Released: 2017, Vic Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Slaughter is one of those underground footnotes who’ve achieved far greater acknowledgement posthumously than they ever did while active. While the Canadian trio only released one official full length during their brief existence (1987’s STRAPPADO), the band maintained a healthy collection of demo and live rehearsal tapes that have been released over the last 20 years in various formats. However, Vic Records may have just released the most definitive Slaughter retrospective to date, NOCTURNAL HELL, SURRENDER OR DIE. Featuring full remasters of the namesake demos and expanded CD liner notes, it’s a respectable offering celebrating one of metal’s unsung heroes.
You could describe Slaughter’s brand of metal as “proto-death”. Alongside the likes of Sadus, Possessed, Mantas, Repulsion/Genocide etc., Slaughter pushed the boundaries of thrash and speed metal into heavier and more aggressive directions. The 15 tracks included on NOCTURNAL HELL, SURRENDER OR DIE aren’t quite thrash and they aren’t quite death; they’re at that mythical crossroads in time when the two genres were butted right up against each other. Songs like “One Foot in the Grave” borrows liberally from Slayer, while “Tortured Souls” and “Eve of Darkness” have more in common with HORRIFIED-era Repulsion’s crust punk/grind veneer.
The “one-two/f@#k you” intro that precedes several of the SURRENDER OR DIE tracks on the album is an old punk throwback, and reminds you that 1) these hellaciously fast and heavy tunes were recorded pretty much live and off the cuff, and 2) what the band lacked in traditional musical talent, they made up tenfold with attitude. Check out gems like “Disintegrator” with its chainsaw intro and “Death Dealer” with its Cronos bass rumblings for proof of that.
Here’s the best part about NOCTURNAL HELL, SURRENDER OR DIE – with the sonic polish given to the tunes through the remaster process, these demo tracks sound as good, if not better than the STRAPPADO record does today. And given that most of the tracks on NOCTURNAL HELL, SURRENDER OR DIE made it to the debut, one could argue that this should be the preferred way to enjoy those tunes. Major props to the crew at Vic Records; they’ve really become a sort of heavy metal Indiana Jones, unearthing and reissuing a ton of lost classics from across the metal spectrum lately. The time and effort put into NOCTURNAL HELL, SURRENDER or die is a labor of love to ensure that bands like Slaughter continue to have relevance for future generations of metal heads. Know your history and check this out.