Label: Shrapnel Records
Released: 1983

Exciter_heavy metal maniacUnlike some of the olden chestnuts I’ve tabbed for a retro-spective look back, Exciter is a bit better known and had a more successful run in the gerbil wheel of metal. Still, I feel like they’re one of those bands tumbling off the radar of younger bashers, and that’s a low down, dirty shame! Along with Anvil, Exciter was one of Canada’s earliest metal exports and, like Anvil, they played a part in the birth of the speed/thrash genres. Their Heavy Metal Maniac debut arrived in 1983, right alongside Metallica‘s Kill Em All and Slayer‘s Show No Mercy, and had things broken differently, it might have been them (or Anvil for that matter) claiming the position of flag bearer for the fledgling style. Their debut certainly had attitude, balls and grit and while it couldn’t match the overall heaviness Metallica and Slayer brought to bear, it’s nearly as catchy and memorable, and it’s anthemic, fist-pumping energy is hard to resist.

Rather than adopting a quasi-satanic vibe like Slayer, or a crunchy “speed for speed’s sake” approach like Metallica, Exciter took what were basically traditional metal ideas and sped them up to Motorhead-like tempos and beyond. Their raucous speed combined with a one-of-a-kind, static-filled, fuzzed out guitar tone set them apart from anyone else. Tracks like “Stand Up and Fight,” “Cry of the Banshee” and the rowdy title track rumble and roar with a primal, adrenaline-fueled lust and although the playing and song structures are as simple as can be, they stick with you and rattle around in your head like some kind of purgatory pop music. Take “Rising of the Dead” or “Under Attack” for example: they couldn’t be more rudimentary in form or conception, but both smoke and shake with pure, old school metallic rage in a way that makes me smile to this day.

Exciter-4Even when they slow to an ugly mid-tempo grind on “Iron Dogs,” the music still sounds venomous and menacing. Hell, even the semi-ballad “Blackwitch” simmers and roils with barely suppressed aggression and antisocial intentions. At a mere 37 minutes (unless your version included “World War II” and “Feel the Knife”), it’s a short, but relentless pummel and every song hits the spot and stays with you. No filler, no screwing around, just serious metal with a mean streak.

Acting as a power trio, Exciter were notable as the only speed/thrash act where the drummer also handled vocals, and Dan Beehler was quite the sight to behold live, bashing away at the skins with abandon while uncorking his gruff shouts, infamous shrieks and stuck pig wails. Though he kept things pretty simple on the debut, that crazy upper register makes appearances (especially on “Cry of the Banshee”). Those wails became much more commonplace on later releases, thereby making him a love or truly hate kind of vocalist.

John Ricci’s guitar playing was never flashy and often lacked technical precision, but his fast, sloppy, and frenetic style suited the Exciter ethos perfectly. He perpetually sounded as if he was losing control of the wall of sound he was hurling from the amps and his solos sounded like they were building inevitably toward a nuclear conflagration that all were powerless to stop. In short, it sounded metal-as-fuck.

BEEHExciterMetallica ultimately got all the credit for the thrash explosion and along with Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, stole most of the publics’ attention. Exciter never got mentioned in the same breath as these acts, and that’s a real shame. They churned out three high quality thrash outings (Violence and Force being one of my all time favorite albums) before spiraling into career disaster with Unveiling the Wicked, and all the early output stands the  critical test of time. Give Exciter their due and spin this album and the two that followed. They deserve it and you will enjoy it. Win win.

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  • kelbyfetter

    These bass fills…

  • Shahir Chagan

    Got this album years ago (the extended version) and love every second of the raw speed metal that goes on in it. Never expected you guys to review it, but it’s a great read nonetheless.
    BTW, that album cover is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. That knife doesn’t even look real!
    Oh well, at least there were tits on Long Live the Loud (another cool album) :P

    • Titties and swords doth a great metal album cover make.

      • Shahir Chagan

        Let it be written, let it be done!

  • Jay Alan Goodwin

    Man, I remember seeing this album in a record store back in The Day™ and I thought about picking it up. Still haven’t heard it TBH.

  • Jeremy González

    I have only listened to Violence & Force. Will have to check this one out. Love these retro reviews!

    • And also spin Long Live the Loud! Lots of good stuff on there too.

  • The Flying Scotsman

    There was never any chance things would break differently and make Anvil torch bearers, and that’s because they were a mediocre band at best; and all the faux retro ball-washing & documentaries will never change that.

  • ChrisGoner

    Heh. I got this in the summer of 1984, after having picked up “Violence and Force” upon its release. “Show No Mercy” and “Violence and Force” actually arrived at my house in the same cardboard mailer from the mail order company. I remember Bob Muldowney praising Exciter as the only band that could give Metallica a run for their money in 1984’s heaviness stakes. Man, we loved this band. Made a monumental road trip to St. Louis to search out “Long Live the Loud” when it was released. After “Ride the Lightning” and “Hell Awaits,” you could kind of tell Exciter weren’t going to creatively keep pace with their peers and, as mentioned, “Unveiling the Wicked” completely scuttled them for me and they sank into the realm of the forgotten after that. But for a couple of years in the early mid-’80s, they were serious contenders and true Saxons of the Fire.

    • I love these recollections from back in the day. I agree that by the time of Long Love the Loud, one could tell Exciter was destined to be a second fiddle to the bigger acts, but I love those first three albums with all my metal heart. So raw, simple and ballsy!

    • harley_d68

      Sounds like you and I had similar early Metal experiences. Kick Ass Monthly was my favorite zine back in the day.

      • ChrisGoner

        Kick Ass Monthy, Kerrang! and Metal Forces shaped my visions of the world back then.

        • harley_d68

          Ah yes – Metal Forces. It’s funny thinking about how we found out about bands back then compared to the instantaneous internet we now have. It was tough in NW Ohio in the 80s to find out about new music.

          • ChrisGoner

            Yes. I was in SE Missouri at the same time. I know of what you speak!