20 Years of NY Thrash - The Demo Anthology
posted on 10/2012 By:
Long-forgotten New York thrash act Cold Steel gets the demo compilation treatment with Stormspell’s 20 Years Of NY Thrash, which brings together all the tracks from 1988’s Dead By Dawn and Scarred For Life alongside those of 1990’s Perfect Peace. As an avowed historian of metal and a long-time fan of thrash, these types of releases will always be of interest to me, though I can say that 20 Years is mostly a collector's-only affair, one that will seem nothing but average to all but the most dedicated of thrash aficionados.
That’s not to say that 20 Years is bad, because it isn’t – it’s a collection of completely by-the-books classic thrash circa 1988, one that sounds as though Cold Steel cherry-picked entire sections from all the masters in whose footsteps they were following. “Perfect Peace” sports traded vocals that sound like a duet between Hetfield and Belladonna; on virtually every song, the backing vocals sound as if Scott Ian and Frank Bello stopped by the studio on the way to L’Amours. Most of 20 Years sticks close to early Anthrax crossbred with Metallica, all with dashes of Flotsam & Jetsam. Vocalist Troy Norr employs an alternately clean, soaring vocal akin to Belladonna with forays into a snarlier, growlier attack that’s straight-up James Hetfield or Chuck Billy. These riffs are straightforward, with a heavy emphasis on groove, and that grooviness alongside the oft-employed gang-chant vocals give this NY Thrash the same NYHC bent that permeates Spreading The Disease and Among The Living. In terms of production, it’s important to note that these are demos, and though they aren’t unlistenable by any stretch, the production is thin, dated, underwhelming.
Though faults are noticeable, there is a certain copycat charm to 20 Years Of NY Thrash. Many songs succeed (“Crackdown,” “Hazardous”), usually doing so through sheer energy and their single-minded reliance upon thrash’s well-trod tropes. The former with its snappy Bello-ing bass, furious drive and “I love New York” hook is one of the album’s best tracks, while “Dead By Dawn” transcends its clichéd title and film sample. Still, for all the respectable if generic thrash, there is the occasional disaster: “Smashed” wastes a promising intro on ill-advised funk moments, not far removed from Mordred, but ultimately it’s more regrettably reminiscent of the godawful uptempo ending of Ugly Kid Joe’s “Everything About You.”
Those thrashers from the old school who are still digging for leftovers from the (g)olden days will find this one interesting and enjoyable, though, as mentioned, it is not essential – even as it borrows from them wholesale, 20 Years Of NY Thrash is certainly overshadowed by even the second-tier classics of the style. For whatever reasons, Cold Steel didn't catch a break or didn’t have what it took to make a dent back then, but that doesn’t mean that they had nothing at all to offer. Whether or not they can offer it to you depends upon your desire for a long-lost thrash band that blends together all the signature elements of the thrash bands that time didn’t forget. Unique? Not in the slightest. Enjoyable? Certainly enjoyable enough.
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