Note: This album sounds older than Wilford Brimley ordering up at a Beef Coral drive-through in Tampa, so let that be a warning to those not interested in delving into the history of our beloved genre.
Back in the late 70’s, a young Paul Trowbridge and Richard Kueht left Pentagram and started Reactor with bassist Steve Angel. Despite having very progressive, socially aware lyrics, the band’s intention was never all that serious, beyond blowing off steam on stage in and around the Maryland area. Reactor eventually changed their name to The Real World (extinguish the Puck & Pedro jokes, please) after Kueht left and was replaced by Mike Reid, but the only true recording to date remained one small 6-song EP that never saw the light of day. It’s an ideal setup for a label like Shadowkingdom Records, a label that’s made a name for themselves by digging up fossils and dangling the skeletons back in everyone’s face.
The Real World compiles one live show from ’85 in Virginia (tracks 7-14) and the long-lost EP into a comprehensive portrayal of this short-lived, formerly hidden band. As one might expect based on the early Pentagram pedigree, Reactor‘s sound puts an emphasis on belting out shimmery guitar work solidified by a heavy bottom end — a fact that’s actually best represented throughout the live portion of this record. “Death By Electrocution” has the sort of slow, swaggering heaviness that would make any fan of mid-80’s era Pent take notice. And “Fight or Be Killed” definitely shows the band wasn’t afraid to go for the throat at times on stage with its aggressive, double-kicked headbangability. But the real real star of the show, particularly on the studio tracks, are the bright, infectious leads painting all the corners of these cuts. The EP portion admittedly loses a bit of the weightiness that make the live tracks so strong, but rippin’ six-strings fire all over “Meltdown” (one of the more energetic cuts), “Terrorist” and the slow starting barn-burner “(When your) Number’s Up.”
Again, probably not something I’d flippantly recommend to all our readers, but for those interested in the roots of heavy metal, particularly the wonderful Maryland scene of old, The Real World stands as a fun listen that will likely give you a lot of miles. And as always, Shadowkingdom does an excellent job with the entire presentation.