Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 27 April, 2016
Taking a step back in time, compilation albums actually meant something. These days, in an era of ‘buy one track here, one track there, and rarely the whole album’, they really offer little value and even then they are nothing more than are a collection of who’s who and who’s cool. Now, I’m sure all of you are familiar with the seminal Metal Massacre series. It spawned a band or two in its time, no doubt. This, along with others such as the Speed Kills series were all about exposing artists. Sure as the series went on, they did feature well known metal acts. For example, Speed Kills Volume 4 (released in 1989) lists Death, Bathory, Exodus, Possessed, Dark Angel and Nuclear Assault proudly in its ranks. But this particular double album, released on the legendary Combat Records in the U.S.A. and Under One Flag in Europe, featured a swag of lesser known bands such as Hexx, Re-Animator and Swiss thrashers Apocalypse.
Apocalypse formed half a decade earlier than when the aforementioned Speed Kills Volume 4 hit the shelves. They released a single demo shortly after forming and their debut self titled long player in 1989. I must admit I don’t recall seeing their album in the many record stores I frequented back in the day but eventually, I managed to track down the album. American label Divebomb Records has taken it upon themselves to release both Apocalypse albums. The label has been making a name for itself over the past couple of years re-issuing deluxe versions of obscure or long out of print titles (as well as select newer releases) from artists such as The Horde of Torment (check out the Machine Head and Ill Nino connection), Shotgun Messiah, Addictive, Deathrow, D.A.M., Watchtower, Anacrusis and Uncle Slam.
Apocalypse, along with many other thrash releases from back in the day, have become heavily bootlegged over time with bootlegs appearing out of Greece and Russia on eBay at varying prices. Divebomb Records have taken it upon themselves to give the band a new lease on life by re-issuing their two long players. The band’s self titled debut has been granted the deluxe treatment and will be limited to 1000 copies worldwide.
The nine original tracks sound louder than ever thanks to Jamie King’s (Between the Buried and Me, Addictive, Devin Townsend) remaster. Thankfully, King’s work has produced a remaster that is not an overbearing - that is, the end result is not trying to be louder than everything else. The overall dynamic range value is DR7 - the higher the number, the worse it sounds (research loudness war for more information) - which is probably still ok as far as the loudness war goes. There’s no doubt the original is way more dynamic (with a more rounded dynamic range value of around DR13), but Divebomb’s reissue still sounds good. Originally produced by Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Morbid Angel, Blind Guardian) the original album is indicative of mature late 80’s thrash. It’s not full on like Bonded by Blood (Exodus), Peace Sells...But Who’s Buying? (Megadeth). It’s more akin to Testament probably but not quite as infectious when it comes to hooks, groove and melody. “The Night Before”, “Apocalypse” and “Dark Sword” are strong cuts that are a well rounded indication of where Apocalypse was at with this release. Their best however is the album closer, “Cemetery”. It’s a cracker of a track that simple rocks right from the opening riff peaking at 3’29” with an incredibly catchy groove that I wish lasted longer. It was the track that got me into the band on Speed Kills Volume 4 way back when and I still crank this song plenty these days.
Rounding out this deluxe reissue is the inclusion six demo tracks recorded from 1984 to 1986, which being demos sound about as good as you can expect. Three of these feature on the final album. Combined with a deluxe 16 page booklet chock full of pictures and interviews, and Divebomb have done a fine job on this reissue.
Divebomb have reissued some of the more obscure artists and releases as I mentioned earlier and this one fits right in with that M.O. Apocalypse’s debut might only appeal to a select few, but this one is right on the money in the bang for buck category. I gotta give Props to Divebomb for continuing to unearth little known gems such as these.