Sunday, April 15, 2012

Forgotten Gems: Purgatory-Tied To The Trax

Auburn Records

As far as I am concerned no label has done more for the Ohio metal scene that Auburn Records. From as far back as I can remember (my late teens/early twenties being a bit of a blur as it is) I've loved the Ohio metal scene. Thanks to Auburn Records I had been exposed to great groups like Breaker, Chemikill, Attaxe, Destructor (great live!), Wretch and Shok Paris. Thanks in no small part to their excellent 1990 cassette compilation, "Heavy Artillery" (article to follow on this killer compilation) I was also turned onto bands like Kraze, Decimation, Terror, Brainicide (with a very young Tim Owens!), Hatrix and Purgatory. Now Purgatory (not to be confused with the numerous other acts laying claim to that name) had the excellent track "Blood's The Price" on the "Heavy Artillery" compilation. That track featured Andy Boyer (Battery , Rebellious Angels, Hollow, S.O.S.) though as he had replaced the group's original vocalist, a certain Mr. Jeff Hatrix. Jeff Hatrix went on to bigger and better things (Mushroomhead of course) although he also fronted his own self-titled band later on. Purgatory itself was formed in 1984 in Cleveland, Ohio. The band released a self-titled EP in 1985 followed by "Tied To The Trax" in 1986. A demo ("Dr. Pain") followed in 1989 and of course we have their "Heavy Artillery" contribution. Besides Jeff Hatrix on lead vocals "Tied To The Trax" features drummer Kenny Easterly of cult act Mystik fame and guitarist Greg Perry who also played in Attaxe as well as his own band Zyklone. Bass duties were handled by Mark Alexander who ended up playing in (off all things) a country/classic rock act. Rather hard to believe he ended up playing country rock as his bass has all the hallmarks of good old fashioned heavy metal. You know that nice crunchy back end that sends shivers up the spine of many a heavy metal freak. Hatrix himself sounds good here although when he tries to sing in that mid-range area he ends up sounding a bit out of his element. Other times it is hard to fathom that this is the same guy who ended up in Mushroomhead because his pure heavy metal voice is so refreshing. Kenny Easterly is given plenty of space to move about and his drumming sounds classic. Greg Perry though rarely gets to play anything that ends up too fancy or technical. The thing is within Purgatory's musically boundaries he doesn't need to. When he is given a chance to show what he is capable of his lead work is solid. Sometimes I do wish they would have let him really get go crazy. If he did perhaps "Tied To The Trax" would have been one of those eighties heavy metal wonders that collectors just drool over. Or maybe it would have changed Purgatory's sound too much and taken away that raw feeling that makes the band seems all the more real and intimidating. If you've never heard the band before musically one could say that Purgatory was pure eighties in sound and image. Mixing parts of speed metal, power metal, thrash and even traditional heavy metal they were a no frills band-what you see is what you get. Sometimes you hear parts of bands like Overkill, Raven, Metal Church, Destructor, Abattoir, Megadeth, Culprit, Griffin, Chastain and even Jeff's own Hatrix. "Tied To The Trax" (like a lot of albums from the same era I'm afraid) does sound a bit dated now. Thing is this one has nice and heavy riffs, twisted bass, screaming for blood metal vocals, pounding drums and (when they let the man get loose) shredding lead solos. The album has plenty of solid riffs and for fans of eighties metal everything you could hope for. Over the top vocals from Hartix? Yes. Cheesy lyrics? You bet! Headbanging solos? When Greg gets crazy oh yeah! The fact is this is just one fun album screaming for a proper re-release. Auburn Records does have plans to do that, but from talking with their owner it is not in their immediate future. Oh well. Now, while the band ended up folding sometime after the 1989 demo was released the four original members of Purgatory did supposedly do a one night only reunion show on June 3, 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio. Beyond that things have been quiet on the Purgatory front. Who knows if we have truly heard the last of the band or not. With Jeff's busy life though it does seem highly unlikely that Purgatory will ever release new material again.

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