PITIFUL REIGN, Toxic Choke (2006, self-released)
Drawing your album cover with a pencil: that’s oldschool. Adorning it with a grinning, deformed, and dripping mascot skull: that’s going all the way. But if the skull isn’t named Pete Evil (get it?), I’d say that at a minimum, an opportunity was missed. In any case, I appreciate the DIY charm on display here, and the ridiculous skull is exactly the right kind of ridiculous.
I feel like every time I have to review British thrash, old or new, I end up insulting it by comparing it to Cerebral Fix, so I won’t do that this time. And anyway, Pitiful Reign don’t really sound like them, but they do sound very British, in the worst way, even if the bass tone is 100% Souls at Black, all rubbery and bad. Musically, this would probably fall in the middle of the rethrash quality spectrum, but the production is so bad that it’s hard to appreciate at face value. The vocals, clearly recorded without a pop screen, are clipped so badly that I wonder if the mic used was the one built into the singer’s laptop or phone. The entire mix is punishingly loud and in very short order listening to Pitiful Reign becomes quite taxing on the ears. Coming out as it did in 2006, this album was at least a little bit ahead of the rethrash trend, but it’ sadly no better than anything that’s come out since.
— Friar Johnsen
DEFYANCE, Voices Within (1992, demo)
I’m not sure what all that curvy business is; is is part of the logo? Some kind of ornate Poe-style bladed pendulum? Demonic headgear for skully orthodontia? Whatever it is, the skull looks a little surprised. “Oh hey! What are you doing? I didn’t see you there…” He’s probably embarrassed to be caught posing for this low-rent demo. “It’s just a quick pencil sketch for some metal band, nothing serious,” he says, and you nod in understanding, but he knows you’re giggling on the inside.
I don’t think I personally own this demo, but I’m fairly certain I own the band’s first self-released disc, which came out in the mid 90s. Melodic metal was thin on the ground in the States back then, and we who loved that shit were reduced to buying some truly rotten crap in the hopes of finding some lone holdout for power metal in the aggro decade. Defyance were certainly not the worst of the bands working that circuit back then, but they also didn’t stand out as particularly great. These four songs have a commercial slant not unlike, say, Fifth Angel, but not as good. That this demo is form 1992 is a sign that probably these guys also listened to their share of hair metal, but preferred to make their metal a little heavier, even if they couldn’t get away from the corny lyrical cliches. Probably the singer was more into Cinderella than Iron Maiden, but the other guys in the band had to put up with his corny lyrics because it’s so hard to find a guy who can hit the high notes. You can easily imagine Defyance as the second local opener for a Savatage club show circa Streets. Good enough that you’d tap your foot while you were at the bar talking to your buddy, but not so great that you’d consider moving closer to the stage. Just good enough, in other words, and no better.
— Friar Johnsen