In this week’s Thrash Under Pressure we take a look at a Canadian band who have been described as “influential” and “seminal”. It might sound like I’m lifting words from a Paul Gambaccini eulogy, but I’m actually talking about Exciter.
Exciter might sound like the kind of thing you’d find in an Ann Summers catalogue, but the name is more likely a reference to the speed of their music and the effect it has on the listener. Or something.
Joking aside, Exciter are widely credited with being one of the first speed metal bands so without them who knows how the thrash scene would have panned out.
Despite their legendary status, Exciter have only shifted 500,000 units worldwide in just over 30 years. They formed originally as Hell Razor (a much more metal name) in 1978 and became Exciter by 1980. Unusually for a band in this genre they had a singing drummer at the time too (and that way it would remain until 1993).
Their debut, Heavy Metal Maniac, arrived in 1983. The name might sound a bit cliched, but it’s a hell of a record. It’s jammed full of splendid thrashy riffs and sounds exactly like you’d expect early 80s speed metal to sound – cracking metal, but sadly underproduced.
It was enough for Megaforce Records to take notice and they signed Exciter before 1984’s Violence and Force. This picks right up where Heavy Metal Maniac left off, but benefits from better production and better songs. The title track could be mistaken for an 80s New York hardcore song if it wasn’t for the cries of “SATAN!” which regularly ring out. Generally an incredible metal album though – seminal, some might say.
Exciter were in the ascendency and opened a few shows for Anthrax before signing to Music For Nations and releasing Long Live the Loud in 1985. They were still firing on all cylinders. Any band who can get to album number 3 and it still sound as fresh and exciting as the first are definitely on to something. Special mention here for I Am the Beast‘s Hit the Lights-esque main riff.
Unveiling the Wicked followed a year later. There are elements of thrash still present, but it definitely sounds like more of a mainstream metal album. Exciter hadn’t quite done a Celtic Frost, but not far off. They toured with Motörhead off the back of this album, so it wasn’t all bad.
Almost self-titled Exciter (O.T.T.) came next. It was a thrashier offering than the previous one, but it still wouldn’t convince the purists. The sleeve of leather (a photo of leather at least) couldn’t be any more metal, but Exciter were fast becoming a shadow of their former selves.
1992’s Kill After Kill was a damn good return to form and the obligatory live album, Better Live Than Dead (yes, we see what you did there), followed it.
And what’s the best thing to do when you recapture previously lost form? That’s right, Exciter went on a break for 5 years and re-emerged with a totally different line up and totally different sound.
The Dark Command has its moments, most notably the excellent drumming, but things just weren’t the same.
Not put off at all, Exciter 2.0 released another album in 2000. Blood of Tyrants was an improvement although the vocals are among the screechiest in all of metal. If the songs were all instrumental it could have been a winner, but sadly it isn’t.
New Testament, an album of re-recorded classics did little to appease disenfranchised fans, but Thrash Speed Burn got things back on track in 2008 thanks to a new vocalist whose voice wasn’t glass-shatteringly terrible. Death Machine from 2010 represents the best work Exciter have managed in the more modern era.
Sadly that was the last release from Exciter although the original line up has now reformed for the purpose offestival appearances mostly. No plans for any new material at the time of writing though.
Put them on your playlist: Scream in the Night, I Am the Beast, Rain of Terror