AXE MINISTER, Evil Grows  (1989, demo)

The skull:
“Gimme something I can use!” this Friar has screamed many a time over the past 268 skulls, and thankfully Axe Minister delivers upon my request. This is a truly great cover. This skull is totally overwhelmed by evil, and may be turning evil himself, judging by those fangs. That’s not the only thing sprouting on this cover:  the grass he’s embedded in seems to have a wicked thorny vine growing out of it, which ensnares the skull and threatens to return him to the Earth from whence he came. The fact that this struggle is taking place in what looks like a hellish lightning storm shows very clearly that this skull has a hell of a lot on his hands right now. (The fact that he lacks hands is yet another troublesome aspect of the skull’s plight). I’m betting the vine and storm win out.

The music:
Musically this is sorta like Show No Mercy and Tales of Terror played by the earliest lineup of Flotsam and Jetsam. As legendary as such a marriage should produce? Nah. The songs aren’t as strong, but the vibe is there and the musicianship is solid.  Although this came out in 1989, it sounds so 1984 it’s not funny. They could have been on Metal Massacre IV. A few super-fast moments nudge in, as in “The Force of Fire,” showing its true vintage, but most of this would have probably sounded “old” even if you’d heard it right there in 1989. Unfortunately the vocals are pretty bad, sounding like a fat pizza delivery guy shouting his aggro out between illicit bites of crust that he hasn’t totally swallowed yet. With a better vocalist, this could be worthy of the “demo reissue on CD 25 years later” treatment. It was, in fact, reissued with some live tracks on the obscure Chunks Of Meat label, so somebody out there thinks a lot of it. If you have any nostalgia at all for those early Metal Massacre comps and that greasy, clanky early speed/thrash sound, this is definitely worth a listen.
— Friar Wagner

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