Review Summary: CAN YOU DO THE MILANO MOSH?!?!?
Stormtroopers of Death (AKA S.O.D.) are a crossover band that was originally developed as a side project by Scott Ian of Anthrax who wanted to play around with a more crossover sound. They released one of the funnest crossover records ever in 1985 titled "Speak English Or Die", it is also regarded as one of the first.
If there is one thing that is well known about S.O.D. it is their politically incorrect lyrical themes, hence the title of the album for instance "Speak English Or Die". The lyrics on the album aren't meant to be taken seriously, and for the most part they are pretty funny. Former Anthrax roadie Milano belts them out with a ferocious amount of confidence. His voice is great for the style of music played throughout the record, it has a very rough quality.
In the course of the record they never stray too far away from the crossover sound, but with how fun the music plays out to be it is very hard to get bored during the fairly short running time of the album. Speak English Or Die contains some excellent, heavy riffs, and during this riff-fest the bassist Dan Lilker has his fair time to shine as well. The bass being audible gives this album a great groove to headbang to and thickens the sound a great deal. The majority of the songs on the album are extremely catchy, a very good example of this would be "Milano Mosh". On paper the lyrics seem like they wouldn't come off as catchy but the tone in Milano's mega, manly voice can make nearly anything catchy. The riffs also play a large part in the catchiness of the record.
One of the only complaints I have about the album is the fact that most of the songs are barely over or under a minute. It seems like just when each song is falling into a groove it switches to the next, this can get a little frustrating. Even with this problem Speak English Or Die still has great replay value from beginning to end. "Freddy Krueger" has the longest playtime on the album coming in at 2:32. The song consists of some very catchy riffing, but is one of the weaker songs on the album.
The shorter songs are best to be looked at as skits, when they begin to play prepare to laugh. "The Ballad of Jimi Hendrix" is hilarious, the guitarist plays the first three seconds of "Purple Haze" then Milano just yells "You're dead" with such a tone that words cannot describe.
While the short songs are funny the record as a whole can still be appreciated as music. It doesn't play out as just a joke record that one would forget about after a few listens, S.O.D. will have you coming back for more; Whether it be due to Milano's great delivery or Scott Ian and company's thrash influenced grooves. "Milk" starts out very sludgy which is a nice change of pace, but then it suddenly erupts into the fastest song on the record, it's moments like these that make this album worthwhile, it is evident that the band wasn't trying to impress a certain group and they weren't afraid to take chances regardless of whether the album was a joke or not.
Despite all of the lightheartedness the record shows, do not be detoured it is still very crushing and heavy, just not in the typical "I'm gonna slit yer guts" kind of way. If you have no sense of humor though don't get Speak English Or Die, you'll only be offended. It's a shame that people overlook this due to album and song titles, because it truly is a piece of heavy metal history and the same goes for hardcore. To anyone looking to get into crossover this is one of the best places to start. If you're a fan of crossover and you haven't heard Speak English Or Die consider this your swift kick in the ass to get on it.