Review Summary: Ahead of its time and ahead of the competition, yet left behind.
The story of thrash is generally thought to go like this: first there was Motorhead
, and all rejoiced; then there was Venom
, and hell followed. From Metallica
and Holy Moses
(yes, they had a demo in ‘82 if you can believe that!), anger and aggression would dominate the genre. Less talked about is the story of the so-called US Power Metal scene, which despite its name has far more in common with thrash than with your Helloween
s and your Running Wild
s. Rather than follow in the footsteps of Venom, this sound was born in response to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal - faster, more intense, more technical, but no less theatrical and bombastic when compared to traditional metal.
Have Mercy is one such USPM band, featuring ostensibly Christian lyrics, whose five year run between 1983 and 1988 left behind a few demos and this EP. Though compiled and re-released in 2004, their name and their music continue to languish in the depths of obscurity. Which is a shame. By now it should be obvious that I could trivially vomit a dozen or so lines calling this “kimm thrash with a twist” and telling you to check it hard because it rules hard, it will make your balls turn into a fist, etc. I could hamfist comparisons to Tourniquet
, or more appropriate ones to Helstar. But that wouldn’t really get across what caught my attention the most about this release - not merely the sound, but the context.
This little thing came out in April 1986. For reference, Darkness Descends, Reign In Blood, Pleasure To Kill and Morbid Visions all came out in the fourth quarter of the same year. Now is the music on Armageddon Descends as intense, is it flirting with more extreme genres of metal - no. But it’s pretty damn hard hitting nonetheless. How?
Blistering drums that feel especially punishing when the gas is turned up, genuinely excellent bass work, ear-rupturing vocals and of course “hard as feck riffs” that I must stress are surprisingly technical at times, though not quite to the twisted, alien extent as Watchtower
. Moreover, both the songwriting and the musicianship are just thoroughly solid - relentless, yet replete with everything from fills, to bridges, to solos - it never meanders but never feels one-note either. Most often it brings to mind Helstar
’s A Distant Thunder or Nosferatu, and at a couple moments even Coroner
’s pre-Mental Vortex stuff. But here’s the kicker: this predates every single one of those by two or more years. If you were to compare it to something that was out in 1986, well, how about Flotsam and Jetsam
on steroids, and without all the clean passages and interludes that leave Doomsday for the Deceiver feeling just a tad bloated? How about Metal Church
on crack? You get the picture.
Now would I tell you it’s every bit as good as those more well known records, perhaps not. What I will tell you though, is that it is absolutely worth any metal fan’s time, and it makes me wonder how many more bands like this there were, ahead of the pack yet never discovered.