Album Review: Noise Records Reissues
From the vaults of Germany's reactivated Noise Records come the first releases from the semi-legendary label's extensive reissues programme. Dormant for a number of years but now reactivated following an acquisition by BMG, the only real question is: Why hasn't this slew of 'best off' releases that kick things off been labelled as the 'Bring The Noise' campaign?
Poorly-conceived advertising ideas aside, it's a welcome back to the label, which was the one time home of Helloween, Kreator, Voivod and others. The European answer to what was happening across the Atlantic with the thrash scene and the likes of Slayer and Metallica, Noise was conceived in 1983, and served to birth upon the world a host of racket-making, genre defining acts, some of which are covered by this series of releases.
As lovingly produced, two CD sets, these sets are great starting places for both those in search of a history lesson, and those wanting to explore what the fuss was all about (mainly) back in those skin-tight jeans and white hi-top boots wearing days. Each containing extensive newly written essays by Malcolm Dome and Kyle Olson, and crammed with period pictures and artwork, as a package they're not to be beaten, but what of the music?
The pick of the bunch from the four available for review is the Kreator collection 'Love Us Of Hate Us'. Featuring twenty-three tracks spanning thrash's (and the band's) golden age of 1985 - 1992, it's a lesson in raw, pent up energy and extreme aggression from a time when fast was good, and adding reverb to a mix was sacrilege. From the naive urgency of 'Tormentor' to the maturing plateau of 'Extreme Aggression', you can practically taste the sweat in the circle pits. Running - as with all the releases in the set - chronologically, the collection runs the gambit from those rough and ready early days, through to their more refined and perfectly titled 'Renewal' era. It's this later period that is perhaps the most fascinating, and faced with the onslaught of Grunge, the slower pacing of the likes of 'Kharmic Wheel' offers something a little different from the barrage elsewhere.
Cut from the same ragged denim, Tankard's 'Oldies And Goldies' isn't far off the Kreator collection in terms of top drawer thrash metal content. Take away the Germans' beery sense of humour and lyrical content, and in places - thanks in part to the sharing of the same in house producer Harris Johns - some of the material could be practically interchangeable. Though admitting in the liner essay to feeling trapped by their image midway through their ascent, it's this charm that set Tankard apart from their contemporaries. What's not to love about the winning combo of beer and metal after all? Tankard wholeheartedly agree, as anthems like '(Empty) Tankard', 'Open All Night' and 'Alcohol' prove.
Taking an altogether more sober approach is Midlands' pagan metallers Skyclad's 'A Bellyful Of Emptiness'. As well as tackling the dressing up box, the Nottingham band featured Martin Walkyier's possessed vocals and the use of both violin and keys, making them unlike anything else around at the time. Beneath it all of course, lay a thrash metal band who were more than just cleaver at marketing. Songs like the atmospheric 'The Sky Beneath My Feet' - which kicks off not only this collection, but debut album 'The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth' - and early single 'Thinking Aloud' prove that there was more to Skyclad than the image that at times seemed to overshadow their musical prowess. Yes, it's a bit silly and a little 'hey nonny nonny' in places ('The Widdershins Jig'), however, this collection offers a timely reminder of how unique they truly were.
Kamelot meanwhile, carry on somewhere in the post-Skyclad world of German-centric Power Metal. The most polished set here, thanks in parts to it being the most modern of the bunch (covering the years 1995 - 2003), 'Where I Reign' revels in the Florida band's mainstream Kiske-era Helloween leanings, with early vocalist Mark Vanderbilt recalling Geoff Tate. Stylistically, it's a recipe that on paper at least, is perfect for the genre. Happily, on disc it works too, and Kamelot are a musical tour de force, flexing their muscle where they get the chance, such as on proggy instrumental 'Creation'. With the instatement of singer Roy Kahn who fronts the band for most of this collection,'New Allegiance' and 'Centre Of The Universe' upped the ante even further, refining the technical metal and high drama format.
All in all, what these collections offer, is a timely reminder of just what one label contributed to the, at the time, fast moving, evolving beast known as heavy metal. With the reissue campaign only just begun, a treasure trove of classics awaits. In the meantime, this is a great start. Turn it up. Bring the noise.
Noise Records Reissues are available From 6th May 2016. For more information click here.
By Eamon O'Neill on 28th April 2016.