MetalBite Review by Chris Pratl on 4/2/2019 8:52:45 PM
One of the more underrated musicians in the early death/thrash movement is now and always has been Paul Speckman. In fact, Speckman’s Death Strike was one of the first bands in the death metal movement alongside Possessed and Mantas, and the band’s demo made it into my hands around 1985. My original tape has long since been retired and with every bit the use it deserved. To see Fuckin’ Death reissued is a true majesty for us Chicago fans and the rest of the world at large that might not have heard the brilliance that was Death Strike.
To my ears, Speckman has a vocal that is reminiscent of Cronos and a bit of Jeff Becerra, meshing to make these harsh and bellowing yells all his own, driving home the putrid point of ‘Metal to the death!’ Death Strike was most assuredly ahead of its time back in 1984, only to see the likes of Dark Angel and Possessed decimate the upper crust of the death metal arena. While Speckman would go to such fine acts like Funeral Bitch, Abomination and the legendary Master, Death Strike holds a place in every Chicago death metal heart if you were lucky enough to see the band play as I did back in the day.
What is most alluring about this project is the true infancy of the scene at this point in time and how undervalued the band’s contributions are to this day; this is the totality of the death metal vehicle that is vehemently caustic and unable to compromise or be subjugated. The breakdowns and solos on this album are the exact blueprints for a thousand bands of today that we now call bandwagon-jumpers or pretenders. When you listen to “The Final Conflict” you may very easily think of the more primitive posers of today vying for this sound without so much as an obligatory nod to the school that taught them. With some of the most recycled riffs in modern history permeating this essential collective it’s not difficult to see who was criminally passed over in the accolades department over the last three decades. “Man Killer America/Embryonic Misconceptions” is a closely-crafted near crossover piece that belches deadly chord structure from the very beginning of “God Bless America”, which is more a poignant warning that touching tribute.
Without relying on the typicality and base colors of the early death metal sound, Death Strike was shifting gears and retooling some of the more memorable chord changes in metal’s elite history. “Pervert” is a prime example of what happens when an immovable force gets shoved out of the way and disassembled on the ground in the most belligerent fashion possible. As quickly as the Death Strike style might appear to be a straight line to follow blindly, “Remorseless Poison” just digs into your ears with all the subtlety of a rusty gardening hoe hacking at your bare back, sucking the air from your lungs and replacing it with shredding notes in a furious release. For the true death metal fan this is one of the absolute must-haves in any collection; it simply isn’t a real death metal collection without it, and with four rehearsal tracks to boot. Granted, the rehearsals are a bit rough, but for the aesthetic value they’re also a true gift to the fan that has to hear everything. The raw grit of these songs is also indicative of the true Death Strike sound that wafted through many a crisp Chicago night air back in the mid-80’s, and we sure do miss that period.
Dark Descent did a fine job with this one, so grab it and pay homage to the unsung heroes of early death/thrash.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)