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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Cro-Mags

There are some scenes that stay local, some which are struggling and then there those which become legendary. One such example is the Bay Area thrash metal scene, which gave the world such bands as Exodus, Testament and Metallica, but on the other side of the country was something just as important which would shape the thrash metal scene there. A movement which has been the subject of documentaries and books, the New York Hardcore scene. Many of the best bands in the genre came from this, including Agnostic Front and later, Sick of it All, but there was one band that were legends in their own time as well as today, who went by the name of Cro-Mags.

The group began life in 1981 in New York City, the brain child of bass player, Harley Flanagan, who was only fourteen at the time but was intent on making himself known in the local punk scene, as well as hitchhiking his way to California to check out the punk scene there. The band went through a number of musicians and at one point, were seriously considering approaching Beastie Boys member, Adam Yauch to join. They also didn't have a singer until 1984, when fifteen year old Eric Casanova was brought into the fold. Though he only performed two shows with the group, he contributed to the writing of such songs as, "Life of my Own" and "Hard Times." He was eventually replaced by John Joseph, also knows as John Bloodclot, who had worked with Flanagan before in Mode of Ignorance. Joseph was the perfect fit for the band and his lyrics helped them evolve into the image we know today, helping to craft more songs and complete a solid live set. More...

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Sunday Old School: Holocaust

Last year, MetalUnderground took a look at the history and legacy of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which included a personal top ten of bands from the movement. There were of course, far more than ten great bands at the time and it was mentioned in the article that some bands that didn’t make it into the list were of very high quality. One such band hailed from the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh and definitely made its own stamp on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That band was Holocaust.

The band began life in 1977, comprising of guitarists John Mortimer and Ed Dudley, vocalist Gary Lettice, bassist Robin Begg and drummer Nick Brockie. They formed at an opportune time, allowing them to become swept up in the growing popularity of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a time where record labels were searching for any metal bands they could, though instead of opting to sign with a company, the group formed their own label, Phoenix Record And Filmworks and released two singles, "Heavy Metal Mania" and "Smokin' Valves," before releasing their debut full length album, "The Nightcomers" in 1981. The record was very well received by heavy metal fans and remains one of the most popular albums of the NWOBHM era, featuring the two previously released singles as well as such songs as "Death or Glory" and the title track. More...

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Sunday Old School: Spooky Tooth

Sometimes in the Sunday Old School column, we like to go back to the very early days of heavy metal, before the term was even in use. It’s interesting to find out about some of the bands who were first slapped with the “heavy metal” tag, who may not fit in with today’s definition of the genre, but certainly influenced it. This week, we’ll be looking at just such a band, one who’s approach to the hard rock of the time had more attitude than most and whose name is still dropped today as one of heavy metal’s earliest pioneers, Spooky Tooth. The group was formed as The V.I.P.’s in 1963 in the North Eastern English town of Carlisle and initially performed a rhythm and blues brand of rock before changing their name in 1967 to Art. Under this name, they released the album, “Supernatural Fairy Tales” before changing it again soon afterwards to Spooky Tooth.

Under this new moniker, the group soon recorded a new album, “It’s All About,” which hit the shelves in the summer of 1968. The record received some very positive reviews and contained a cover of the Bob Dylan song, “Too Much of Nothing,” as well as another noteworthy cover track in the form of opener, “Society’s Child,” a song by Janis Ian which commented upon the then controversial subject of interracial romance. This was one of only two albums to feature the original Spooky Tooth lineup, the sophomore effort coming a year later under the title, “Spooky Two,” which featured the song, “Better By You, Better Than Me,” which was of course later to be covered by fellow British rockers, Judas Priest and go on to be the subject of a highly controversial court case. Many critics now regard, “Spooky Two” as the band’s best work to date, citing a great sense of passion found throughout the record. More...

