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Review: Exorcist - Nightmare Theatre
Nightmare Theatre

Label: Cobra Records
Year released: 1986
Duration: 38:07
Tracks: 15
Genre: Speed Metal


Review online: July 18, 2021
Reviewed by: Luxi Lahtinen
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Rated 4.56/5 (91.11%) (9 Votes)

Every now and then, I notice an established classic that hasn't received the coverage it deserves on the Crypt, in this case the Speed Metal classic Nightmare Theater from New York legends Exorcist, and I decided that it's up to me to fix that shameful error. These days, it's well known that this was more or less a side project of Virgin Steele made specifically to earn back money they borrowed from Cobra Records, with David DeFeis and Edward Pursino writing it with some help from Joe O'Reilly and Mark Edwards, but back in the day their identities were kept a secret, which gave the band a mysterious aura that made them stand out as something different and cool, certainly enough to push a ton of units back then. None of this would mean a whole lot if it wasn't very good, but as it turns out, this was an album I played so much that you'd think it was the only one I owned, and that's because even today it stands as one of the best Speed Metal albums of its time.

If you couldn't tell by the wonderfully cheesy album cover, Exorcist were all about horror, drawing from the well of first-wave bands like Venom and early Bathory while invoking some of the more theatrical elements of King Diamond in order to properly portray it. The playing is as down and dirty as you'd expect from an album that was bashed out in about a week, with songs that were short and evil as fuck while still having a sharper edge to the playing than you'd often expect from the style. The real star of the show, however, is DeFeis himself, here under the pseudonym Damian Rath and sounding completely unrecognizable as he spews out vile grunts that sound like a raging zombie with grave dirt stuck down its throat. I'd say more, but this is the kind of album that's difficult to really describe because it just takes primordial chunks of Metal and puts them together in a way that sounds familiar yet remains wholly distinct, and it does so while kicking an unholy amount of ass.

These days, a lot of the mystique behind projects like this has been lost thanks to the interwebs making everything so damn easy to find and secrets so hard to keep. Despite all that, even with the secrecy of this project being spoiled for decades, Nightmare Theater still sounds like the kind of album you could only ever find after stumbling across an ad for it in your favorite Metal magazine, obscure and underground to the absolute extreme. That's something that lasts forever even as the gimmicks around it start to fade, something that separates enduring classics from flavor of the moment bands we forget about after a few years tops. If you're one of the sad saps who've missed out on the diabolical insanity of Exorcist so far, go fix that and learn what that magic sounds like.

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