First Witches Hammer, now Mission of Christ!
Victoria, British Columbia archival label Supreme Echo continues to unearth treasures from the past with an attention to detail that breathes new life into each project. Last year the label released early Canadian punk nuggets from The Reaction, Private School, Plan Nine, Wasted Lives, The Stiffs, and Vendetta plus the early doom of Triton Warrior and the 1987 EP of raging crossover metal by Vancouver’s Witches Hammer.
On the docket is Victoria thrashcore merchants Mission of Christ with ‘Realms of Evil’, a four song flexi that will be released as part of a deluxe combo package with the full-length LP ‘Silence In Grave’ (1987-89).
Much has been written about the initial collision of hardcore punk and metal, but by 1987 the crossover was pretty much complete. In 1985 alone ‘Screams From The Gutter‘ from Italian hardcore band Raw Power had ripping guitar solos, double bass drumming and even a freakin’ cowbell. Splattercore band The Accüsed’s first EP ‘Martha Splatterhead‘ incorporated Metallica-like thrash riffs, while Corrosion of Conformity released ‘Animosity‘ with its aggressive metallic riffs. Agnostic Front’s metal focused ‘Cause For Alarm‘ came out in 1986 and DRI finally called it what it was and put out ‘Crossover‘ in 1987. That’s five primarily hardcore bands moving directly into metal territory.
None of this was lost on a group of teenagers from Victoria, BC. Like any other scene, Vancouver/Victoria saw the metal and punk scenes collide in violent fashion. Vancouver was a punk epicentre with bands like DOA and The Subhumans, but the punks didn’t’ take kindly to metalheads invading the scene and metalheads were still testing the waters. For kids picking up a guitar, heavily into to punk and metal, it wasn’t the friendliest, most welcome place to play either style of music. Unfortunately the early animosity between the two factions would only intensify.
In early 1986 friends Stephen McBean (guitar), Mike Synnuck (vocals), Jon London (drums,) and Randy Long (bass), who had all been together in hardcore bands in some incarnation – Jerk Ward, Sludge Confrontations, started jamming. Initially the band was called Xcentric Youth Armistice (XYA), then Triple-Mouthed Beast of Hell, but they renamed themselves Mission of Christ and recorded a rehearsal demo of the ‘Realms Of Evil‘ material as a four piece. It didn’t take long for them to find a place in the crossover scene, opening for DRI in July of that year.
They gigged around a bit and soon added Kev Smith (Neos) as a second guitar.
“We started out playing punk shows because we were punks”, says McBean. “John Hircock from Overkill Radio was hugely supportive and always flowed mix tapes with demos by fresh blood like Death, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, etc. He gave us an advance cassette of Slayer’s Reign in Blood a month before it came out. When we dropped that fucker into Mike’s car stereo, life became “Before and after hearing Reign In Blood.”
On ‘Realms of Evil‘, the 1986 four track demo, MOC hadn’t fully crossed over but there is still enough metal and ferocity to satisfy any headbanger or hardcore punk. Eventually they recorded a rehearsal demo of the tracks as a quintet and then the same material was re-recorded for the ‘Silence In Grave‘ demo. That’s when things really started to take off.
Combining raw, fast and furious punk with wicked thrash riffs, screaming solos, wailing vocals, and galloping drums, all played at 200 kilometers per hour, the band generated quite a bit of label interest back in the day. Labels like Alchemy, Manic Ears, and Metal Blade were all interested, but a little apathy and a focus on beer and smokes ensured it never happened.
Before breaking up in 1989, MOC recorded two demos and released a split 7-inch with Fratricide in 1987. They helped blaze a trail by playing shows with the likes of Red Tide, Dayglo Abortions, the Accused, DRI, Fratricide, All, DOA, Nomeansno, Witches Hammer, Karrion, NG3, Death Sentence, and Atrocity.