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Sunday Old School: Therion

The band began life as Blitzkrieg (not to be confused with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band of the same name) in Upplands Väsby, located in the Stockholm county, a brainchild of bass player Christofer Johnsson, guitarist Peter Hansson and drummer Oskar Forss and played a style of music similar in sound to Venom. The band lasted only two shows before a falling out with Forss forced the group to fold. The group did reform a few months later however, under the new moniker, Megatherion, taking its name from the classic Celtic Frost album. Johnsson put down the bass in favour of guitar and brought in Johan Hansson as the new bassist, along with drummer, Mika Tovalainenm though shortly after the band shortened their name to Therion, both new members took their leave, with original drummer Forss returning to the fold and Erik Gustafsson, best known as a member of Dismember coming in on bass.

With a name finally decided on and a lineup in place, Therion got to work on their first demo, "Paroxysmal Holocaust," which was released in 1989 and followed the same year by a second demo, "Beyond the Darkest Veils on Inner Wickedness." After a third demo, "Time Shall Tell," recorded the next year, they signed a deal with Deaf Records, through which they released their first full length album, "Of Darkness…" in 1991. It was hailed as one of the first progressive death metal albums, though it received mixed reviews upon release and the band saw it as the shedding of their early death metal skin. More...

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Sunday Old School: Van Halen

Though the Netherlands have given the world some excellent metal bands over the years such as Pestilence and God Dethroned, the country doesn’t receive as much attention as some others in Europe, such as their neighbours in Germany. However, it’s worth remembering that one of the most important names in the history of hard rock and heavy metal was literally born in the Netherlands in 1953 and 1955, where in the city of Nijmegen, the brothers Alex and Eddie were born, siblings who would go on to bring their surname into rock folklore. The name of Van Halen.

The brothers moved with their family to the United States in 1962 and started to learn instruments shortly afterwards, with Eddie learning drums and Alex learning guitar, though they switched after Eddie found out that Alex had been playing his drums while the younger brother was out on his paper route. They eventually formed a band which they Christened, Genesis, along with bassist Mark Stone and ultimately bringing in singer David Lee Roth, who the band had been hiring a P.A. from, who was hired to save money. Stone was soon replaced by Michael Anthony and another change came when the quartet found out about the British band named Genesis, so decided to rename themselves, Mammoth, though this name would also be dropped in favour of the now familiar, Van Halen. More...

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Sunday Old School: Slade

I don’t know if any of you have noticed it, but it’s that magical time of year when Michael Buble releases a new album, which can mean only one thing... IIIIIIIIT’S CHRIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAAS!!! Whether you celebrate it or not, it’s a time meant for fun and games, and if ever there was a band in rock music that were all about a good time, it was one of the earliest stars of British hard rock, whose outlandish attire, booming vocals and deafening volume would go on to influence many of the biggest rock and metal bands for years to come and write one of the best modern Christmas songs of all time. A group still loved by generations in Great Britain, a group by the name of Slade.

Slade, like many of their heaviest compatriots, began life in the English Midlands, and was the result of two local bands, The Mavericks and The ‘N Betweens, the latter of which had been able to obtain high profile support slots for such bands as The Hollies and The Yardbirds. Within the ranks of the Mavericks was a guitarist and vocalist by the name of Noddy Holder that The ‘N Betweens desperately coveted. They unsuccessfully attempted to get Holder to switch sides on a ferry trip the two groups happened to be sharing, but were finally able to convince him to join during a conversation in Wolverhampton. More...

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Sunday Old School: Nocturnus

For decades, heavy metal fans have pointed certain things and debated as to whether they are or aren’t, “metal.” Haircuts, elements of classical music, or indeed most other forms of music, these are a couple of the targets, but one of the first things to shock some fans of metal music was the use of keyboards. In his book, “Hell Bent for Leather,” author Seb Hunter mentions the time when he first heard British legends, UFO and recoiling when he realised they were using keyboards. Metal has certainly evolved since the days of UFO and keyboards have been used on many metal records, especially in the symphonic black metal genre, but one of the first bands to bring the instrument to extreme metal music was a group from Tampa, Florida named Nocturnus.

Nocturnus began life in 1987 after drummer/vocalist, Mike Browning and guitarist, Gino Marino’s previous band, Incbus folded. They recruited Agent Steel bass player, Richard Bateman and a second guitarist named Vincent Crowley, recording and releasing their first demo later that year. This self-titled demo would prove to be their only recording with Crowley, who left soon afterwards to form, Acheron and was replaced by Marino’s eighteen year old cousin, Mike Davis. Bateman would also soon leave the group to join Nasty Savage, whereupon Nocturnus hired a new bassist, Jeff Estes and most famously, a keyboard player named, Louis Panzer, whose inclusion helped to set them apart from the ever growing Florida death metal scene, as it was practically unheard of at the time to utilise keyboards in extreme metal. More...

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Sunday Old School: Crash

As we approach the end of another year, it would seem that Sunday Old School's attempt to expose more metal veterans from across the world has been a success. From Aria in Russia to Moonspell in Portugal, from Channel Zero in Belgium to Mezarkabul in Turkey, we've seen some of the best the world has given the metal genre and heard some of the best music on offer. This week, we'll be continuing this trend by heading to Asia for the first and only time since 2011's column on Japan's, Loudness, to check out a contribution to thrash metal from South Korea, one which had the suitably high impact moniker of Crash.

The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist/bassist, Ahn Heung-Chan, guitar player, Yoon Doo-Byung and drummer, Jung Yong-Wook, in the country's capital city of Seoul and became one of the first groups in the nation to encourage stage diving and hardcore dancing. Their ferocious music and growing, rabid following soon caught the attention of Metal Force Records, a subsidiary of the SK Group, a giant corporation in Korea. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sadus

When it comes to naming some of music’s best bassists, who is it you think of? Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic? Norman Watt-Roy of The Blockheads? The unsung legends such as James Jamerson? Personally, at least when it comes to metal, I believe it’s very hard to find a better bass player than Steve DiGiorgio, who first made his name with the thrash metal outfit Sadus.

Sadus was formed in Antioch, California in 1984 by DiGiorgio, vocalist Darren Travis, drummer Jon Allen and guitarist, Rob Moore, but was unable to record a demo tape until 1986, which came in the form of “D.T.P. (Death to Posers.)” Two tracks from the demo made their way to the Raging Death compilation album and with popularity steadily increasing, the group decided to self-finance a full length album, “Illusions,” with Metal Church guitarist John Marshall handling production duties.

The album found enough success underground to catch the attention of several record labels, with Roadrunner eventually being the company that snapped Sadus up. By 1990, the band had released second full length record, “Swallowed in Black,” which was able to break into the top fifty in Poland. Sadus expanded its profile further still by teaming up with Brazilian thrashers Sepultura and American death metal act Obituary for a tour of North America. The band followed this with the release of a third album, “A Vision of Misery,” in 1992. More...

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Sunday Old School: Aria

It’s interesting to think that this week will see a new album from one of the biggest metal bands in the biggest country in the world, one which has a long lasting love of metal music too, yet many, many head bangers will not have heard of them. We all know that back in the days of the Soviet Union, many freedoms were restricted by the regime, but this didn’t stop heavy metal music from leaking in and influencing the Russian youth to create their own bands. One such group hailed from the capital city of Moscow and was spawned when two Muscovite metalheads named Vladimir Holstinin and Alik Granovsky decided to pursue their beloved music with a new project named, Aria.

They chose the moniker so that it would be short, sweet and easily translatable, a memorable name inspired by the brand of guitar which Holstinin owned. They finished writing enough music for a full length album and began the process of looking for a singer, which they eventually found in the guise of Valery Kipelov. Before the end of 1985, the band released their debut album, "Mania Velichia," which attracted the attention of many rock fans in Russia because it was very different from anything else on show in the country at the time. It was even able to produce a music video for the song, "America is Behind," something which was not common for rock bands to do at the time. More...

