HOLY TERROR - Total Terror
I donít know if many people remember Holy Terror, as their short existence lies already thirty years in the past. I was a teenager back then and started to listen very seriously to the then burgeoning speed metal movement. Everyone was already familiar with the Big Four (although that term was coined only much later), so it was always a pleasure to discover lesser known bands. One of those was Holy Terror who were founded in the mid-Eighties by Kurt Kilfelt who used to play guitar with Agent Steel (another great speed metal band) but left the bnd after a fallout with their strange vocalist John Cyriis (whose real name is apparently Jo„o Campos or Jean Pierre Camps, but no one knows for sure).
Skip to the year 1987 when Holy Terror released their first album Terror And Submission. Some things stood out from the beginning. Holy Terror had, like so many metal bands before them, a guitar tandem that duelled each other with fierce riffs and soaring solos. Kurt Kilfeld and Mike Alvord may never have had the reputation of Glenn Tipton / K.K. Downing (Judas Priest), Dave Murray / Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) or Kerry King/Jeff Hanneman (Slayer), but that doesnít mean that their craft was lesser in any way. Also Holy Terror had in Keith Deen one of the most remarkable metal vocalist of all times. He was screeching, screaming, barking, wailing and singing, sometimes all of this together in a same sentence. His idiosyncratic approach was emphasised by his very verbose lyrics, making him something like the Jello Biafra of heavy metal. He was already a little older when he joined the band, probably ten years older than his fellow band members, and maybe thatís something which also gave him more experience and maturity to sound the way he sounded. Anyway, Terror And Submission was a great album, with some really memorable tracks (Evilís Rising, Guardians Of The Netherworld, Distant Calling,...), even though the album suffered from a somewhat muddled production. But this was only a taste of what was to follow.
Only one year later, Holy Terror were back with Mind Wars. The production was still a little on the mushy side, but those who came with the right amount of attention soon noticed that this album was not only the zenith for this band, but for the entire speed metal genre that ever existed. Each and every song was a classic. Deenís vocal delivery was much more sure-fire than one year earlier, the songwriting was stellar, and some of the tracks still give me goosebumps three decades later. Listen to The Immoral Wasteland and No Resurrection, and you understand for what the speed in speed metal stood. Holy Terror also always flirted with heavy metal and thrash metal, so that in the end their sound was always very broad, and a song could contain everything from melodic metal to nearly death metal parts. And the lyrics were by the way also insightful and incisive, something you wonít find much anymore these days. And that was already more or less the end of the band.
For lack of new material, a compilation was released in 2007. El Revengo was a three-disc set. Disc One contained four remixed songs from Mind Wars and a remixed version of the entire debut album. The Mind Wars material really comes with a different vibe. The clearer sound feels weird after all these years, but itís interesting nonetheless. The Terror And Submission material sounds also slightly better, but not that much has changed here. Disc Two comes with live material, where the first nine songs are from a show in Belgium that was recorded and the mixing board, making for a rather good if not perfect sound. Then there are three songs recorded in Florida, and two in Italy, with slightly worse although still listenable sound. Disc Three is a DVD with live material but that one didnít come with my promo package, so I canít tell you if it is any watchable.
I doubt that Holy Terror will ever get back together again. Vocalist Keith Deen passed away at the age of 56 in 2012 after a short but fatal battle with cancer. Kurt Kilfelt has turned his back to metal and has been performing for quite a few years rather successfully with cow punk band The Load Levelers. And Mike Alvord seems to have moved to Italy where he founded a new thrash metal band called Mindwars where he sings and plays guitar. They have released lately two albums on Punishment 18 Records, and their sound is quite close to Holy Terror, as their band name already hints. I donít know where the bassist and the drummer are at now.
I was in my discovery of metal phase in my youth when Mind Wars came out, and it has always remained one of my desert island discs. Those who missed out on the band can get the five-disc set Total Terror that regroups all of the aforementioned albums at the price of a little over one CD. Itís really a good deal and you will hear that there was much more to speed thrash metal in the Eighties than Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax.