ADDICTIVE • Kick ‘Em Hard CDx2
(Tribunal Records/Divebomb Records, 2013)
Late last year from Shadow Kingdom Records in Ohio, I picked up a copy of the Tribunal Records/Divebomb Records 2013 two-CD reissue of two late-’80s/early-’90s thrash metal albums—and more!—from the band Addictive in Sydney, Australia.
Despite some slightly goofy cover art by Oxx (AKA Simon Cooper) that’s slightly reminiscent of Adam Siegel’s Infectious Grooves lizards, the two records and assorted bonus tracks shine spotlight on a metal scene and band I have never heard or thought about before. Not that I’m fully well versed in all things international metal—my knowledge of Australian rock was pretty much limited to INXS, Midnight Oil, and the Hard-Ons before listening to this double CD—but the ‘80s Sydney metal scene is a scene with a history worth exploring. So explore I did.
The two-CD reissue includes Addictive’s 1988 five-song demo, Ward 74; 1989 album, Pity of Man; and the delayed 1993 album, Kick ‘Em Hard (perhaps a riff on Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All); as well as an unreleased cover of “Crazy Train”—Kick ‘Em Hard producer Bob Daisley co-wrote “Crazy Train” with Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads—a 1990 demo of one of the first songs the band ever wrote; and the 1995-96 demo of a song intended for an unreleased third album.
Interestingly, the CD set leads with Kick ‘Em Hard, a 1991 recording finally released in 1993 after 18 months of delay—and after the band’s heyday was perhaps over and done. While an able effort, it is the 1988 demo and 1989 album that make the CD worth checking out. Both are excellent local examples of late ‘80s thrash and hint at what must have been an interesting—and very fun—time for metal in Sydney. There are definitely discernible influences in the music, particularly Metallica and Megadeth (which shouldn’t come as a surprise; Greg Smith’s vocals at times remind this listener of James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine), but other influences can be gleaned from the T-shirts worn by band members in photographs featured in the insert. Such bands include Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Metallica (natch!), Sacred Reich, S.O.D., Def Leppard, Cycle Sluts from Hell, Destruction, the Australian band Slaughter Lord—also from Sydney—and the underground comix character Mickey Rat.
Local record store Utopia Import Records—opened in 1978 by record collector John Cotter, and still active today—served somewhat as an epicenter for Sydney metalheads because the shop imported most of the NWOBHM and similar metal that inspired the Sydney scene. Bands active at the time included Detriment, Mortal Sin, Fester Fanatics, Massive Appendage, the Hard-Ons, the Melbourne-based Hobbs Angel of Death, and others. Shows occurred at local venues such as the Seven Hills Inn, Lewisham Haunted Castle, Kardomah, Springfields, Penshurst Den, Marquee, and Sutherland Royal. Mortal Sin might have been the biggest metal band to emerge from the scene, opening for Metallica in 1989 during the Damaged Justice tour and featured in Australian metal magazine Hot Metal, as well as the British magazines Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. Addictive, in turn, toured with Mortal Sin multiple times and rehearsed at the same studio—earning its own coverage in Hot Metal.
Four band members recorded Addictive’s demo and first album—Joe Buttigieg, Matt Coffey, Smith, and Mick Sultana—and Coffey left after Pity of Man to be replaced by Steve Moore for the 1991/1993 album. Both recorded at Sound Barrier Studios in Sydney, Ward 74 and Pity of Man are excellent recordings—and the highlight of this release. The demo—released in two pressings of 500, one hand labeled—featured cover art by Oxx depicting two healthcare workers and a long-haired, straitjacketed patient. A sign states, “You are now leaving Ward 74. Have a nice day.” One of the two workers says, “Why do you spose he keeps tryin’ to escape, Doc?” The doctor responds, “Beats the shit out of me, orderly. I love this place!” The original Survival issue of the Pity of Man LP featured a fantastic painted cover by John Marten depicting a robot dropping people into a giant hourglass as a woman consults a glowing orb in the distance on a desert planet. (The people might even turn into worms at the bottom of the hourglass; email Bad Transfer and let us know what you think is going on!) Despite deprecating comments in Vlad Nowajczyk’s interview with the band in the CD’s liner notes, the songs—and sound—are awesome.
