WICKED LESTER is for sure one of the most obscure cases of a band from the Ohio Metal Scene.
They were formed in Canton Ohio, US, back in 1988. The initial line up featured Angelo Davis on guitars, Mideo Octavio on drums, Scott Stenglein on vocals, Tam Eframedes (later on MEDALYON) on guitars and Greg Craddock on bass.
The band recorded their first demo in the summer of 1989 at Kopperhead studio. Soon after the “Resurrection” demo were released on tape to the public.
Vocalist Scott Stenglein departed the band in 1994 and the band took a hiatus. In 1997 the search for a new vocalist ensued and Joel Finna became the front man. Along with Joel, rhythm guitarist Larry Dalo and bassist Guy Bechter joined the group and they began composing new material. The result the “Better Off Dead” full-length album that was also recorded at Kopperhead studio and released on CD back in 1998.
This new version of the band unfortunately did not last long. Vocalist Joel Finna passed away from a brain aneurysm before the album’s release. Lead guitarist Angelo Davis died in a automobile accident, shortly thereafter.
Their sudden disbanding was one of the main reasons for their music to get lost in obscurity. Fortunately Arkeyn Steel Records managed to gather all the band’s material on a reissue CD that features both their 90 demo and their 98 full length.
Personally speaking I consider the “Resurrection” demo as one of the really great recordings of the overall Ohio Heavy Metal scene. When it comes to WICKED LESTER many people would first refer to their 98 full length, in many cases ignoring the 90 demo. For me some of the band’s really great moments -for example the outstanding “Rock to Ruin” track featuring the sky high vocal performance of Scott Stenglein- were captured on this tape, so I was really excited that this material is getting an official reissue.
On the four tracks from the 1990 demo we can listen to some excellent and very well performed classic Heavy Metal in the vein of bands like WARRIOR -yeah the classic one of the “Fighting for the Earth” album- and OBSESSION –“Methods of Madness” era-. Strenglein’s voice has definitely this early Mike Vescera touch, sounding melodic and raw at the very same time. There are more examples of great songwriting on the demo stuff: “In the Name of Religion” and “Run for your Life” tracks are featuring some fantastic guitar work both in the vein of riffs and leads / solos, remarkable tunes for sure.
On the full length tracks things are getting a little bit more dark shaded compared to the demo songs. There is some really solid and ground breaking Heavy Metal delivered through those tunes. Here the band is mainly sounding as a darker version of BREAKER -from Cleveland, Ohio-, there are lots of LIZZY BORDEN and SHOK PARIS touches on the overall sonic frame of the full length songs. Songs that I can simply describe as great ones. If you ask me for some specifics I would for sure point the same titled “Better off Dead” track, the haunting “Restless Souls” song and of course my favorite tune from the album, the one and only “Rage”.
Joel Finna’s voice sounds even rawer compared to the voice of Scott Stenglein and it is a fact that Larry Dalo’s riffing brings to front a really heavy and dark sonic trademark. The above features generate a very special atmosphere on the overall album.
With the above in mind it would be fair if I would point that “Better off Dead” is one of the most characteristic private releases of the overall Ohio scene, carrying a very special and recognizable sound of its own.
Now both the “Resurrection” demo and the “Better off Dead” full length are available as one release and I can surely accept that some justice is done to the dark art of WICKED LESTER. It is not only the music itself, it is the amazing re-mastering that has been done to the overall audio by the little magician called Kostas Scandalis, and the entire packaging that once again follows the Arkeyn Steel Records high standards, including complete lyrics, photos, liner notes (by the drummer and founding member Mideo Octavio himself) plus some nice and upgraded artwork in the overall booklet. Well everything seems and sounds much better than my original CD copy if you ask me.
So if you are still in search for some obscure and dark shaded US Metal this one would be an absolute surprise for your ears. If you are already aware of the band’s music you know that it rules and I am sure that you do not want to miss this reissue.
The album will be released June, 3rd on Steel Gallery Records. You can pre-order it here.