Intruder – Re-issues

Intruder – Re-issues
A Higher Form of Killing/Escape From Pain EP/Psycho Sava
Lusitanian Records
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 46:42/29:24/54:17
Review by Simon Black

So, back in the day when Thrash had emerged from the underground and the Big Four were now filling arenas, there was a second wave of bands that never got anything like the same kind of exposure shortly before the scene collapsed under the waves of change. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee (“It’s a Music City Jim, but not as we know it”) Intruder were very much of this second wave, with a debut Speed Metal album that no-one heard, shortly followed by these three releases once they were signed to Metal Blade, that were released over a three-year period. Although they toured extensively in the continental USA, Canada and Mexico they were completely unknown over here in Europe until bands like Morbid Angel started namedropping them in interviews. But by then in 1992 though, they had been dropped from Metal Blade, although tensions within the band at the time meant they may well have folded anyway. Either way, apart from a couple of brief reformations in the intervening decades, that was your lot.

Cut to 2019, and the band have apparently reformed and were a thing again, although clearly Covid got in the way, but more tragically guitarist Greg Messick also passed away in September of last year. So, with nothing new on the horizon, those Metal Blade releases have found a new home and the opportunity for the rest of the world to see what all the fuss was about.

“A Higher Form Of Killing” was their first full Thrash influenced piece, although there’s enough of a carry-over of the Speed Metal sound (particularly in the largely cleaner vocal approach) that I can see this band attracting both Thrashers and the more traditionally inclined audience back in the day. Think of a much more rough and ready sounding Randy Rampage-era Annihilator, with a snort of Nuclear Assault for good measure and baked in an oven with Flotsam & Jetsam for forty-eight minutes. Musically though this album is definitely without the classically trained virtuosity of a Jeff Waters, but that said there is no shortage of technical skill in the band (although some of that classical sound comes on later releases), with some blisteringly fast time changes and clever switches in style mid-song. Overall, I am taken back to my youth by the energy, naivety and two raised fingers in the general direction of L.A. that this whole movement was about. The only negative here is that the mix does not seem to have been given much of a remaster, and the quality of the production is definitely of the day.

The “Escape From Pain” EPat the time wasn’t giving the fans much that was new. A Chicago cover to open with, one new track that gives the release its title and three old favourites from their (at the time) scarce first album – the band were the first to admit that at the time it was done so they could have an excuse to tour. What it does benefit from is a much better recording sound that still retains the energy, but actually gives you a chance to hear what vocalist Jimmy Hamilton was capable of (he’s almost lost in the mix on ‘Higher Form’). The ‘25 or 6 to 4’cover probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but seems something of an oddity thirty years later. The title track however is positively epic, and with a running time of nearly nine minutes is something of a novelty for a genre that prided itself on Speed of delivery. It’s complex, clever and technically brilliant, but sound wise suffers from the absence of budget or engineering expertise in the studio, and there’s more of this approach to come on the next release. The remaining tracks are pure speed metal, and give an insight into their pre-Thrash Speed Metal direction, but frankly the song writing of the later material shows much more maturity, but again, it seems that little could be done to remaster for the age we live in.

By the time we get to “Psycho Savant”we are clearly listening to a band that took a long time to find their own sound, which is possibly not surprising in a state dominated by its contribution to Country music. Although it lacks the naïve charm of “A Higher Form Of Killing”, it’s got the richest sound of the three and distils all the skills they’ve developed along the way into an album that holds the attention despite the average run time of its songs being in the seven-minute bracket. The musicianship is many orders of magnitude improved and despite the flood of complex time changes, this baby just flows. It also balances the two forces of Speed and Thrash Metal, not to mention a healthy portion of emerging Power Metal and it would really have been interesting to see where this would have taken them in the years to come had they continued through the wilderness years that Grunge and Nu-Metal wrought on the scene. There’s also a lyrical maturity in here that feels ahead of its time, most noticeably on ‘Geri’s Lament’, which tackled the disturbing subject of the appalling treatment of older folks in care homes, with righteous anger at those that pocketed the money of those for whom they were supposed to be caring for.

Either way, this is a fascinating insight into an act that deserved far more attention than they got at the time and who hopefully are not gone for good.

A Higher Form Of Killing (1989)
01. Time Of Trouble
02. The Martyr
03. Genetic Genocide
04. Second Chance
05. (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
06. Killing Winds
07. The Sentence Is Death
08. Agents Of The Dark (M.I.B.)
09. Antipathy
10. Mr. Death

Escape From Pain EP (1990)
01. 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago Cover)
02. Escape From Pain
03. Cold-Blooded Killer
04. Kiss Of Death
05. T.M. (You Paid The Price)

Psycho Savant (1991)
01. Face Of Hate
02. Geri’s Lament (When)
03. The Enemy Within
04. It’s A Good Life
05. Invisible
06. Traitor To The Living
07. Final Word
08. N.G.R.I.

Jimmy Hamilton – Vocals
Arthur Vinett – Guitar
Greg Messick – Guitar
Todd Nelson – Bass
John Pieroni – Drums


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