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Review: Steel Assassin - From the Vaults
Steel Assassin
From the Vaults

Label: GME Records
Year released: 1997
Duration: 57:52
Tracks: 11
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.25/5

Review online: August 28, 2021
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers Rating
From the Vaults

Rated 4/5 (80%) (3 Votes)

Steel Assassin were one of the dozens of bands from the '80s that released a handful of demos before vanishing into thin air that got a revival in the 2000s and finally got the attention they deserve. One point where they differ is that they actually got this compilation of their old demos made about a decade before they released their first proper full-length. This stands out to me because while repackaging forgotten bands as lost legends is fairly common now, especially since their current label High Roller Records bases about half their business model on the practice, this was released before any of that was the case. Based on how scant the booklet for this is (it doesn't even contain all the lyrics), I'll just assume that the now-defunct GME Records released this simply because they believed it was worth getting out to a larger audience, and if that's the case, I wholeheartedly agree with them.

Unsurprisingly, the material gathered for From the Vaults is about as old school as it gets. Nothing new or fancy here, just good old-fashioned '80s Metal in the vein of Judas Priest, Saxon, and whatever third band you just thought of reading this sentence. The music ranges from direct rocking numbers like "Phaeton" and "Crusader" to more traditional steel ownage like opener "Spartacus" and "Falling Steel" to more moody and epic tracks like the almost ballad-esque "Sorcerer's Mistress" and the pounding "Barbarians on the Frontier," and even at their earliest Steel Assassin were damn good at all of it. Every song on here sports some first-rate guitar work that spouts out killer riffs and flailing solos like it's nobody's business, even on weaker tracks like "Retaliation." The one real sticking point is the vocals of Doni Escolas, who sports a piercing, prototypical wail that doesn't quite cover up his weak, nasally mid-range. He gets the job done and works well within his limits, but he never really comes up with any great vocal lines that overcome his limitations, so he never really stands out much as a performer.

The band has received a good deal of praise for their later works, and rightfully so, but they definitely deserve credit for being one of the better forgotten acts of the Golden Age as well. An underground gem worth digging up from the vaults.

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