Heretic - Torture Knows No Boundary (Metal Blade) 1986
Heretic started off as a classic heavy metal band with slight tinges of thrash influences. Their style was similar to that of Armored Saint or Metal Church. In the 80's they would have been called power metal as they were a bit heavier and thrashier than the average metal band, but they weren't quite thrash metal either. Now that label would bring thoughts of Dragonforce or Rhapsody. However, Heretic are not a flowery, keyboard laced, progressive band. Their debut EP starts off with a cover of Russ Ballard's "Riding With the Angels", a song also recoarded by Samson and Bruce Dickinson. The song is catchy and the band does a great job with the song. After this there are three originals, all of which are good straight forward heavy metal rockers. "Blood Will Tell", "Portrait of Faith" and "Whitechapel" all have some great riffs, solos and vocals. Julian Mendez has some nice shrieking vocals that are reminiscent of David Wayne, although not a carbon copy either. The last song is a melodic instrumental. Overall, a good start from Heretic. Only thing that would have made it better would have been more songs. As far as I know, "Torture Knows No Boundary" has never officially been released on CD.
Heretic - Breaking Point (Metal Blade) 1988
1. Heretic (3:37)
This final piece in the Metal Church trilogy is now part of my collection. Heretic's "Breaking Point" is a speed metal masterpiece with some thrash metal moments as well. Musically it fits quite nicely in between Metal Church's "The Dark" and "Blessing in Disguise". Had I not known, I might have thought this was an unreleased Metal Church album. The songwriting varies from the fast and furious to mid-paced heavy metal to more melacholy moments. like in the acoustic intro of "Heretic." While this song starts off with a little acoustic intro, it builds up stronger and stronger until it breaks into a pure headbanging speed-metal riff. Mike Howe's vocals are powerful. It's no wonder that Metal Church snapped him up after this disc. Lets not forget the incredibly fast soloing that this band also has. "And Kingdoms Fall" takes the speed down slightly but never lets up in the intensity. Once again Mike Howe's vocals are a real standout here. His vocals melodies along simply shred. "The Circle" and "Enemy Within" continue walking over the same fence between speed metal and power metal. "Time Runs Short" then starts off slowly, and builds up to some massive, bludgeoning riffs. This is one of the finest songs on the disc. After a short acoustic interlude called "Pale Shelter", "Shifting Fire" slams you in the face. This song is an uptempo thrasher. "Let 'Em Bleed" continue with the same speed and in-your-face intensity, Howe screaming the whole way. This song, along with many of the others, have a distinct Judas Priest vibe to them, especially in the extended guitar section in the middle of the song. "Evil for Evil" is a bit slower, but man Mike gives the vocal performance of his life here. This song has some thrash riffing going on although the band never really crosses over into pure thrash metal terrain, preferring instead to give a solid speed metal performance. "The Search" is a seven minute epic track that closes out the album. This track is unlike the rest of the disc as it is a power ballad. Unfortunately that discription is a bit misleading as one tends to think of some sugary sweet radio ballad. However, "The Search" is still heavy, complex and has more in common with the likes of Saxon's "The Eagle Has Landed" or Metal Church's "Anthem of the Enstranged" than anything overtly commercial. Heretic is speed metal at its finest. Pure classic 80s speed metal. If ever there was an album that deserved to be re-issued, this is it. Unfortunately for now, it's probably one of the rarest and most sought after metal CDs around, along with Reverend's first EP.
Hailing from one of the metal capitals of the world, Los Angeles, California, Heretic were a band whose time was cut short after only an EP and one classic studio album. The band fragmented with singer Mike Howe moving to Metal Church and the remainder of the band forming Reverend with former Metal Church singer David Wayne. In 2011, Heretic reformed with founding guitarist Brian Korban and vocalist Julian Mendez who sang for the band on their 1986 "Torture Knows No Boundaries". Rounding out the newly formed Heretic are two thrash metal veterans, bassist Angelo Espino and guitarist Glenn Rogers. The two have a formidable history in groups as widespread as Deliverance, Vengeance Rising, Steel Vengeance, Uncle Slam, Hirax, Once Dead and even Reverend. Together Glenn and Angelo were in both Hirax and Once Dead together. Quite the resume.
