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Live At Budokan - * * *

If nothing else, this recording proves the fact that Scott Ian belongs in a hardcore band. It is definitely his most effective format. Given the declining quality of Anthrax recordings over the last decade or so, SOD is a welcome reminder that Ian is in fact a damn good guitarist. Stormtroopers Of Death started as a side project with Ian and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante. It was a joke hardcore band centered around a fictional cartoon mascot called "Sgt. D", who hated everything and wanted to kill everyone. Vocalist Billy Milano (MOD) and bassist Danny Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth) rounded out the lineup. The band recorded one classic album, toured, then went back to their respective bands.

In 1992, SOD played a one time reunion show at the Ritz in NYC (not Budokan). As a snapshot of an NYC hardcore show, this album is classic. The sound quality sucks, the vocals are impossible to understand, but the crowd loses its fucking mind and rips the place up. SOD played a set of their original songs, throwing in some interesting covers, and a few "new songs" consisting of one chord/one syllable each. At one point, the audience rips a wooden barrier to pieces in front of the band. SOD, while not encouraging, seem to feed off this rabid response and translate it into the show. Following a violent fight in the audience, they play an agressive version of Milano Mosh and then mix Speak English Or Die with bits of Slayer. This further feeds the energy of the crowd, whipping them almost into a riot.

As much as this is a good live recording, there are some basic problems. Problem 1: Milano sucks as a singer. His style definitely works with SOD, but live he sounds drunk and confused. The problems in sound quality are further hampered by equipment problems, mistakes, and outside noise. This album is actually more of a bootleg in its true format. Benante is a pretty good drummer, particularly on the Slayer cover. However, he is better at power and speed than hardcore rhythms, proving the fact that unlike Ian, he does in fact belong in a metal band. Lilker plays through a wall of distorted fuzz, creating an interesting but chaotic bass performance. Ian however is the centerpiece of SOD. He captures heavy grooving mosh riffs and sustains them with incredible talent. Ian's performance on guitar sets a standard for the metal influenced hardcore riffs and tempos which would more or less define metalcore for the next decade.

The band flawlessly plays two Ministry covers, including a particularly ferocious version of Stigmata. They also learn Nirvana's Territorial Pissings on the spot and actually play the song very well in a hardcore format. One must remember that SOD are in fact a parody of themselves, and that they never set out to accomplish much in the first place. In this respect, the show went incredibly well, and the album is a good translation of an NYC hardcore band playing live. Those unfamiliar with the band or the scene however probably will not understand. This is not for everyone, just for those who will understand. The sound quality sucks; Milano sounds drunk; the band fucks up; the crowd screams, fights, tears shit up, and throws things; but all in all this must have been one hell of a show.

* * *

Reviewed: November, 1997

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