Dig French accents and raw old-school thrash metal? Well then, here's your new favorite boxset of 2015. Nuclear War Now put out this killer collection in collaboration with Cauchemar's Annick Giroux as a kind of companion pieces to Felix B. Desfosses's recently published history of French Canadian metal L'evolution du Metal Quebecois, gathering together eight of their favorite demo tapes from the Quebecois thrash scene of the mid-to-late 1980s. It's lovingly assembled, each tape reproduced down to the original label design and with a reproduction of the original xeroxed tape cover tucked behind each tape, everything housed in a big chunky plastic box with cover art from Voivod's Away, with a sixteen page booklet with liner notes and band info written in both English and French. Very cool. This whole collection is a wicked blast from the past, and a great look at how vibrant the French Canadian metal underground was during this era. Just by looking at the thanks lists in each of the demos, you can see how Voivod were the nucleus of the burgeoning Quebec thrash scene, but at the same time there was a lot of variety coming out of this region. Some of these demos had previously been reissued on vinyl and/or CD by NWN, but here they are reproduced in their original form with an impressive attention to detail.
For fellow fanatics of weird 80's thrash, the centerpiece of massive boxset is Voivod's No Speed Limit Weekend live demo, recorded at The Spectrum in Montreal on October 12th, 1986 and originally released exclusively through the band's Iron Gang Fanclub prior to their excursion to Europe to record Killing Technology. These guys were at the top of their game at this point, brilliantly combining their prog rock influences with a ferocious, off-kilter thrash metal assault that was heavily tinged with the chaotic energy of US hardcore. Taking the stage as the theme from John Carpenter's The Thing plays over the PA system, the band tears through a ferocious hour long set, racing through blistering renditions of various songs off of Rrroooaaarrr, War And Pain and the Thrashing Rage 12". Sound quality is actually pretty great for being a soundboard recording, punchy enough that the band's zonked-out, dissonant sci-fi prog thrash totally irradiates you as they tear pell-mell though these breakneck versions of classic tunes like "Ripping Headaches", "Iron gang", "Warriors Of Ice" and "Voivod".
While they didn't achieve the level of fame that Voivod did, Obliveon were another amazing prog-thrash band that came out of the Montreal area around this times, and were themselves clearly influenced by the proggy weirdness of Voivod. The band's Demo #2 is included here, an awesome dose of unusual thrash metal that was already starting to show the spacey atmosphere, oddball riffing and chord structures, the nimble, dizzying bass work, savage death metal-esque vocals, and churning rhythmic complexity that would define their later albums. You can hear that heavy prog influence, but it's balanced with lots of speed and ferocity, and this along with the band's first album are pioneering pieces of Canadian tech-thrash history.
Barely out of junior high and looking like a cross between KISS and Venom in the high-contrast band photo that appeared on the sleeve of their 1987 Thrash Till Death demo, Quebecois numbskulls Vensor offer up one of the more bizarre demos in this set, with awesomely crude cover art and provocative use of swastikas and rude song titles for shock value, and a crude, low-fi attack comprised of raucous, sloppy thrash metal, some major delay-overdose on the vocals and a generally tilted vibe that makes this one weirdly endearing for fans of teenage violence. It's a nicely fucked-up stew of primitive brain-damaged speed metal, ambient weirdness that borders on Abruptum-esque, and unbridled adolescent misanthropy.
The craziest demo in this set might be Soothsayer's 1986 To Be a Real Terrorist tape. Easily the most maniacal outburst in this collection, the debut recording from this crazed outfit took Slayer-influenced thrash a few steps further into rabid, shrieking hysteria. With a demented, frothing at the mouth vocalist whose shrieks and near death metal-level throat-hate propels these five ripping blasts of spastic ultra-thrash into the further reaches of PCP-addled insanity, Soothsayer deliver their violence at a terrifying level of intensity. Musically, this demo fucking shreds, but those vocals are some of the most animalistic I've heard off a thrash tape from this era, so nutzoid and out of control that it's kind of reminiscent of Siege. Now I'm kicking myself for not grabbing that discography release that NWN put out a few years ago.
Even the more straightforward bands featured in this set are the creme de la creme of 80's era speed annihilation. The 1987 Trials of War demo from St-Bruno speedbeasts Treblinka delivers war-obsessed thrash ferocity, racing through six tracks of 100 mph fleshrip that has an unmistakable Slayer influence, but with a weird vocal delivery that goes from piercing Araya-style screams to an odd drawled moan. Denim-and-leather-clad street mutants Aggression are represented here with their 1995 Demo #1, which featured two songs that would later appear on the legendary 1986 compilations Thrash Metal Attack and Speed Metal Hell Vol. II on New Renaissance Records. Playing a violent brand of early thrash metal spiked with a noticeable hardcore punk influence, the band belted out this savage four song demo in 1985, combining evil, morbid imagery with a ferocious, super-catchy brand of filthy, punky thrash n' buzzsaw guitar assault that really rips, splattering insane guitar solos over their brutal speed bursts, slipping into titanic Frostian breakdowns and other savvy tempo changes to incite maximum mob-violence. The Buried Pieces 1984-1986 cassette combines two different demos from the obscure Montreal-area outfit Outrage, who briefly flirted with a record deal with Roadrunner in the late 80s before breaking up and disappearing into obscurity. It's another no-frills blast of rough-hewed thrash, at their core these guys were channeling some primo Motorhead-style speed metal (singer Nick Arrow sounds eerily akin to Lemmy) with mucho sass and some killer hooky songwriting ("Until You Bleed In" will likely be rattling around in my skull for at least a few more days), juicing that up with some heavy doses of later-era thrash metal, NWOBHM informed guitarwork, and even some flirtations with an early death metal vibe on the later recordings featured here. Burly stuff, across the board. And Voivod's hometown buddies in Voor spat out their own venomous brand of primitive blitzoid speed metal via their Evil Metal demo from 1985, a brief blast of wicked thrash that stood out for it's sheer unhinged chaotic energy and the singer's relatively extreme vocal style, a bestial bark that echoes wildly across these four songs; that gruff, unhinged delivery and the band's penchant for morbid imagery and satanic insanity reveals this to be a kind of lost proto-death metal artifact, somewhat comparable to early Possessed but infected with it's own unique strain of Quebecois madness. The violent energy on this awesome demo is through the fucking roof.
Aside from layout out an absurd stack of cash for original copies, No Speed Limit is the only way you're going to get these killer demos on the original format and with the original covers; it's one of the coolest cassette boxsets I've ever seen, and laying this thing out in front of me and blasting these tapes at maximum volume might be the closest thing to time travel I'll be able to manage for the moment. Totally recommended for fellow obscuro thrash addicts.