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Exorcist – Nightmare Theatre

Tracking a change in musical style is like tracking a change in color. It’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. That brings me to the band Exorcist. It was an extremely short-lived side project of Virgin Steele. They released just one album called Nightmare Theatre in 1986 and split up immediately thereafter. Their album was released during a time when death metal and black metal were splitting off from thrash metal, and it’s quite fascinating to say the least.

The music is basically a slightly darker version of Venom. The production is unpolished. The sound isn’t as clear as other albums from that time period, and the vocals sometimes get buried under the instruments. Since raw production would become ubiquitous in black metal, this isn’t all that bothersome to me. The drums are played by Mark Edwards. In that same year, he would play on the album No Turning Back! by Jack Starr’s Burning Starr. He chooses not to show off. Instead, he sticks to playing mid-paced rhythms and d-beats with some fills scattered throughout. It’s a solid performance overall. Bassist Joe O'Reilly mainly follows the guitars, but they’re audible enough to make the music more fleshed out.

The vocalist is David DeFeis. He is mainly known for his high-pitched vocals, but here he performs a hoarse croak that sounds similar to Cronos of Venom, as well as some hoarse growls on occasion. They are entertainingly malevolent. They’re nowhere near as harsh as modern extreme metal vocals, but I imagine they shocked quite a few people back in the day. The guitars are played by Edward Pursino. His performance is a mix of mid-paced palm-muted riffs and power chords, though there are a few moments such as on “Death By Bewitchment” when they pick up the pace. They’re all pretty standard when compared to other thrash metal bands at the time, but what really impressed me were his solos, which are dazzling in their design and howl and screech with rage. His best performance can be found on “Megawatt Mayhem”.

Nightmare Theatre is an interesting piece of metal history. Not only is the music great, but it shows just how much and how quickly metal was developing around that time. It was re-released by High Roller Records back in 2016 and it’s still available through Discogs, so if you wish to acquire a physical copy, then I recommend looking into that.