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Nasty Savage - The end of a cultband

By: Richard V.

Almost everyone who has liked our favorite genre for some time will be able to name one or more bands that in his/her eyes deserve more success. Your editor is no exception. Armored Saint is in my humble opinion an example of an underrated band and the same applies to Leatherwolf, The Tea Party and the rather obscure Whizkey Stik. Many underrated bands ultimately call it a day, others carry on. Nasty Savage, one of the most underrated thrash metal bands from the eighties, will unfortunately disband (again) in the near future.

band image

Nasty Savage was formed in 1982 by guitar player Ben Meyer and bass player Fred Dreshigan in Brandon, Florida. After the band had evolved into a quintet, they recorded the 'Wage of Mayhem' demo. The demo contained four thrash metal songs that were every bit as heavy as Slayer and betrayed influences from Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate. The compositions had tight riffs, lots of breaks and both low and high pitched vocals by singer, wrestler and band icon `Nasty` Ronnie Galetti. The demo soon followed the same route as earlier demos from Metallica and Exodus.

The demo got the band their first record contract with Brian Slagel's Metal Blade Records. The band went into the studio and recorded their debut album: ´Nasty Savage´ that was released in 1985. Thrash metal was hot in the metal underground scene and the album was an instant hit in Europe. The album contained strong metal songs full of fantastic riffs and raging solos. Highlights were the sinister ´The Morgue´ and ´Asmodeus´. Guitar players Ben Meyer and Dave Austin were on par with the famous tandem in Slayer. With Curtis Beeson the band had their equivalent of Lombardo and Hoglan. Bass player Fred Dreshigan provided a thundering yet flexible rhythm section with Beeson that handled all breaks effortlessly. The band played many gigs in North America but despite all the positive reviews did not cross the Atlantic.

In 1987 'Indulgence' was released on the Metal Blade label (Roadrunner in Europe). The band has not lost their edge and sounded even more complex, played faster and more intense than on their debut. Songs like 'Incursion Dementia', 'Divination' and the new recording of 'XXX' (from the demo) all stood strong and strengthened the band's reputation as one of thrash most progressive bands. Bass player Dreshigan was no longer part of the band because he could no longer play due to an accident. His successor was Dezso Istvan Bartha, but his career was short lived as could not continue because of all kinds of personal issues. In the winter Nasty Savage finally came to Europe for a short tour with Atomkraft and Exumer. During that era many Bay Area bands appeared on big festival stage, but Nasty Savage never got their lucky break and missed exposure to large audiences.

The band has written a lot of songs for the second album and not everything fitted on the vinyl. The band therefore recorded an EP entitled 'Abstract Reality' with four songs amongst them the marvelous 'Eromantic Vertigo'. The songs on the EP contained even more breaks than the songs on 'Indulgence'. The increasing complexity of the compositions probably obstructed a breakthrough to a much larger audience. More accessible thrash (e.g. Megadeth) was reaching a large audience whereas complex thrash from Dark Angel and Nasty Savage was still very much underground. Bass player number three was Chris Moorhouse but his career was cut short by a deadly accident on the highway. Next to the sad bassist saga the band distinguished themselves from other bands with their choice for art work. With the exception of their debut all albums featured the Dali like art from artist Van Decar.

In 1989 the third and for a long time last album 'Penetration Point' was released. Yet again the album featured some magnificent tunes like 'Powerslam', 'Sin Eater' and 'Ritual Submission' with Ronnie's trademark falsetto vocals. The guitar violence from Meyer and Austin was omnipresent and Beeson drummed like a madman. Bass player number four Richard Bateman avoided accidents and survived! Despite the consistent quality, this album did not give the band their big break. Thrash metal was still popular, but apart the Big Four no other bands could manage to sell large numbers of albums or fill large venues. In the United States Nasty Savage remained unknown, in Europe the band achieved cult status.

In retrospect there are many reasons why the band didn't make it to the big league. The main reasons are probably:

- The band did not tour enough in Europe and missed slots on the bills of large festivals. For example, a show at the Dynamo Open Air festival or support slot on a Metallica or Ozzy tour could have opened many doors.
- Singer Nasty Ronnie's outrageous stage act with TV sets and lifting stage divers got a lot of attention and led the attention away from the music.
- Nasty Savage never made a big leap in production quality as Death Angel did with 'Act III' and Slayer with 'Reign In Blood'. 'Indulgence' and 'Penetration Point' would have benefited from a better production and could have become classics in the genre.
- In Florida the band was –like Overkill in New York- far away from the Bay Area scene where everything was happening at the time (Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Death Angel, Forbidden, Dark Angel, Heathen, Testament etc.)

In 2002 the 'Wage or Mayhem' demo along with two new tracks was released on CD. The demand for that CD convinced the band to try a comeback. The band reformed and recorded a fourth album 'Psycho, Psycho' that was released in 2004. The album seamlessly continued where the band had left off after 'Penetration Point' and featured some great progressive thrash metal. It was too late, the band had lost a big part of their following after fifteen years. The band was no longer cutting edge due to rise of black and death metal bands and their image was outdated. The band finally appeared at a large German festival, but besides that did not much touring in Europe.

Nasty Savage is a textbook example of a band that released excellent albums, but never made it beyond their cult status. The technical metal, brutal riffs and solos deserved a wider audience and should have given them the success and popularity of Megadeth or Slayer. It is a pity that many fans in Europe the band never saw the band live. We will continue to remember them as one of the best and most progressive thrash band from the East of the United States. Nasty Savage's last show takes place on Saturday May 5, 2012 in Ybor City, Florida.

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