The Rickety Old Shack

Stormtroopers Of Death — Live At Budokan

album cover

Following the release of their debut album, Speak English Or Die (review), it took a while for Stormtroopers Of Death to garner attention for their efforts. The hybrid mixture of hardcore punk and thrash metal eventually caught on, as did the band's reputation for intense live performances. In 1992, the band recorded a one-off reunion show at The Ritz, in New York and released it under the title Live At Budokan. (The title is a play on Cheap Trick's 1978 live album titled At Budokan.)

The show is essentially a live version of the band's debut album along with some covers of Fear, Nirvana, and Ministry. There's a very brief introduction before the signature riff of "March Of The SOD" commands the listener's attention. The sound is immense and crushing; the band quickly take the stage and segue right into the literal theme song of Stormtroopers Of Death. There are some loud pops on "Sargeant D And The SOD," which I never understood until I saw video of the show — which included Billy Milano was wading through the crowd and cracking someone in the head with his mic. The more you know!

The recording quality is excellent, sounding incredibly faithful to the album recordings. I don't know if anything was touched up or dubbed in the studio afterward — or if anyone was spending money on that sort of treatment for a live album from a joke thrash band — but everything sounds natural to my ears. The Japanese edition of Live At Budokan includes "The Ballad Of Jim Morrison," "The Ballad Of Freddie Mercury" and a cover of Agnostic Front's "United And Strong," which are by no means essential. (Useless trivia: Agnostic Front opened this show along with Morbid Angel.)

The stage banter is minimal, but Billy Milano turns in his best performance. During "Pi Alpha Nu," a stage diver ends up taking a bad fall and the band stops briefly, to see if the fan is alright and to chastise the audience. It's a brief interruption, and the band seems genuinely concerned for people's safety — it's an interesting contrast with the super crass, edgy nature of Stormtroopers Of Death. The crowd remains behaved for the rest of the show and there are no further interruptions.

Notable highlights of the performance: the band's transition into and out of Slayer's "Raining Blood" during "Speak English Or Die," and Scott Ian trading his guitar for Charlie Benante's drums for a cover of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings." They also play an MOD song, "Get a Real Job," but I don't draw much of a distinction between Milano's other project and Stormtroopers Of Death. It's basically a clearing house for his material that didn't make it onto the debut LP.

As far as live records go, Live At Budokan is excellent. It's almost a better introduction to the band than their first studio album, as you get a great sound quality while the live setting humanises the band members. The video version of this show was originally released on VHS, and is quite out of print, but it's easy to find on YouTube and I highly recommend checking it out. Stormtroopers Of Death ended up being more than anyone intended at the project's inception — arguably more than it should have been — but the debut album and this live record are perfect companions, and everything else ranges from a novelty to actively bad.

Summary

A one-off reunion show, recorded 7 years after the release of Speak English Or Die, the legendary Stormtroopers Of Death deliver a powerful live performance consisting of the bulk of the album and a generous helping of cover songs. The sound is excellent and as much of the live atmosphere as possible is captured on these recordings. Live At Budokan ranks among my personal favourite live records.

Album Information

Release date: March 21st, 1992
Record label: Megaforce Records

Billy Milano — vocals
Scott Ian — guitar, backing vocals, drums (tracks 24 and 25)
Dan Lilker — bass, backing vocals
Charlie Benante — drums, guitar (tracks 24 and 25)

Track Listing

  1. Intro
  2. March Of The SOD
  3. Sargent D And The SOD
  4. Kill Yourself
  5. Momo
  6. Pi Alpha Nu
  7. Milano Mosh
  8. Speak English Or Die!
  9. Chromatic Death
  10. Fist Banging Mania
  11. The Camel Boy
  12. No Turning Back
  13. Milk
  14. Vitality
  15. Fuck The Middle East
  16. Douche Crew
  17. Get A Real Job
  18. The Ballad Of Jimi Hendrix
  19. Livin' In The City (Fear cover)
  20. Pussy Whipped
  21. Stigmata (Ministry cover)
  22. Thieves (Ministry cover)
  23. Freddy Krueger
  24. Territorial Pissings (Nirvana cover)
  25. United Forces

Link: spotify.com

—by Derek

Published: July 8th, 2020.