The best compilations are those almost fanatic, labor of love type, regional ones. Metal Knights:The Resurgence of Swedish Steel 1983-85 is the best example of this. Clearly, the good people at Stormbringer Records didn't just slap this thing together in order to turn a quick buck, this was painstakingly forged in the fires of passion for their nation's Heavy Metal. Each of the bands presented here never released anything on vinyl during their runs, so imagine what a bitch this was to get together. The vinyl comes with a well-researched booklet (somewhat reminiscent of those cool '80s D&D modules, if you were a nerd) with some amazing photos, well-written bios of the ten bands featured, and even a metal map of Sweden showing where the bands called hem. I had never heard any of these bands before picking up Metal Knights so this was a boon to my scandi-metal starved earholes.
The album kicks off with "Pilgrim" by Highlight, three brothers from Malmö who obviously were moved to action by the works of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
Next up is the rather amateurish Crime with their track, "Battlefield." Crime suffers from a rather flat production and absolutely shitty (not in the good way) guitar sound.
Flanged out double bass drumming leads us into "Time For a Solution" by Exist, some pimply-faced high school students who absolutely bring the steel. This is a standout track, sadly Exist only eked out one demo before calling it a dag. If anyone out there has this demo pleeeeeeeease share it with me.
Rubycon were a peppy NWOBHM-tinged act from Eksjö that had the good sense to have the Y in their logo be a hand throwing the horns. Their cut, "Out Of The Night" is another favorite of mine on here.
Act seem to be the most slick of the ten bands. The song "Christian Crusaders" is okay but nothing really special. Act later changed their name to Verdict.
Killerhawk just fucking rules, okay? Maybe it's the female vocals imploring the listener to "Wish Me Well" as she departs to conquer some seemingly insurmountable evil that threatens her people, whatever, Killerhawk won me over.
"Enemies" by Neptune starts off with a menacing voice-over prophesizing the fate of the Norse man's enemies, though I can't really understand exactly what this narrator says. Neptune seemed to have been even bigger Maiden fans than Highlight. Neptune seemed to be a band of almosts, they almost signed to England's Heavy Metal Records, and their vocalist Reine Alexandersson almost sang for Yngwie's band. The dude does have some serious pipes.
Orion's Sword are up next, and their track "Atomic War" isn't bad but has very little going for it.
Another favorite track is "Voodoo Night" by Stormbringer. There's a sluggish quality to the song, a classic metal guitar tone and a reference to a black mass, totally awesome. Most interesting is that a couple of Stormbringer's members ended up in the band Mercy, who you may know as the pre-Candlemass outfit, Messiah Marcolin.
It would seem that Metal Knights:The Resurgence of Swedish Steel 1983-85 saves the best for last. The questionably named Shylock closes out the show with "The Chosen One." Did these guys have some kind of semitic theme to their metal? I don't know. I do know that while their brand of metal isn't the most original (the vocal refrain in the chorus is a bit close to Maiden's "The Trooper") it is made up of all the things that make metal good....Great solos, galloping rhythms, a falsetto scream that follows immediately after another ominous voiceover. Shylock enjoyed a bit of commercial success, but only after relocating to Los Angeles and morphing into a shitty glam coke-metal band called Shotgun Messiah. Bassist Tim Skold ended up in Marilyn Manson, replacing Twiggy Ramirez in 2002. Weird.
As if the great and rare tunes and excellent booklet weren't enough, the vinyl is blue and yellow swirled vinyl in homage to the Swedish flag. This truly is geared toward the obscure metal-obssessed record collecting dweeb. It's long out of print and probably not coming back anytime soon. Fortunately for you I'm in your corner. Now go forth my bror and syster of metall and taste the steel!