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Ruthless Horde, "Demo Anthology 1989-1991": Album Review

I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

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Ruthless Horde—Demo Anthology: 1989-1991

Stormspell Records, 2022
Running Time: 29:02
Country: USA
Genre: Thrash Metal

The mission of true-metal specialist label Stormspell Records (Motto: "Old Farts Stuck in the '80s and Proud Of It!") is twofold. On one side, they support and release works by new bands who revere the traditional heavy metal styles of the '80s and are dedicated to preserving those classic sounds (see: Blazon Stone, Rocka Rollas, Grey Wolf, and Ancient Empire, to name just a few).

On the other, they re-release long-forgotten material by defunct but deserving bands from metal's golden era in the hopes of exposing them to a new audience. Their current release, Demo Anthology 1989-1991 by the previously-unknown (at least to me) Ruthless Horde, is a fine example of the latter.

Demo Anthology is the second volume in Stormspell's "Beyond The Arcane" series of demo reissues, and it re-introduces us to Ruthless Horde, a Detroit-based quartet who weren't around for very long, but who made a pretty damn fine thrash racket in the vein of Slayer, Dark Angel, and Possessed during their brief existence.

Stormspell's Anthology compiles both of Ruthless Horde's demo tapes—1989's self titled five-tracker and 1991's two-song Darkness Comes—into one package for the first time ever.

Every local scene had at least one band like Ruthless Horde -- the guys who opened for every national thrash or death metal act that came through their town, but were never quite able to grab the brass ring for themselves. Just press "play" on this Anthology to bring on an attack of headbanger nostalgia!

The Songs

I broke into a smile when "Deadly Mass" from 1989's Ruthless Horde demo kicked off this Anthology -- it's total Slayer worship all the way. I was immediately impressed with the speedy, twisted guitar riffing of Mark Jones, the punishing bass work of Jeff Cox, and Matt Kortes' four-on-the-floor drumming, as the Horde's very Tom Araya-ish vocalist Scott Fredericks spits out the usual anti-religious nonsense about evil, death, and Satan that every '80s thrash band was required to write about. "Dancing In The Morgue" (great title!) slows the tempo down just enough to give the players a chance to show off their skills a bit rather than thrashing away blindly.

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On "The Forgotten Dead," Fredericks switches up his vocal delivery to a surprisingly legit snarl with occasional high pitched screams akin to Metal Church's David Wayne or King Diamond (minus the King's falsetto histrionics). The solo section of this track is an absolute barn burner and the song is a major highlight of this collection.

"Demonic Majesties" opens with some backward-masked, sinister-sounding gibberish before it launches into a mid paced, doomy epic ala Candlemass or Trouble that sees guitarist Mark Jones step up to the mic to take over lead vocals. His hoarse howl sounds a lot like Jeff Becerra of Possessed, and it fits this particular song well as it goes from sludgy doom to full on thrash fiesta over the course of its six minute run time. "Shadows of Death" is another impressive epic, with hills and valleys that recall the best of Mercyful Fate.

On the two tracks from Darkness Comes that finish out this set, Mark Jones takes over the vocal slot full time from the apparently-departed Fredericks. "Imminent Destruction" is back to basics, full-speed thrash metal, with Jones' throat shredding vox recalling the great Mille Petrozza of German thrash kingpins Kreator, while "Darkness Comes" hints at some Judas Priest style grandiosity in its opening moments before slamming the gas pedal to the floor in the back half.

All in all, these seven tracks showcase the Ruthless Horde's abilities most admirably. They could thrash it out with the best of 'em, but they also knew the value of pulling back on the throttle every once in a while to letting their melodic sensibilities shine through. The end result hits all the right buttons for those of us who came of age during the underground metal explosion of the mid to late 1980s.

Summing It Up

Demo Anthology 1989-1991 is limited to 500 hand numbered CD copies (each with a Japanese-style "obi" strip). Obviously this is aimed at diehard collectors of underground metal ultra-obscurities, but it's also a ton of fun to listen to!

Even better, it appears that the Horde is active again! A visit to the band's page on Metal-Archives reveals that they released a new five-song EP in 2020, though it isn't clear how many original members are involved.

You can check out tracks from Demo Anthology 1989-1991 on the Stormspell Records' Bandcamp page, and if you like what you hear, you can snag a copy of the ultra-limited CD at the Stormspell website. Till next time, keep it heavy, and support underground metal!

If this were a scratch & sniff photo, it would smell like stale Meister Brau and Marlboros.

If this were a scratch & sniff photo, it would smell like stale Meister Brau and Marlboros.

© 2022 Keith Abt

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