Saturday, February 6, 2010

SoCal Thrashcore


 

As a 13-year old NJ suburbanite back in the day, it was really cool to feel like you had the "inside scoop" on up-and-coming hardcore bands from all the way out in sunny California. When Suicidal Tendencies debuted their eponymous Suicidal Records for 1987's Join The Army, a bunch of bands jumped on the label, including No Mercy, Los Cycos and Beowülf. All were pioneers of the newly forming Southern California thrash/metal sound, had incredible album covers drawn by Micheal Seiff, and most had some connection to Mike Muir (lead singer of ST). One of these was a hardcore outfit from Venice called Excel. Their first album, Split Image (1987), is a classic slab of 80's metal but their sophomore effort, The Joke's On You is a much more interesting album. If I may be so bold as to date myself, I remember buying this cassette waiting in line for The Who (!) reunion tickets (a good show at Philly's now-demolished Veterans Stadium) all morning at a mall in Rockaway, NJ. Wow, the days before the internet, huh? I was so excited, popped the tape into the 8-track converter in my Cadillac Seville on the way home and..... fuck. What the hell is this shit? Where's the Split Image sound? A cover of Sting's "Message In A Bottle"? Fuck this. And so the album stayed pretty much unplayed for nearly a decade. Welcome to the new millennium, I picked it up as a cheap used CD and WOW, what a mistake I made. Massively ahead of its time, The Joke's On You is one of the most creative albums I've ever heard. It is all over the place, packed with almost 50 songs worth of riffs and chord changes, making it a real precursor to math-metal (though not nearly as lame). Just good grooves and breakdowns in a progressive thrash vein. Vocals are mixed a tad high but that's a small criticism of a great album. And yeah, you gotta deal with the Sting cover but whatever. Interestingly, the band debated bringing legal action against Metallica in 1991 for stealing their riffs on "Enter Sandman" - you'll know the song when you hear it. Enjoy!

P.S. for even more obscure Excel, check out Seeking Refuge, their weird '95 stoner metal "comeback" album...


2 comments:

Daniel said...

Was fortunate enough to see Excel in good ol' Cleveland, Ohio on The Joke's on You tour. I was in 8th grade at the time and was floored by Excel. I Still listen to 'em today and I don't even mind the Police cover,hahaha.

winston95 said...

Man, Excel is easily my favorite of that mid-80's Suicidal Records conglomerate. I'm still partial to "Split Image" though - that fucker kills.