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Sunday Old School: Mezarkabul

This past year we’ve looked at some of the old guard in a lot of places across the world. From Rotting Christ in Greece, to Belphegor in Austria to Pentagram Chile in… uh, Chile. Today Sunday Old School will once again be looking at a band from a place we haven’t examined yet, and another band called Pentagram to boot, though internationally they are not known by the same moniker as the Chilean and American groups, but rather by a word which in their home country of Turkey means "to accept the grave," a band known outside the former Ottoman Empire by the name of Mezarkabul. The group was formed in the city of Bursa in 1986 by drummer, Cenk Ünnü and guitarist, Hakan Utangaç, with bass player, Tarkan Gözübüyük joining their ranks the next year. Utangaç assumed the role of lead vocalist for the first few years, during which they performed live frequently, building up a fan base strong enough to get them signed to Nepa Muzik, through whom they released their self-titled debut full length.

Shortly after the record’s release, the group recruited a new vocalist named, Bartu Toptas, allowing Utangaç to concentrate more on his guitar playing, a pressure which was lessened when Pentagram brought in a second guitarist, Demir Demirkan in 1992. Toptas did not stay with the group for long however and his only recording with the group can be heard as part of the intro to the song, "Secret Missile," the opening track of their sophomore album, "Trail Blazer," on which vocals were performed by a singer named, Ogün Sanlisoy. The album was notable for the song, "Fly Forever," which was written about their guitarist, Ümit Yilbar, who was killed by terrorists in 1993 whilst performing national service. More...

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Sunday Old School: Exhumed

Death metal is notorious for its lyrics which focus on the brutal and at times sickening aspects of life. While many bands are wrongly accused of writing material which relies solely on this area, one band who revelled in such a subject was America’s own, Exhumed. Exhumed were formed in the state of California in 1990 by then fifteen year old, Matt Harvey. They were influenced by some of the more interesting death metal bands of the time such as Carcass and Terrorizer and set out to put their own unique stamp on the branch of extreme music which they loved so much, deciding ultimately that it would be gore they focused on.

They recorded a significant number of demos, split releases and EPs in the early career before eventually signing a record deal with Relapse, a label which had become known as the home of the American branch of grindcore, much like Earache was known as in the United Kingdom. They released their first full length album, "Gore Metal" in 1998, which featured an incredibly gruesome front cover and contained a cover of the Sodom song, "Sodomy and Lust" in addition to the twelve original compositions on offer. Although somewhat sloppy by Harvey’s admission, the record was received quite well by the death metal audience and they were soon hitting the road to promote the album. More...

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Sunday Old School: M.O.D.

Heavy metal contains some worldwide rock stars, from Ozzy Osbourne to Metallica. But in addition to the famous names, metal also has a large number of underground icons and cult favourites. One of these beloved people in this category is a man named Billy Milano, who’s known for his large presence and sometimes hilarious lyrics, two things he brought with him when he formed Method Of Destruction in 1986. Method Of Destruction, (or M.O.D. as they are often referred to,) was started by Milano after Stormtroopers Of Death (S.O.D.,) a thrash metal supergroup for which he was the vocalist, placed themselves on hiatus.

In 1987, the band recorded and released their debut album, "U.S.A. For M.O.D.," the title of which was a play on the planned Stormtroopers of Death album, "U.S.A. For S.O.D." It was co-produced by Anthrax guitarist (and Milano's S.O.D. bandmate,) Scott Ian and continued on from where the previous group left off, spouting tongue in cheek diatribes mostly written from the point of view of their mascot, Corporal Punishment. More...

