without the vocals. The basic melody between the lyrics for example has something of Warlord's (!) magic. And Deen comes on top of that and sings such a moving melody that catapults the song to the pantheon of metal epics. And I still haven't mentioned the feast of solos that you wish would never end. On the album's title track they reach the level of “Doomsday for the Deceiver” (I don't say this often). If “Guardians of the Netherworld” was a 7' from an obscure company of a sword-wielding band, it would cost 100 euros a copy and it would be worth it too. I feel bad that I don't have the space to say a few words about each song, that is the kind of album we're talking about here (“Blood of the Saints” dammit!). The only problem with the album is that the production was handled by two guys, whose experience and strength was disco music...
A year later and the guys have completely taken off in “Mind Wars”. Preserving all their amazing features, the band has just become better, has a much better production and simply nails the accelerator on the foor. Rabid playing and compositions that show no hesitation in uniting thrash, deathrash, epic, hardcore (on “Do Unto Others” you could easily imagine Connelly or Brecht on vocals), all harmonized and Holy Terrorized. Keith is firmly amazing. There is an orgy happening beneath him and he sings incredible melodies and I swear to God, at times he reaches levels of splendor that combine the epic feeling of Quorthon, the endless firing of lyrics of Sabbat era Martin Walkyier and the power of a Jon Oliva. Just listen to that chorus of “No Resurrection”! Do you know many bands in 1988 that played so well, so originally, so contemporary but also fresh, so violently and melodic at the same time? Of course the people who heard them usually lost their shit, as it happens to anyone with a taste for such things. But when Roadracer agreed to take them on, everything went to hell. Someone spoke of the deal too soon and it reached Music for Nation's ears. They kicked them off the european tour with Exodus ("You wanted Roadracer? Traitors!") and left them in Germany, letting them figure out a way to live for two weeks until they got back to California. That was the end of it. They tried to pick someone between them to place the blame and not nicely, and eventually lost their courage. They moved elsewhere but Keith did not follow and the band was honest enough to know that no Keith Deen, no Holy Terror. And as it happens in these cases, the grandeur was contained within those few who look beyond the surface, regardless of the fact that Holy Terror concerns far more people than the status of their name suggests. Do the good thing and seek them out, I promise you it's worth it.

Name: Keith Deen
Bands: Holy Terror
Dates of birth / death: May 26th, 1956 – December 13th, 2012
Cause of Death: Cancer

Keith Deen begun as a mix of Bon Scott and Roger Daltrey from his very dear 70s but after some considerable courting by Kurt Colfelt joined Holy Terror, where he thrived with his special timbre (he has something of Oliva). His favorite vocalist was (the uber-awesome) Mel Blanc, whose many cartoon voices he could imitate perfectly, as well as those of many famous people, since he was an exceptional mime. That definitely must have helped him to have the ease to sing as a hardcore punk, as an epic metal singer, or as a rabid thrasher, when performing the beautiful vocal melodies (which were his). I also think he was a brilliant lyricist. His departure from the band (esp. after his daughter was born) also marked its demise, since, according to Colfelt, "what made Holy Terror so original was Keith's vocals".

Remember the fallen: Paul Baloff (Exodus)

Today, February the 2nd, 2015, marks 13 years since the death of Paul Baloff, one of the most important metal frontmen, with a HUGE impact on thrash metal. For the occasion I'm putting up the following text, which was originally published on Metal Hammer, August 2013. I also added some stuff that did not fit in the magazine's pages.

Name: Paul Baloff (The name is of Russian origin)

Dates of birth / death: April 25th, 1960 – February 2nd, 2002

Bands: Exodus, Piranha, Heathen

Cause of death: Stroke

Growing up in hardships and poverty, Paul Baloff was the ultimate thrash metal beast. His story doesn't fit here, you're gonna just have to believe me that he was the epitome and the vanguard of the thrash metal spirit among the boiling scene of the Bay Area. Baloff, in his larger-than-life persona but also with his truly extreme vocals (from '83 already), was VIOLENCE and mania incarnated. And his “poser killer” speech was LAW. Just think that when Slayer visited the Bay Area for the first time, after releasing "Show No Mercy", that first, they opened for Exodus (without any album) and second, the Baloff-educated audience made them lose pronto the LA poser shit with the eye mascara. Unfortunately, the various abuses cost him his career and probably led to the stroke, when the nth reunion finally seemed to work.

The last thing Paul did in his life was take a ride with his bike on January 31st, 2002. After getting back to his apartment, his girlfriend left him for a couple of minutes to lock downstairs. When she got back, Paul was already on the floor having a seizure from a heavy stroke. When he was admitted to the hospital he was already in a deep coma and after two days the doctors pulled the plug, since he was clinically dead with no brain activity.

