posted on 3/2011 By:
No matter what degree black-belt of heavy metal you consider yourself, there will always be bands that manage to slip through the cracks. And honestly, that's one of the key factors that makes me so happy to be an enthusiast of a genre that's as dynamic and voluminous as heavy metal: its limitlessness means you'll always have the opportunity to be a student of the art.
Our blatantly backwards-thinking friends at StormSpell Records have certainly done more than their fair share of work unearthing arcane gems for the historians in the house, and Massachusetts' Spectral Incursion fits perfectly snugly amongst the label's roster of rare, mostly "thrashy-80s" obscurities they've seen fit to reissue. The aptly titled Anthology spans the entire life of this erased progressive thrash band of yore, including their time spent sloshing even further under-underground as Graven Image from '86-'87: 1.5hrs of avant-garde three-piece thrash that sounds a bit like a collision between mid-80s era Prong and Anacrusis, with both of whom Spectral Incursion could easily have shared a stage back in the day.
Setting these guys apart from their peers, however, was their slightly softer take on aggression and heavier focus on spicing the pot with lead guitar shredability. While all the included material proves Steve Lyttle a very capable thrash riff crafter, it's his "Shark" Shelton School of Shredding (over on Manilla Road) that really hooks the ear, particularly throughout the band's earlier material. The general sound got a number of shades cleaner by 1991's Middle of Nowhere demo, giving Steve's style a bit more of an Alex Lifeson flavor, but they never really lost sight of further animating a tune with a lightning lead.
The first half of disc one (!) essentially covers the material the band produced immediately following their switch from Graven Image to Spectral Incursion. Tracks 1-4 (1988's Nowhere Fast demo) feature a more "traditional metal" vocalist who comes across like a slightly coarser Joey Belladona, and tunes 5-8 span the first EP that pulled additional cuts from Nowhere Fast and re-recorded them with the gruffer vocal approach of bassist Art Melonas. Tracks 9-12 cover 1991's cleaner Middle of Nowhere and marks the band at their most progressive point, and things close out with ten cuts (14-17 on disc one, and all six tunes on disc two) reaching back to the band's greener days spent toiling as Graven Image.
I'm not sure how often I'll sit down to the full hour and a half's worth of goods presented on this anthology, but all the material included is quality enough that I double checked the MP3 player whenever a tune randomly popped up in a broad shuffle during the first week it hit my hands. In short, Anthology isn't exactly the most essential release you'll come across this year, but it's certainly worthy of your attention if you're a chronicler of elder progressive thrash metal.
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