Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Exploited - Horror Epics

Year: 1985
Genre: UK Punk

Highlight Tracks: "No More Idols", "Don't Forget The Chaos", "Race Against Time"
Weak Tracks: "Down Below"

Horror Epics is a great album that doesn't get the credit it deserves. The Exploited have a very strong early catalog and this album at the extreme end of their heyday gets glossed over as their transition from punk to thrash. But that's not what it is. Horror Epics is a masterfully produced punk rock album; I know that seem like an oxymoron but hear me out.

First of all, musicianship has never been the Exploited's strong point. They've always done a passable job but their passion has always made up for their lack of skill. Not so on Horror Epics where they turn the traditional punk three chord progression on its head and focus on drums and bass like never before. This is by far the most musically mature album the Exploited ever generated.

Which gets me to the production of the album. The drums are mixed out of control on this album. Especially on the newly remastered edition. They are mixed way up front and almost eclipse the guitar as the star of the show. Take the title track and "Dangerous Visions" as exhibit A and B on that count your honors. When the drums aren't wrecking your world the bass steps up in the mix to destroy everything you know about punk rock bass playing. The two elements combine to make Horror Epics a rhythmic monster of an album.

That doesn't mean that the guitars or vocals are slouching. The guitars play like humming saw blades in a 2x4 factory from beginning to end. Maybe one could argue that they are tuned for metal over punk but to my ear it just comes across as a variation on the Exploited's original style rather than a departure from it. Wattie Buchan's vocals sound as howling pissed as ever. The one significant change to his vocal style on this album is that he occasionally steps back off the mic to let the music takeover for longer stretches than on previous albums. This raises the impact of his lyrics by spotlighting them and gives the musicians a chance to impress like never before.

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