October 31 - No survivors 4/5

Reviewed: 4-22-05


1. Powerhouse
2. Rivet rat
3. Commit to sin
4. No survivors
5. What waits beyond
6. Back alley murders
7. Wrecking crew
8. Misfortune

Purity. It's a highly prized commodity in music. It's also a rarity, as the ubiquitous presence of the Internet, the insidious corporate marketing of trends, and the human propensity to chase fame and fortune pollute and dilute heavy metal as they do all things, all too frequently resulting in prepackaged, preconceived product being pushed on the unsuspecting metal maniac. But, every so often, you encounter a band with an unwaveringly pure musical vision, oblivious to whatever is in fashion in the "scene" and driven by nothing more than unabashed love of the music. October 31 are such a band. Led by irrepressible drummer/vocalist King Fowley, this quintet eat, drink, live and breathe underground, kult, old-school metal circa 1985. The result is 'No survivors', their 4th studio album (counting the 'Visions of the end' EP). From the cover art to the band photos to the lyrics to the production to the songwriting to the performances, this CD screams underground aggressive traditional metal with thrash tendencies in the style of Exciter, Destructor, Anvil, Ostrogoth, Witchkiller, Venom, Sortilege, old Overkill, Raven, Hallows Eve, Lizzy Borden, ... eh, you get the idea.

It's been more than 5 years since October 31 last bestowed a studio platter on their faithful rivet rats. In the interim, there've been lineup changes, a slew of serious health problems for King that now preclude him from playing drums, side projects, and a live recording. Was it worth the wait? You bet, as 'No survivors' is easily the crown jewel of October 31's discography. Jackhammer riffs, skullcrushing drums, and tortured shrieks usher in opener "Powerhouse", and the band never lets up from there. October 31 have clearly ratcheted up the intensity meter several notches compared to past releases, with generally faster tempos (of the damned) and a harder-edged attack than their earlier work. Particularly notable are King's vocals. Always gruff and raspy, King is even more hoarse, raw and aggressive (but still clean) this time around. But don't let these visions of brutality scare you away. 'No survivors' is ultimately constructed around unbelievably catchy hooks, with plenty of melodic guitar work amidst the savage riffage, courtesy of axeslinger extraordinaire Brian "Hellstorm" Williams. If you're not singing along with the Saxon-y "Commit to sin" by the 2nd time around, you don't have a pulse.

The key to this CD's success lies in the marriage of an unadulterated old-school approach with a remarkable collection of songs. All seven originals rival or surpass anything King Fowley's ever written (with "No survivors" perhaps being the best October 31 song ever!), and the cover version of Overkill's "Wrecking crew" is well chosen. Most of the lyrics reflect the usual horror/metal empowerment themes that have long characterized the band's work, but "What waits beyond" takes a remarkable turn for the philosophical. Musing on the recent loss of his mother, King sings, "I've learned that life is what it is / And death makes it complete". There's a lesson there for all of us.




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