Reviewed: November 2018
Released: 2018, Nuclear War Now! Productions
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Canadian Speed Metal (not the most imaginatively-titled release, but for something like this it works) is a re-release from 2003, which is itself a compilation of Witches Hammer’s first two demos from 1985 and 1986. The band, a pretty obscure 80s thrash metal band (from Canada, of course), have recently reformed and are out playing shows again.
If reading the term “obscure 80s thrash metal” and “demos” is enough to give you a clear mental sound in your head, then it’s probably also an accurate one. Canadian Speed Metal sounds exactly as you’d expect 80s thrash demos to sound: it’s raw, unpolished, gritty, and proud of all of the above; a group of metalheads making music fast and hard.
But there’s one other thing that probably springs immediately to mind when thinking of obscure 80s demo tapes, and it’s a burden this album very much carries: poor production. You’d think that this, a re-release of a re-release, would have at some point been polished up a bit and given a clearer sound. Maybe it has, at least somewhat; I can’t say I’ve listened to the original demo tapes to compare to this. But if it has been worked on, more is needed, as far too often the tracks here are dominated by fuzzy sound and mangled mixing. Oddly, the second half of this release, which is actually their second demo, is by far the weaker sounding part. The first half is still lo-fi, but manages to stray into the same sort of territory as the early work of fellow Canadians Razor, or maybe Brits Onslaught. The 1986 “Fuckin’ Rights” demo that makes up the second half of this just devolves into an indistinct muddy mess.
The actual material here is decent, if unremarkable. Witches Hammer aren’t really breaking any new ground, but there is some passable thrash in here, it’s just buried under layers of awful production quality. I’ve also no doubt Witches Hammer are a blast live, if they still manage to sound half as energetic as they do on here.
If you’re a die-hard thrash demo collector always seeking out those rare, raw releases, this is a fine one to add to your collection. In any other case, I can’t say Canadian Speed Metal is going to leave an impact.