|Review: Nasty Savage - Wage of Mayhem + Rarities (1983-1985)|
|Wage of Mayhem + Rarities (1983-1985)|
Label: Nameless Grave Records
Year released: 2021
Originally released in: 2019
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: October 13, 2021
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
for:Wage of Mayhem + Rarities (1983-1985)
Rated 4.2/5 (84%) (10 Votes)
Nasty Savage are one of those bands who don't need an introduction and one I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said. They're one of the best bands to come from Florida, their later, more technical works are some of the best Tech Thrash ever written, Nasty Ronnie is more badass than anyone reading this will ever be, and we all know that by now. What you might not know is that they had a compilation of older material that includes their Wage of Mayhem demo and various rarely heard live cuts and rehearsals released a couple of years ago, which was re-released digitally and on CD via Nameless Grave Records earlier this year. These kinds of compilations are always aimed more at serious collectors and die-hard fans than anyone else, but if you've listened to Metal for any amount of time and somehow aren't a big fan of Nasty Savage, I pity you and hope this review can help change that.
The first section of this compilation is the entire Wage of Mayhem demo, which serves as a good look into the Nasty Savage we know and love in their most primitive state. Even when compared to their self-titled debut, it's a very simple and direct release, but that doesn't stop it from having the kind of pummeling riff work and muscular songwriting that have always been their defining feature. Nasty Ronnie doesn't sound as good as he would on later releases, being a bit cleaner than average and sounding a little strained when he switches to grunts and falsettos, but he still gives the kind of powerful, unhinged performance that no one has ever been able to fully replicate. "XXX" is the song that gets the most attention from this release, mostly because it would be reworked for Indulgence years later, and while this version is fine, it's also about a minute longer than it needed to be. For my money, the lost gem here is the occult, Mercyful Fate-esque "Witches Sabbath", which may well stand among the best songs they ever did.
The demo alone would make this worth getting, but we also get the expected live tracks and rehearsal cuts, both of which serve as strong selling points by themselves. The live tracks include a performance of the previously unreleased track "Vigilante" and a separate performance with live versions of "Unchained Angel" and "Savage Desire" from the Wage of Mayhem demo. The former is a solid but unremarkable tune as far as Nasty Savage goes, and I can kind of understand why they never sat down and recorded it for a proper album. The latter, however, are actually much better than their demo counterparts, with tighter, more energized performances and Ronnie sounding more confident and controlled in his delivery.
The rehearsal tape, however, is easily the most important part of this compilation, as it shows a part of the band's history that was otherwise largely unknown beforehand. Rather than Thrash, here Nasty Savage were more of a U.S. Power Metal act with very clear NWOBHM and Hard Rock leanings, with Ronnie sounding cleaner than he ever would again and the band being more melodic and upbeat. None of that is to suggest this is bad, for while the recording job is every bit as terrible as you'd expect from a rehearsal tape, the performances have all the energy and swagger you'd expect from a group of young punks who wanted to make badass music. "Way of the Warlock" in particular is a bona fide lost classic with its careening riffs and blazing energy, and I'd sell your soul to Satan to hear the band play it live one day. The rest of the tracks from the rehearsal are also good, but much more rock oriented and atypical from what you'd expect from Nasty Savage, especially the bouncy "High School Lover," which may well be the least characteristic song they ever wrote while still being very high quality.
Most of this is just a very long-winded way of saying that yes, Nasty Savage were always that good and that this compilation is proof of it. However, it also proves they were good in surprisingly different ways well before anyone knew who they were, so this has serious historical value that's not always found in this kind of thing. Regardless of all that, however, I'd call this essential listening to fans old and new alike, for while most of this can't quite stand with their later works, it's still more Nasty Savage to add to your collection, and how can you go wrong with that?
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