Heretic were nearly a forgotten band due to their short-lived career. They released one EP and one full length album before their vocalist left to join Metal Church, and in a turn of fate, the rest of the band joining with Metal Church's former singer to form Reverend. In the meantime, Heretic's two classic metal releases remained underground favorites. Their sound was often described as power metal, not unlike Metal Church or Reverend, straddling the fence between 80's speed metal and traditional heavy metal. Both their albums were hard out-of-print and very expensive if you could come by the original CD release of "Breaking Point".
In 2011 two original members of the band decided to get Heretic back together. Original vocalist Julian Mendez and guitarist Brian Korban was joined by Glenn Rogers (Hirax/Deliverance), and Angelo Espino (Hirax/Reverend). Together they recorded a new album that was released in 2012 and revived interest in the California speed metal band. "From the Vault...Tortured and Broken" finally sees the band's first two albums re-released in this exclusive box set that also includes a live DVD and a ton of bonus material. The box consists of the long sought after "Torture Knows No Boundaries" EP from 1986, the "Breaking Point" album of 1988, their "Metal Massacre VII" appearance with the track "Impulse", a newly recorded version of "Blood Will Tell" and a number of live tracks added on as bonus material.
Of course "Breaking Point" features singer Mike Howe who went on to fame in Metal Church. Though he is more known for his work with Metal Church, his vocals here are outstanding as well, delivered over some vicious metal riffing and a pounding rhythm section. I've always found "Breaking Point" to be an underrated heavy metal masterwork, that musically falls somewhere between Metal Church's "The Dark" and "Blessing in Disguise". It's a shame the album isn't thought of in the same regard as the heavyweights of heavy metal. However, those who love the metal underground know this album well. Tacked onto the end of this disc is one studio track and three live tracks. The three live tracks are of bootleg quality, but still interesting to hear. It's unusual hearing Mike Howe singing "Riding With the Angels", one of my favorite Heretic songs originally sung by Mendez. The last song is, of course, an AC/DC cover.
Disc two is worth the price of admission alone. As far as I am aware the "Torture Knows No Boundaries" EP was never officially released on CD. It features four original songs and one original instrumental, which is also the title track. "Riding With the Angels" is a kick-ass Russ Ballard cover. Frankly though I know this song is a cover, the first time I heard this album back in the mid-1980's I had assumed it was an original and only later heard the Samson version with Bruce Dickinson singing. As such, I've always preferred this version to the more popular Samson version. For either band it could have been a hit single as it has a great riff and a killer hook. One top of the original EP, there is the original Metal Massacre inclusion "Impulse", a killer new version of "Blood Will Tell" that was recorded during the band's "A Time of Crisis" sessions and several live tracks. The seven live tracks from 1985 are in rough form.
The final disc is a DVD capturing two shows from 1985 and 1986. It's interesting to note that on the 1985 show label-mate Lizzy Borden introduced the band. Mike Torrez is the vocalist for this performance. This early show also features as ton of unreleased songs, some of which the band should consider recording in their current incarnation. The band is young and hungry here so they put on an energetic performance with heads banging and hair flying everywhere. The set finishes with a cover of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild". The second show features Mike Howe on vocals and was Heretic opening for Megadeth. The high-energy set is full of songs from "Breaking Point", as well as a couple from the "Torture" EP. The set is closed out with the AC/DC cover "Let there Be Rock". The camera work on both of these shows are not exactly professional but it's still a great look into the history of the band and I quite enjoyed the audio. In fact, the second time around I ignored the video and just cranked up the audio through my computer.
The booklets in each CD include photos, pictures of flyers and memorabilia, as well as lyrics and song by song commentary by Brian Korban.
It's good to have one of the original American power metal bands back again and it's certainly great that Metal Blade saw fit to pay homage to their history with this 3-disc box set.