Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Piledriver, "Metal Inquisition" (1985)
Piledriver - METAL INQUISITION (Cobra Records, 1985)
I was a pimply high school freshman in 1985, with no girlfriend, no car, and no job. I may not have been one of the 'cool kids' but I was definitely one of the Metal Kids, and the highlight of my week came each Friday night, when my local rock radio station broadcast its "Metal Mania" program from midnight to 3 AM. This show played nothin' but the newest, most obnoxious sounds from the then-exploding heavy metal underground and its playlists served as my record-buying guide on a weekly basis. "Metal Mania" introduced me to such now-legendary names as Loudness, Accept, W.A.S.P., and Armored Saint, to name just a few; I'd hear songs by these and many other bands for the first time on "Metal Mania" on Friday night, and then I'd rush to the Sam Goody store at the mall first thing on Saturday morning to blow my allowance money on their albums.
Thrash Metal was just beginning its rise from the underground in '85; Metallica was well known amongst the hardcore headbanger fraternity but were far from being mega-stars yet, ditto for their compatriots in Exodus, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth. I was hip to all of of these bands at the time, as well as Overkill, Metal Church, Mercyful Fate, and countless others, but on one fateful night "Metal Mania" played a track by someone new: a mysterious Canadian band called Piledriver. The song was called "Metal Inquisition" and amidst a backdrop of buzz-saw guitars and unhinged, screeching vocals, was this now classic refrain that hooked me immediately:
"If you're not a metalhead you might as well be DEAD!
Weeeeee're the Metal Inquisition... we sentence you to DEATH...by guillotine!"
The "DEATH!" was punctuated by the sound of a falling guillotine blade, which just made the whole thing even cooler in my book. I was sold and had to hear more.
At school that Monday, when my headbanger friends and I discussed the past weekend's Metal Mania show, all we could talk about was "that guillotine song!" One of my buddies ran off to the record store and bought Piledriver's Metal Inquisition LP, causing jealousy and envy amongst the rest of us. For a bunch of 14 year olds, the cover to Metal Inquisition appeared to be the image of Heavy Metal Incarnate, with its unforgettable photo of The Piledriver -- a hulking dude clad in a leather-and-spikes S&M outfit, complete with mask, using a Flying V guitar to jackhammer some luckless poser to death against a backdrop of Marshall amps and dry ice fog. My pal generously offered to record the album onto a cassette tape for me, as was the custom at the time, since we were all perennially broke teenagers -- if one of us bought an album, we'd make copies for the rest of our gang; then the next time another member of the group would make an album purchase and spread it around to the rest. If memory serves, he recorded the soundtrack to "This is Spinal Tap" on the flip side of that tape. Many years later it would occur to me that Spinal Tap was the perfect companion piece to Metal Inquisition and its heady Canadian brew of over the top guitar histrionics, offensive-on-purpose lyrical content and vocals that seemed to come from the depths of Hell itself.
"Witch Hunt...we're goin' on a Witch Hunt!"
Though the title track was far and away the best song on Metal Inquisition, the rest of the album was no slouch either; every groove of the LP was filled with pounding bravado and ear splitting guitar abuse made for shaggy 14 year olds to headbang to. The lyrics were hilariously macho, gory-to-the-extreme comic book nonsense about alien invaders marauding their way across Earth ("Alien Raid"), sentencing witches to violent deaths ("Witch Hunt"), and of course, the awesome title track, which praised how cool METAL was and warned that anyone into disco or country music was going to get their asses royally kicked. Eventually my brother and I obtained our own copy of the album and pretty much played it to death. We were sure that Piledriver would soon rise to the status enjoyed by underground heroes like Metallica and Slayer and we dreamed of seeing the band live one day so we could worship at the altar of "The Pile." Unfortunately, it never happened. Piledriver stuck around for one more album, 1986's Stay Ugly, and then they seemed to completely disappear off the face of the earth, leaving only the stench of brimstone behind them. Imagine my surprise several years later when a college friend scored an original Canadian pressing of Metal Inquisition (on the Canuck "Cobra Records" label) and I learned that it contained two songs that weren't on the U.S. version I owned (released by the here-today, gone-tomorrow indie "H.M.E. Records") -- the tracks "Sex With Satan" and "Sodomize the Dead" had been replaced by "Devil's Lust" and "Twister" on my copy; I also learned that one of my favorite tracks, known as "Alien Raid" on my copy, was actually titled "Alien Rape" according to the Canadian pressing; presumably the U.S. label made these changes rather than invite controversy from the PMRC, who were making lots of noise about "Demonic" heavy metal music in the halls of Congress at the time.
"Sex With Satan"
The Shocking Revelations!!!
By the late 1990s, metal fanzines and web sites began to wonder, "Whatever happened to Piledriver, anyway?" When journalists attempted to hunt down the band members for interviews, Metaldom at Large was shocked to learn that Piledriver had never really been a "band" at all, but a studio creation intended to cash in on the burgeoning thrash-metal craze. The Metal Inquisition tracks were whipped up by Leslie Howe and Louise Reny, a pair of Canadian musicians who then called in a young singer named Gord Kirchin, with whom they'd previously jammed in a band called "Mainstream," to provide vocals for the pre-existing songs. Kirchin also supplied vox for another semi-completed album by Howe & Reny, Go Ahead...Make My Day!, which was released under the fictitious band name "Convict" in 1985. (The tracks "Twister" and "Devil's Lust," which replaced the controversial "Sex With Satan" and "Sodomize The Dead" on the American version of Metal Inquisition, were leftovers from the Convict recording sessions.)
The second Piledriver album, 1986's Stay Ugly, continued this arrangement. Though a new lineup of (bogus) musicians were listed on the album's credits, all the songs on Stay Ugly were written and performed by David DeFeis and Edward Pursino of Long Island, New York power-metal band Virgin Steele, with Kirchin once again providing vocals. In spite of these revelations, the band and their albums had already achieved Cult Classic status.
The Return of The Pile!!
Both Piledriver albums were re-issued on CD several times during the 1990s and '00s as poor quality bootlegs. As for Kirchin, he kicked around the Canadian metal scene in a number of post-Piledriver bands (most notably Dogs With Jobs and SOFA-Q) before obeying The Voice of the Cult and re-forming his most famous project. With a name change to "The Exalted Piledriver" and fronting an all new lineup, Kirchin released the first new Piledriver material in nearly 20 years in 2005 with the demo tape Metal Manifesto, followed by 2008's studio album of the same name. Piledriver played its first-ever live shows (!) in their native Canada at that time and made several appearances at European metal festivals. The Exalted Piledriver's most recent release, a live disc from 2011 called Night of the Unpolished Turd, shows that they're still alive and kickin' and just as sick as ever.
According to The Exalted Piledriver's official Facebook page, more live dates are in the pipeline and writing has begun on a new studio album, which will be entitled Humans Suck ... so even if you've missed out on the Metal Inquisition up till now, take heart... you still have a chance to join them, the mighty and the proud!!