EXCITER, The Dark Command (1997, Osmose)
A barely-there skull floating translucently over what appears to be a volcano and some lightning (for some reason), this cover practically screams “Shitty Greek black metal,” but of course this is Exciter, one of the great grand-daddies of speed metal. I guess when they signed to Osmose, they looked at their labelmates’s covers and said, “Very well. If that is the way the winds are blowing, let it not be said we don’t also blow!” And they said it without even knowing that Simpsons reference.
This was Exciter’s “comeback” album, although looking back, they were not really gone for very long, only five years. Exciter is one of those bands I feel like I should enjoy, because I’m a good student of heavy metal history and I generally appreciate these elder statesmen-type bands, and because I’m generally inclined towards thrash and speed metal. But, Exciter has never much cranked my motor. I’ve got the first couple albums, and that always seemed like enough. I do actually own this album as well, because I found it used and cheap not long after it came out, and honestly, it’s not a bad album at all, even if it’s a little generic. When guitarist John Ricci reformed the band in the mid-90s, he did it without either of his classic-trio companions, and the result is an album that’s pretty good thrashy power metal, but which somehow doesn’t much satisfy as an Exciter album. And yes, I think I can say that without having ever been particularly satisfied by an Exciter album. New singer Jacques Belanger is like a bargain-basement Canadian Eric Adams, and while his voice is perfectly acceptable, he fails to bring the manic intensity that original (not-very-good) singer Dan Beehler had in spades. Plus, Beehler did it while playing drums (poorly) and that counts for a lot in my book. There are far worse comebacks, and something like this version of Exciter managed to keep the flame burning for another four albums, so I’m ready to give them a little credit, but not too much. Anyway, the original trio is back together, so I suppose it’s time for Exciter fans to start forgetting that the last 15 years ever happened.
— Friar Johnsen