Moment of glory

Murder in the Front Row gentlemen – BONDED BY BLOOD! But don't stop there. Besides the historical demos (ALL) you should absolutely check the various live shows that (ALL) exhibit most eloquently why that riffraff is in the mind of many - including the pioneers of the scene - the ULTIMATE thrash frontman. Start with the Ultimate Revenge of 1985. Listen to the infernal“Another Lesson in Violence” of 1997. And for the icing on the cake go on YouTube to watch the Paul Baloff Workout. Or, since this is not a magazine, press play on the following:

* You couldn't be more METAL than Baloff ("Metal rules and if you don't like it, DIE!") and his passion and heaviness did not leave anyone untouched. How massive his personality was is confirmed by every account of the era, including Mustaine's (difficult man, doesn't flatter easily), Slayer's and especially Hetfield's. Hetfield had handled the production on Piranha's demo, the band Baloff had with Fred Cotton (close friend of James, they were playing together in Spastic Children). Hetfield has also promised to write a song for Baloff, something that we're still waiting for and I would very much like someone to remind him during an interview. For many reasons, above all because it's disgraceful for the metal community that a hip-hop tribute to Baloff exists and with such a video and nothing from us.

However, it is inconceivable that this article should close with hip-hop, so the epilogue belongs to Paul. This song... it ain't about no goldfish...

Remember the fallen: Gus Chambers (Grip Inc.)

Name: Gus Chambers
Bands: Grip Inc., Squealer A.D., Squad (aka 21 Guns), Sons of Dοmination, Mantra Sect
Dates of birth / death: 1958 – October 13th, 2008
Cause of Death: Mix of medication and alcohol

Gus Chambers was a punk from Coventry, England, very well-known in the local scene at the end of the 70s through the band Squad. In 1992 he was approached by Dave Lombardo, asking him to sing for Grip Inc., the band he had formed with Waldemar Sorychta, after leaving Slayer. That AMAZING band was never met with great success because they did not tour as much as they should, because there was so much time between their releases (all of them stellar), because the other two didn't give everything for the band. And nothing pissed Gus more, since he believed a lot in Grip. His contribution was his all-attitude voice, which could sound genuinely pissed off and musical at the same time, with his English accent giving even more character to the (always his own) lyrics. In 2008, after a very careless (and not deliberate, as it was written at the time) mix of medication and alcohol, he left this life quietly.

The people know well the songs Rusty Nail (a perfection) and Hostage to Heaven (another one) and it's hard to argue with those. I insist though that “Incorporated” is one of the best albums of the previous decade. Listen to (Built to) Resist and Prophecy for metal that overflows with vision and character but also to get a taste of Gus Chambers' range of capabilities. And then Nemesis.

Published on the Greek Metal Hammer, August 2013

Remember the Fallen: Roger Patterson (Atheist)

Name:Roger Patterson
Bands:Atheist (αρχικά R.A.V.A.G.E.), Aggressor
Dates of birth / death: November 29th, 1968 - February 12th, 1991
Cause of Death: Tour bus accident

Roger Patterson is remembered as the bassist of Atheist, who had some funny similarities with Cliff Burton. Thin moustache and eccentric appearance, an inclination towards weed, humility and anti-star attitude, impressive technical skills, and more macabrely, he was killed in almost the exact same way at a very young age (22 years old). But the similarities do not end there. Roger Patterson was the major composer of the band, to the point of writing most of the songs around his bass, which was virtually unheard of, creating a unique result. Technically he was a BEAST, at his time comparable only to Doug Keyser of Watchtower, whom he admired endlessly (the feeling was mutual).

He plays on only one record, the band's debut, "Piece of Time" (1989, one year after "Leprosy"!), although you have to listen the band's demos, some of which are exceptional. He didn't make it on the second (and greatest I personally find) album of the band but he basically wrote it, according to Kelly Shaefer (vocals/guitar). Outrageous feats, just at the beginning of 1991. In the most competitive Florida scene, Atheist, lead by their genius bassist and the equally uber-player drummer Steve Flynn, were definitely the leaders of wtf-skills and playing, dragging everyone behind them. More to the point though, it is the songwriting that was based on Roger and the band's music vision that changed the course of music forever. Literally game changers. There's the basic similarity: 22 years old and both of them changed music.

Atheist - Piece of Time (August 30, 1989)

Atheist - Unquestionable Presence (August 30, 1991)

Footage from Roger Patterson's last show, February of 1991. From the tour with Candlemass (!)

R.A.V.A.G.E. - Rotting in Hell demo, 1985

R.A.V.A.G.E. - On They Slay demo, 1987

Published in August, 2013, in the Greek Metal Hammer