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Sunday Old School: Black Sabbath Part 4

As so many of our readers are aware, in the United States, the month of February is Black History Month. It’s also the time when we devote the Sunday Old School column to Black Metal history. What many of our readers might not know however, is that Black History Month is also held in the United Kingdom, albeit on a far less noticed scale. Since it doesn’t make sense to dedicate two months of the year to one genre, Metal Underground and Sunday Old School in particular, will focus on a different history, that of arguably the first, and many would say best, heavy metal band of all time. Welcome to the final installment of Black Sabbath History Month!

The eighties had not been as kind to Black Sabbath as it had to some of their contemporaries and after a string of overlooked albums and cancelled tour dates, it seemed that unless something special happened, the band would soon be over. Fortunately for them, and indeed the fans, something spectacular did indeed happen, as following a guest appearance by Geezer Butler at a Dio concert, the bassist and singer returned to Black Sabbath, eventually also being rejoined by Vinny Appice. More...

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Sunday Old School: Black Sabbath Part 3

As so many of our readers are aware, in the United States, the month of February is Black History Month. It’s also the time when we devote the Sunday Old School column to Black Metal history. What many of our readers might not know however, is that Black History Month is also held in the United Kingdom, albeit on a far less noticed scale. Since it doesn’t make sense to dedicate two months of the year to one genre, Metal Underground and Sunday Old School in particular, will focus on a different history, that of arguably the first, and many would say best, heavy metal band of all time. Welcome to Black Sabbath History Month!

After losing three iconic singers in Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan, Black Sabbath were dealt yet another huge blow when Geezer Butler decided to quit, leaving guitarist Tony Iommi as the sole original remaining member. Iommi decided that he should record a solo album and leave Black Sabbath alone, though their name was soon brought back when the original lineup reunited to perform at Live Aid in the United States, however it wasn’t the full time resurgence fans had hoped for, as Ozzy returned to his solo career immediately afterwards. Iommi returned to the studio and continued to work on his solo album, along with vocalist Glenn Hughes, another former member of Deep Purple. More...

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Sunday Old School: Black Sabbath Part 2

As so many of our readers are aware, in the United States, the month of February is Black History Month. It’s also the time when we devote the Sunday Old School column to Black Metal history. What many of our readers might not know however, is that Black History Month is also held in the United Kingdom, albeit on a far less noticed scale. Since it doesn’t make sense to dedicate two months of the year to one genre, Metal Underground and Sunday Old School in particular, will focus on a different history, that of arguably the first, and many would say best, heavy metal band of all time. Welcome to Black Sabbath History Month!

Following the firing of their lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath’s future was cast in to a shadow as dark as their music. That was until their manager Don Arden’s daughter Sharon, now known of course as Sharon Osbourne, suggested that they bring in Rainbow’s former vocalist, an American by the name of Ronnie James Dio. Dio not only brought a new voice to the fold, but also a new attitude, helping the band become more driven than they had been in years. Though Geezer Butler at one point left the group, he returned in time to record their first album with their new frontman. More...

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Sunday Old School: Black Sabbath Part 1

As so many of our readers are aware, in the United States, the month of February is Black History Month. It’s also the time when we devote the Sunday Old School column to Black Metal history. What many of our readers might not know however, is that Black History Month is also held in the United Kingdom, albeit on a far less noticed scale, in the month of October. Since it doesn’t make sense to dedicate two months of the year to one genre, Metal Underground and Sunday Old School in particular, will focus on a different history, that of arguably the first, and many would say best, heavy metal band of all time. Welcome to Black Sabbath History Month!

