If the 80s were the metal years, then 1985 – 1987 were the thrash years. The years 85/86 alone saw the release of Slayer’s ‘Hell Awaits‘ and ‘Reign In Blood‘, ‘Bonded By Blood’ from Exodus, Celtic Frost’s ‘To Mega Therion‘, Kreator’s ‘Endless Pain‘ and ‘Pleasure To Kill‘, Destructions’ ‘Infernal Overkill‘ and ‘Eternal Devastation‘, Possessed’s ‘Seven Churches‘ and ‘Beyond The Gates‘. And off course with Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets‘ hitting the Billboard charts in ’86, well thrash had arrived.
I was a metal tape trader back then – trading cassettes of demos and live shows with others around the world. As well, being a part of the scene in Toronto, I was well aware of a burgeoning underground metal tsunami across the rest of Canada. Ontario was a hotspot with Sacrifice and Slaughter (Toronto), Razor (Guelph), and Exciter and Annihilator (Ottawa) all releasing records or having heavily traded demos. But there were scenes like it all over the country; Canadian garages and basements were full of kids thrashing away, all trying to be heavier than the last.
In Delta, British Columbia around 1985, a group of metalheads, vocalist Duncan Stuart, guitarists Blair Hagen, and Shawn Pitts (previously with Witches Hammer), bassist Lorne Cucille, and drummer Chris Bayes got together and Karrion was born.
Karrion’s take is similar to that of many others. They were influenced heavily by thrash but seduced by the even rawer sound of hardcore like Discharge and the Misfits. Drawing on a common love of Motörhead and the aforementioned metal and hardcore bands, Karrion managed to not bend the knee to one style and as a result, their take on thrash metal has an urgency and venom to it not unlike the blistering d-beats of Discharge. In fact, their early crowds were mostly punk and they played shows with other early British Columbia metal bands like Witches Hammer, Armoros, and early crossover thrashers Mission of Christ.
“Sub Pop was interested at one point but the grunge stuff was starting up and they changed their mind and their contract was shit”
Early on Karrion headed into the studio, laying down tracks hoping to score a record deal, but it wasn’t until the second demo in 1987 that things began to happen.
“Sub Pop was interested at one point but the grunge stuff was starting up and they changed their mind and their contract was shit,” says Shawn Pitts. “Then, Metal Blade signed us for their Complete Death Vol. II compilation album, hence the smoother version of “The King’s Exile” that appeared there. That one song cost $1500 to record but lost the rawness of the original demo version. Capitol Records sent a letter of interest at the end of the band’s life.”
Karrion would also win the Battle of the Bands at the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition), and release a third demo ‘Flesh Circus‘, before personality conflicts and musical differences brought about the end.
Now, BC archival label Supreme Echo has reverently packaged the band’s four-song self-titled and three song ‘Free In Death‘ demos, carefully remastered with an 8-page booklet featuring flyers, photographs and the story of Karrion. The release is graced with the remarkable artwork of Estelle Ward and limited to 500.
The title track ‘Forsaken World‘ delivers everything you need to know about Karrion. Opening with the banshee wail of Duncan Stuart and a machine gun barrage of drums and guitar, there are at least four wicked riffs before the song is even a minute and half old. The Slayer influence is apparent, but Stuart’s absolutely diabolical vocals are something to behold. After the umpteenth time change, the track comes to an end with a blinding ferocity.
This is easily as good as anything to come from that time and Forsaken World‘ is just further proof that there is a treasure trove of undiscovered gold out there, and we need the Supreme Echos of the world to keep digging it up.