Neat Records’ 1981 release Lead Weight was one of the best NWOBHM compilations, featuring a whole bunch of songs you couldn’t hear anywhere else. My favourite of the bunch is Fist’s Throwing In The Towel. It tells the tale of an ageing boxer lured into the ring for a comeback bout… only to realise his thunder-crapping days are behind him. It’s got a wonderfully downtrodden chorus and there’s real tension in the verses as the staccato vocals punch and jab. It’s brilliant, inventive stuff that holds its own amongst the compilation’s heavy-hitters like Raven and Venom. Unfortunately, Throwing In The Towel was the last song this lineup of Fist released which is a shame… they could have been contenders.
Taken from the 1984 compilation album Scandinavian Metal Attack, Sacrifice is the first recorded release from one of metal’s most revered and influential acts: Bathory.
It’s the first of two songs the Swedish band (led by mythic mastermind Quorthon) recorded for the compilation. And compared to the enjoyable trad metal performed by the other four Swedish and Finnish acts on the album, Sacrifice sounds like the next level in extremity. It’s a ballsy and chaotic rager in the style of Motorhead, Venom etc… with cavernous, noisy vocals and a catchy, evil ascending chorus riff. The label were inundated with letters demanding more from Bathory. And rightly so. This is great stuff for fans of the more punky, violent end of the NWOBHM and fans of early, primitive thrash.
But the song would go on to have a second, and even more important moment in history. The early version sounds positively conventional compared to the version that appeared later that same year when Sacrifice was re-recorded for Bathory’s seminal self-titled debut album. By that point the band were delivering all their music with grim, frostbitten harshness that was like nothing before it. The black metal sound was born.
I’ve already agonised over my favourite new music of the past year but regular readers will know I’m a big fan of reissues and archive releases. And, as usual (or increasingly?) 2014 found plenty of old music being repackaged and resold with the usual bells, whistles and (hopefully) some unheard or rare tracks added.
So I would like to present my Top 10 archive/reissue/compilation releases of 2014. Naturally my personal listening moods and enjoyment played a huge part in my choices but I’ve also weighed up some other crucial factors in deciding these:
Bonus tracks – A big factor, especially if I’m re-purchasing albums I’ve bought in the past, so reasonably worthwhile reissues like Hear No Evil’s reissues of Motorhead’s 1916 and Deep Purple’s Slaves and Masters didn’t quite make the cut.
Curation and selection – I can forgive a lack of bonus material if the reissued material is relatively rare or interesting in the first place. So, despite me absolutely adoring it, Mayhem’s Grand Declaration of War reissue missed the cut as it was already readily available and not in particular need of a reissue.
Sound quality – This is always arguable and I’m no hi-fi purist but extra points are awarded if I feel reissues are sonic improvements on previous versions. Although they narrowly failed the cut its worth mentioning Earache’s “Full Dynamic Range” releases here. They sound excellent and I hope other labels will follow their example.
Value for money and packaging – Generally I tend to shy away from expensive “super-deluxe” affairs but I do appreciate it when a particularly plush or expansive release manages to avoid breaking the bank. Bon Jovi’s New Jersey box and the Super Duper Alice Cooper set are good examples of expansive and luxurious, but still affordable, sets that didn’t quite make the cut.
So now that I’ve got all that off my chest…
THE HMO TOP REISSUES AND COMPILATIONS OF 2014
NUMBER TEN: KISS – Love Gun (Deluxe Edition)
Classic album bolstered with nice packaging, liner notes and an extra disc of bonus tracks. I’ve always banged on about how KISS should be doing more archive releases so I had to include this solid reissue here. If they had pushed the bonus track boat out a bit more it might have placed higher but I still hope there’s more where this came from and if their other albums get this treatment I’ll be a happy bunny.
NUMBER NINE: Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance – Ooh La La: an Island Harvest
Quality 2CD anthology from the ex-Small Faces/The Faces legend. Many of his solo albums are hard to come by now so this was a welcome release for me. And the inclusion of a BBC session makes it a worthwhile buy for fans of longer standing. This was my first exposure to his post-Faces output and it is charming and heart-warming stuff.
NUMBER EIGHT: Pantera – Far Beyond Driven (20th Anniversary Edition)
I’ve been enjoying the previous Pantera reissues and looked forward to this immensely. It’s missing B-Sides from the album’s era which is a shame but it’s still a great sounding reissue with a fantastic live show as a bonus disc. This caught me in the right mood and got heavy rotation.
NUMBER SEVEN: Coroner – Death Cult
I’m very excited that this Swiss band’s incredible demo has been given an official band-approved release by the No Remorse label. A couple of bonus tracks sweeten the deal but it’s fantastic to have such a great sounding copy of this that plays at the right speed! Not enough people know how incredible Coroner are and on this demo they are also fronted by no less than Hellhammer/Celtic Frost/Triptykon legend Tom G. Warrior himself.
NUMBER SIX: The Allman Brothers Band – The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings (6CD Box Set)
I wavered about this but I’m glad I bought it. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the many shows and alternate takes that were whittled down to the perfect At Fillmore East album. I wouldn’t replace the original but this is well worth hearing if you’re a fan of it. It’s a very thorough and plush package for the agreeable price. A great follow-up to 2013’s excellent Brothers and Sisters reissue.
NUMBER FIVE: Various Artists – Wayfaring Strangers: The Darkscorch Canticles (2LP Set)
This superbly curated labour of love from The Numero Group is the only vinyl release to make my list. It’s a charming and fun set of underground US Zep and Sabbath worship from the 70s. It’s very rare stuff and a must-have for fans of Stoner Rock and proto-Metal. The appeal of the music is further enhanced by the Dungeons and Dragons-inspired greatness of the packaging which you can see and read more about it here… with added Lego!
NUMBER FOUR: Demilich – 20th Adversary of Emptiness (2CD Deluxe)
Demilich’s only studio album Nespithe is a stunning Death Metal masterpiece and receives a well-deserved reissue here. It comes with a brilliantly designed and entertaining booklet and absolutely tons of bonus tracks. It’s a truly thorough and well-researched release but special mention has to made of the stunning sound quality too. Congratulations to Svart Records for this: it should be the benchmark for all future Metal reissues.
NUMBER THREE: Various Artists – One and All, Together for Home (2CD Deluxe)
A fascinating compilation with an interesting theme: Metal bands playing their native country’s Folk music. A lot of thought and attention went into this one and it’s a mix of old and new. Some new offerings from the likes of Winterfylleth and Primordial made this a must-buy but it also introduced me to some great bands like Ava Inferi and Haive that I may not have discovered otherwise.
NUMBER TWO: Queen – Live at the Rainbow ’74 (2CD Deluxe)
Not one, but two powerful live recordings from Queen’s early years. I love Queen so any live release of theirs is going to be up my street but it’s especially inspiring to hear them at this early stage playing the heavy, epic tracks like Father to Son and Ogre Battle. I love it when the classic bands I love release archive live material and this release enjoyed repeated listens and kicked off a period of full-on Queen worship.
NUMBER ONE: Ulver – Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-97 (5CD Box Set)
Ulver’s first three studios are classics of provocative and adventurous Black Metal and they have been done full justice with this stunning box set by Century Media. The three albums alone are must-haves and personal favourites but there are also some tantalising rarities here too and it’s all wrapped up in a stunning box set with a fantastic hardback book with essays, photos and translated lyrics. One of my more expensive standalone purchases of the year but still great value for five superb discs and a seriously luxurious package. It’s a release that effortlessly satisfies all my criteria for a top-drawer reissue. Buy it while you can.