Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forgotten Gems: Hydra Vein-Rather Death Than False Of Faith

Metalother/ Blackend Records
1988/ 2008

Formed in Brighton in the spring of 1987 Hydra Vein came about after Deathwish bassist Damon Maddison decided he wanted to move on and write his own material. Joined by his brother Nathon ( who had also played in Deathwish) on drums the group would add Mike Keen (Mask, Powerpact/Nostradamus) on vocals and guitarists Dave Brunt (also known as Dave Deathwish) and Alan Wheatley-Crowe. Seeing as both guitarists were involved with their own bands at the time they appear on the credits listing as “Jack Kartoffel”. This line up would record 1987's The Reptilliad demo. The demo tape would end up getting rave reviews and created a buzz about the band. Metalother would offer them a one album deal and the band recruited guitarists Danny Ranger (who’s brother Stuart replaced Maddison in Deathwish) and Steve Davis (not my brother the dentist but a different Steve Davis). After a few of months of rehearsals the band would enter the Blue Box studios in Hove to record their Rather Death Than False Of Faith album which was released in 1988. As one of the earliest British thrash bands of the eighties, Hydra Vein crafted an album of full on Slayer/Sabbat style metal. The album received it's fair share of positive reviews in the metal press and was helped along by exposure on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show (BBC Radio One) and touring as both a headliner and as a supporting act with Toranaga and Sodom. My first exposure to the album came as I was digging through a stack of LPS at the Record Exchange near me. It was a few years after the album had been out (early 1990 or 1991) and I saw that a local college station had dropped off a box of albums. Mixed in with the likes of Onslaught and Meliah Rage was this underrated gem. On first listen Hydra Vein does come off as Britain's answer to the Reign In Blood boys. Rather Death Than False Of Faith is non-stop thrash hard or get out of the way metal. The LP got a lot of play from me in my early days with songs like "Crucifer", "Right To Die" and the killer title track all blowing out my speakers. The original production job did leave a little to be desired (the remastered version I now have sounds tons better and ups the crunch factor) many people have complained. Seeing as I listened to a lot of demo tapes back then it didn't bother me that much. It's nothing that stopped me from returning to the album time and time again. The artwork? Again, many have said it lacks that "punch". While it isn't on par with other classic thrash covers I've always liked it for the cheese factor. I'm weird that way. Anyway, Hydra Vein would soldier on for a bit despite replacing both guitarists. They released After The Dream on RKT in 1989 and it also received positive reviews. Problem was the group couldn't shake the Slayer clone tag. A little over a year later the band would end up disbanding and going their own ways. Sadly vocalist Mike Keen died in 2002 from an apparent suicide. Jon Balfour (one of the replacement guitarists along with Paul Bate) also passed away in 1992. Despite the tragedy the band's music lived on through word of mouth and remained a popular bootleg album. Thankfully someone finally realized that Rather Death Than False Of Faith needed a re-release. Remixed, remastered, and reissued on January 21, 2008 by Blackend Records with After the Dream on one disc is a beautiful thing to behold. While the CD copy goes for an unreal $45 or so on Amazon I snagged my copy off of Itunes for much less. From what I heard the CD doesn't come with much of a booklet which is a shame. But, the fact that the album can be had now digitally is what counts most. No longer do I need to pull out my record player, hook it up and then slap on this bad boy. I can listen to this anytime and anywhere now on a whim not that I ever plan to part with original copy! Hydra Vein might not be the first name you think of when you discuss British thrash. That said though many thrashers have a fond spot in their heart for this sloppy speed feast. I've meet more people over the years who rave about this album and that makes it all the better knowing that Hydra Vein were more than a cheap knock off (not in my mind of course) of Slayer but were rather a good bunch of thrash loving lads. In much the same way as Venom had played with a sense of punk attitude the Maddison brothers (and company) whipped up some thrash frenzy back in the day. And yet even today their music inspires young thrashers. My young friend Joshua (14) was introduced to Hydra Vein awhile back and it's kids like him (who has his own band by the way) that benefit from the thrash metal explosion on display here. While thrash is back now and all the rage kids need to be able to have albums like this available as a blueprint for playing thrash attack music. Spread the word folks so more young metalheads like Joshua don't have to settle for has-beens like Anthrax and Metallica but instead can learn a thing or two from a band that was more interested in playing thrash than acting like divas.


Anonymous Dan Ranger said...

Cheers for the kind words :)

Dan (Hydra Vein)

3:02 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

No problem Dan. If you would ever like to do an interview with us drop us a line!

7:37 AM  
Blogger John said...

Wow, didn't know someone from Hydra Vein was lurking through your review site Andy. An interview would be cool.

Hydra Vein is a truly forgotten Gem....It is classic thrash, they don't make em like this anymore....


9:41 PM  
Blogger Dan Ranger said...

Happy to do an interview anytime Andy. Sorry for late reply LOL

8:02 AM  

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