Rock of the ages

Dark horses of the '83 metal frenzy
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  July 22, 2009

Long way to the top: The belated glory of Anvil. By Daniel Brockman.
The year 1983 was a heady time for metal. Many a successful career got jump-started with a prominent release: Mötley Crüe's Shout at the Devil, Def Leppard's Pyromania, Dio's Holy Diver, Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind. Yet as much as we all feel their pain, Anvil were hardly alone in the elusive-metal-success department. Here are four other bands who released their best work in 1983, only to sink into obscurity, waiting in their metal grave for some eager fanboy (hi!) to drag them back into the spotlight.

 

SATAN | COURT IN THE ACT | Managing to be blisteringly fast, outrageously flashy, and monstrously catchy all at once, Court in the Act caught Newcastle's Satan hitting an impossibly awesome peak. Unfortunately (for everyone everywhere), the following year found lead singer Brian Ross rejoining his old band Blitzkrieg, and Satan were never able to regain the momentum they had when this beast first pricked up many a metaler's ears. Choice cut: "Trial by Fire."

 

WITCHFINDER GENERAL | FRIENDS OF HELL | At the time, Witchfinder vocalist Zeeb Parkes's Ozzy-like stonedness was probably considered a liability, and likewise the band's downtuned and plodding sludge metal. But one generation's water-treading go-nowhere Sabbath burpage is another's proto-stoner-metal. Which means we can now look upon WG as trailblazers instead of the failures they seemed when they broke up in ignominy after this, their second long-playing belly flop. WG are at their best when they sound practically brain-dead, and the eight tracks on Friends of Hell have nary a synapse to spare. Choice cut: "Love on Smack."

 

CULPRIT | GUILTY AS CHARGED | The members of Culprit had spent years kicking around the hard-rock wasteland of Seattle in bands like Amethyst and Orpheus before putting all the pieces together and signing a deal. The result, the white-hot Guilty As Charged, displays a keen synthesis of '70s hard rock with more contemporary NWOBHM-isms. The following year, several members jumped ship to join local rivals TKO, and the band never recovered. Choice cut: "Guilty As Charged."

  

OZ | FIRE IN THE BRAIN | It's never fun being first. For drummer Mark Ruffneck, a/k/a Pekka Mark, forming what is arguably Finland's first heavy-metal band was a long road with a quick payoff. Founding Oz in 1977, Pekka took five years to assemble the crack metal machine that would ultimately issue the hot raw magma that is 1983's classic Fire in the Brain. With guitarists named Speedy Foxx and Spooky Wolff, the band betrayed their formula for flame-breathing fury, mysteriously following up Fire with a string of crappy albums, and shedding fans in droves, until by the end of the decade they were back where they had begun. Choice cut: "Fire in the Brain."

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