Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Mezmerist-The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty

Shadow Kingdom Records

Before we take a look at "The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty", which was originally released in 1985, please indulge me as I share with you a pet peeve that I have. Well, it's just one of many pet peeves that I have, but we're talking music right now so let's stick to that. When it comes to re-issues (like this one from L.A.'s The Mezmerist) I've been critical in the past as to what some labels consider "cult albums" and/or "cult bands". While now is neither the time nor the place to start naming names or highlighting what I would consider to be questionable record labels (let's just say that when it comes to some of these labels, and their re-issues, their idea of what is considered to be a "cult" release and my idea of what makes for a "cult" release usually vary by quite a bit!) let's just say that I cannot be the only poor sucker to have been roped in by some clever marketing with descriptions (we've all been had by the "recommended if you like band X, band Y and band Z) that prove to be far from the truth. When it comes to digging up old cult records though Shadow Kingdom Records seems to have a fairly solid track record. Let's mark this one down as a plus for the label. And that's a plus added on to the end of the letter A for something more akin to A+! Yes, this one is a real winner and the very thing needed to keep you and I from getting far too cynical about all these so-called "cult" re-issues. "Psychedelic Heavy Metal" is how the promo describes this somewhat mysterious US metal band. Lead by vocalist/guitarist Tommy Mezmercardo, who was the only common thread between this releases collection of two EPs (one officially released and the other one looks as if it was unearthed for this re-issue), the band's original release of  "The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty" was in 1985. According to the Metal Archives it was actually recorded "partly in 1982 and partly in 1983", before seeing release later on in 1985. That would make sense as the bonus EP, which we'll look at in a bit, looks as if it was recorded sometime in 1985. First things first though so let's get back to the original release of the 4-track EP "The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty". As it was limited to just 500 copies, which was a really short run for a LP like this, it naturally went on (years later) to fetch high prices on eBay. Today is a new day though and thanks to Shadow Kingdom Records a whole new generation of heavy metal fans and collectors will finally be able to get their hands on "The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty". Now, while Shadow Kingdom Records isn't to far off with the "Psychedelic Heavy Metal" description I'd prefer to tag this one as "Psychedelic Heavy Doom Metal". When it comes right down to though The Mezmerist, or at least Thomas Mezmercardo, this was a group that experimented with lots of different sounds and textures. The first four tracks though, which made up the original "The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty", are pretty close to the mark ("Psychedelic Heavy Doom Metal") while it's actually on the last three bonus cuts (which come from recordings done in 1985) where we see Thomas Mezmercardo relaxing the rules a little bit and adding new ideas into his music. I would kick myself though if I didn't bring up the most interesting part about "The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty". So, before we get to the bonus cuts and all that jazz, we should mention that Thomas Mezmercardo was able to get none other than Bill Ward to play drums! And yes, his presence is most definitely felt and appreciate on those 4 tracks. Although there's not as much doom as would be expected. It's there of course, but we're also talking about some traditional heavy metal riffs and (odd indeed) Led Zeppelin-style hard rock. With bassist Roger Abercrombie filling in the last open spot, as both sets of recordings presented here feature "power trio" line-ups, the band merges the likes of Cirith Ungol, Mercyful Fate, Coven, Hawkwind, Rush and even Italy's Paul Chain (who is also a bit of a hidden gem) into their own little art form. These 4 tracks are nice enough on their own and it's cool to see them presented on CD like this. OK, as for the bonus cuts? They include "Kingdom of the Dead",
"No Family, No Friends" and (a new fave of mine) "The Jam". For these 1985 recordings

vocalist/guitarist Tommy Mezmercardo (who incidentally sounds to me like cross between King Diamond and Geddy Lee!) is joined by bassist Steve Conrad and drummer JR. These bonus cuts are also
psychedelic and come packed with some doom and gloom, but they also bring to mind the punk and early new wave scenes. Or at least in my mind they do! Thomas Mezmercardo is a fantastic guitarist through-out all of these tracks and with each new song comes new arrangements that offer the listener something different. Truly this is a band that you have to hear to appreciate. Besides, any band that can have me simultaneously picturing both Mercyful Fate and Elvis Costello deserves a package like this! Ah yes, the complete package. Well, not only do you get the one disc with all these charmingly mysterious tracks, but then you've got this bonus DVD where Mezmercardo himself sits down and tells the story of how the band and everything else came together. So, you've got a nice CD/DVD package from Shadow Kingdom Records which seems like it would make more then a few collectors of cult recordings and doom fans happy. What more could you want?

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