Lyrical content and song themes on Pity of Man addresses conformity and control, the End Times, ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect, the Holocaust, mental institutions, parental expectations, alcoholism, and the threat of nuclear war. The instrumental introduction to the song “Come Before the Storm” is wonderfully energetic, and “The Forge”—ending the first side of the album—is itself a worthy instrumental. All five songs on the Ward 74 demo were rerecorded and included on Pity of Man.
Based on enthusiastic response to the demo and first album, later reissued on CD with new, less interesting cover art at the behest of the European distributor, the band’s second album—Kick ‘Em Hard—was fully intended to help Addictive join the ranks of Mortal Sin in terms of international attention. Mortal Sin even name dropped Addictive in a Hot Metal article, and Addictive opened for Motorhead in June 1991 at Hordern Pavilion as part of the Legendary Muthas of Metal Australian Invasion, or MetalFest, as part of Motorhead’s 1916 tour.
To produce Kick ‘Em Hard, the band enlisted Bob Daisley, an Australian musician who played with Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Uriah Heep, and other notable bands. Daisley’s songwriting credits with Ozzy Osbourne would later be the impetus for a dismissed lawsuit seeking back royalties. A video of the band playing the song “Crazy Train” with Daisley is available on YouTube. The resulting album, however, was delayed for 18 months, arguably causing the band to miss its window of opportunity for wider spread attention and success because of mysteriously missing master tapes. The tapes might have been taken to the United States by an engineer—on the encouragement of the band’s management—in search of a better recording contract. (Absconding with those tapes also led to legal action.)
With its higher production values, Kick ‘Em Hard is more polished and professional, which—though fun—isn’t always necessary. The differences between Pity of Man and its successor are as stark as the differences between the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Being recorded in 1991 and not released until 1993, the second album sits at the cusp of the decade, serving as a bridge between the two. And the band is in fine fettle. Perhaps slightly more Megadeth-like now than Metallica—Smith’s vocals are a little more pronounced and affected—the band’s technical chops are also more polished.
Song content on Kick ‘Em Hard addresses societal injustice, personal strength, medical experimentation, the environmental impact of overpopulation, addiction, uncertainty, military action and natural disasters, suicide, and relationships gone wrong.
After Addictive folded, Buttigieg and Sultana eventually joined Mortal Sin, and Moore joined Dungeon and played in other projects, including Dark Order, Enticer, Ilium, Redeemer, and Vaticide. Oddly, vocalist and bassist Greg Smith, the front man of the band, was not included in Nowajczyk’s interview. Where is he now? What is he doing? Despite Moore’s extensive band lineage, Smith seems to be the driving force behind Addictive—even if band members shared songwriting credits. (That might not at all be the case, but if any readers know where he ended up, I’m curious. I’m especially curious who wrote the lyrics.)
The band’s artist, Oxx, is also interesting creatively—and seems to have been a lynchpin in the Sydney metal scene. An artist and musician, Oxx drew cover, flier, and poster art for multiple bands, including Cruciform, Dearly Beheaded, and Fester Fanatics. He also frequently contributed artwork to Hot Metal and played drums in multiple bands, including Fester Fanatics and Massive Appendage. He was profiled after his death in Unbelievably Bad #10.
All in all, this is a wonderful archival release by a little-known (outside of Australia) band that could have been bigger globally, perhaps, had the timing of the release of their second album been better. As it is, we have labels like Tribunal and Divebomb—and fans such as Nowajczyk—to help bring bands like this increased attention, even if well after their most active days.
I find that kind of fan archive activism… addictive. (HR)
Justin Dratson: JD Nate Wilson: NW Matt Average: MA Heath Row: HR