Deathwish: Before Charles Bronson Came Deathwish

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Here’s a rollicking tape by a likeable British act from the late 1980s. Not to be confused with the Italian Deathwish, this quartet thrashes with a little bit of mood and poise. I get the feeling the English thrash scene never attained the notoriety of their European counterparts because the Brits could never just let go and fly completely mental — there always has to be a dramatic framework around everything. But the gritty ambience serves Deathwish well.

Deathwish weren’t like UK counterparts Xentrix, who wished to be American. Already the title track, “Sword of Justice,” sounds like a speed metal overhaul of an NWOBHM throwback. These guys come from the little-known back alley tradition of thick leather ragers like Satan or Touched. The quality dirty guitars are the best part, especially during the second song, “Exorcist,” a rollicking dirge with rampant low-end dive bombs. It actually sounds suspiciously like the blueprint for “Graveyard Slut” from Darkthrone’s last album — minus Fenriz’s ridiculous warbling vocals, of course.

The third track, “Only Dreaming,” is a barely memorable plodding eight-minute-plus mini-epic complete with synth intro, falsetto vocals, and about one tin can’s worth of legitimate metal atmosphere. It reminds me of some deep B-side material by hit-or-miss classic ragers like Tyrant, Abbatoir, Attacker, or Hades. And you can just stop me there and enjoy this as a 2 1/2-song demo if you don’t have the patience.

Deathwish * “Sword of Justice” 3-song demo ’86 [22MB .rar]

The band summoned two LPs during its lifespan, At the Edge of Damnation in 1987 for Metalother, and Demon Preacher in 1989 for GWR, home to Motörhead, Girlschool, Tank, and the like. If you act fast, these records happen to be both available on eBay in a combined lot. I’m curious to see how high the heat rises on this. LINK

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