The seeds of Black Sabbath, and perhaps heavy metal itself, were sewn when guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward teamed up with bass player Terry "Geezer" Butler and vocalist John "Ozzy" Osbourne, an old schoolmate and reported bullying victim of Iommi’s. They formed the Pulka Tulk Blues Band, which also featured a slide guitarist named Jimmy Clarke and saxophonist, Alan Clarke. The sextuplet quickly shortened their moniker to Pulka Tulk, before changing their name once again to Earth. In order to remove Phillips and Clarke from the group in the most polite way possible, the founding quartet decided to disband then reunite the band as a four piece, recording new, exciting material such as "A Song for Jim," (a tribute to their manager, Jim Simpson.) After being mistaken frequently for another British band of the same name, Earth decided to once again rechristen themselves, choosing the now iconic name Black Sabbath upon Geezer’s suggestion, who remarked how interesting it was that people would pay to be scared by films such as the Boris Karloff feature from which the quartet took their name. More...

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Sunday Old School: Lock Up

A few months back, Sunday Old School examined the career of Brujeria, a band which proved that not all super groups are disappointments. They featured amongst their ranks Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Dino Cazares of Fear Factory and Shane Embury of Napalm Death. Embury has never been one to shy away from side projects and collaborations, as his stints with Brujeria, Venomous Concept and partnership with the British hip-hop group, Gunshot demonstrates, but there was another project he worked on which gained considerable attention. Indeed, it could be considered another supergroup, this time going by the name, Lock Up.

Lock Up was formed by Embury and then Cradle of Filth drummer, Nicholas Barker (later of Benediction, Dimmu Borgir and also Brujeria, amongst others.) The seeds were sewn one night when the two were drinking together and listening to some of their favourite metal records, talking about how they’d like to do a band which encapsulated the fun and brutality of early Napalm Death records, as well as being influenced by the Terrorizer album, "World Downfall," whose founder, Jesse Pintado, was then also in Napalm Death and was brought in to the Lock Up ranks, along with Swedish musician, Peter Tägtgren, perhaps best known as the driving force behind the death metal band, Hypocrisy. More...

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Sunday Old School: Deep Purple

It’s a widely accepted fact that it’s important to know your history and generally agreed upon that one should also be aware of their roots. With that in mind, it seemed an appropriate to finally devote a Sunday Old School column to one of the most important bands in the history of heavy metal, though they may not strictly fit the tag by the modern definition. Most people, when discussing the first metal bands will point to three groups, all formed in England; Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, both from the Midlands are two and the other was born in the country’s capital. The other is named, Deep Purple.

Deep Purple was initially conceived as a supergroup called Roundabout, named so because the idea was for musicians to join and leave the band whenever they wanted. It was the brainchild of drummer Chris Curtis, who began assembling the band with the help of manager Tony Edwards, beginning with organist, Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Curtis was soon fired from the group owing to his behaviour and was eventually replaced by Ian Paice, who was brought along by singer Rod Evans during his own successful audition for the band, who by that time had also brought in a bassist by the name of Nick Simper. After performing a few shows in Sweden and Denmark, Blackmore suggested they change their moniker to Deep Purple, reportedly in honour of his grandmother’s favourite song. The suggestion was accepted and they began life as the outfit we all know today. More...

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Sunday Old School: Acid Drinkers

We've already seen twice this year, through our features on Behemoth and Vader, that Poland is a country which has contributed some great works to the art of heavy metal music. This week, we'll be taking a look at another band from the country that helped to pave the way for metal in Eastern Europe and stake a place in the thrash which had boomed in their neighbouring country, Germany. A group from Poznan known quite memorably as Acid Drinkers.

The band was formed in September 1986 by singing bassist Tomasz "Titus" Pukacki and guitarist, Robert "Litza" Friedrich, who were soon joined by drummer, Maciej "Slepy" Gluchowski and another guitar player named, Dariusz "Popcorn" Popowicz. They recorded their first songs together before Pukacki was forced to put his musical aspirations on hold for two years to do his part for the army. He returned two years later and eventually reformed Acid Drinkers with Friedrich and Maciek "Slimak" Starosta. They performed their first gig in August 1989 in western Poland's largest city, Wroclaw. The thrashers quickly made a name for themselves, earning a record deal with Under One Flag, an English record label which had previously released albums by such artists as Onslaught. More...

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