Stormtroopers Of Death — Rise Of The Infidels
The legacy of the Stormtroopers Of Death, the short version anyway, is that 3/4 of the 1985 incarnation of Anthrax enlisted The Psychos frontman Billy Milano to record a joke album titled Speak English Or Die. The record defied everyone's expectations and slowly became an underground hit. The band's live performances solidified its position in the metal pantheon. Fifteen years later, they tried to replicate the success of their debut album with Bigger Than The Devil (review) but missed that lofty goal by a wide margin. Shortly after that record released, relations between the band and Milano frayed and the group went on permanent hiatus.
For reasons not specified, the band has never reconciled with Billy Milano and there appears to be no chance of that happening. In his 2014 memoir, I'm The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax, Scott Ian alludes to some dispute between Milano and Benante — and "things that can't be taken back" — but that's the extent of the details provided. After an on-and-off war of words facilitated by music media, the two sides have been almost completely silent since the mid-2000s.
In late June, 2007, Rise Of The Infidels was announced and released shortly thereafter. Touted as "the world's longest EP," the album contains 4 new studio tracks and has a whole live show included as 'bonus' material. Of those new studio cuts, only 1 is newly released and half of them are covers. The live show is from 1999; the band has not performed together since 2000 and officially disbanded in 2003. This album is billed as the end of Stormtroopers Of Death — emptying the vault and calling it a day — but the name doesn't even make sense in that context. We're not off to a good start here.
Immediately, you know something is up with this record the moment you physically observe it. The booklet has a number of typos and seems hastily written, like a 3AM Facebook post. The CD insert is 1 page, and looks thrown together by a graphic design intern on their lunch break. The art is glossy, generic, and only vaguely evokes Sargeant D; the most generous description is that it looks like the cover to a tribute album issued by a budget label run out of a studio apartment.
As you can see from the tracklist, it doesn't look like there was very much left in the ol' archives either. "Stand Up And Fight" is a very generic hardcore tune, "Java Amigo" is a mix of the same and Dennis Leary's "I want coffee-flavoured coffee" shtick from the turn of the millennium. God damn, we loved our edgy, boundary-pushing comedy back in the day. The cover songs are passable, but Stormtroopers Of Death aren't a cover band — that's not the gimmick, that was a live thing. The only previously unreleased track is "Ready To Fight," a minute-long Negative Approach cover. The other tracks were released on obscure compilations that most SOD die-hards already had anyway.
It's not a surprise that a band that spent a combined total of 2 days in studio recording their albums didn't have much left over — especially after juicing their catalogue for re-issues over the past 2 decades.
At this point, it should be no surprise that the live tracks are terrible. Live At Budokan (review) is an excellent album, an energetic and high-quality recording of what looked to be an amazing show to have attended. Conversely, the material on Rise Of The Infidels opens with versions of the band's theme song — the iconic "March Of The SOD" leading into "Sargeant D And The SOD" — that sound like utter garbage. Scott Ian's guitar is practically absent, Milano's mic is muffled and the whole thing sounds awful. When Ian's guitar finally shows up in the mix, it's mockingly out of tune and grating.
The sound quality improves slightly over the course of the show, but it's still vastly inferior to the aforementioned Live At Budokan. Alternating between a bootleg taped with an answering machine inside of a jacket and a mediocre soundboard recording, this thing is barely listenable. Curiously, the band plays nothing from Bigger Than The Devil despite this show taking place over a month after its release. Instead, we get several trips to the "Ballad Of..." well that feel like awkward filler. They bang out some classic riffs from Nirvana, INXS, Jimi Hendricks, The Doors and Nirvana again — because the show is in Seattle, you see — punctuated with "you're dead." It's a gimmick that loses its punch very quickly. Milano's stage banter is sub-par too, alternating between making fun of people's haircuts and telling everyone to shut up.
The show closes like any Stormtroopers Of Death show, with "United Forces" and Billy Milano exclaiming that he'll see everyone in the year 2006. We know that obviously never came to fruition, and I personally think it's for the best. Bigger Than The Devil exposed the limitations of the project and the problem with attempts at being edgy and provocative with racial undertones, regardless of how ironic the intention behind it is. I don't know if the band omitted anything from Bigger Than The Devil because they immediatlely regretted anything on the record or if they didn't want to rehearse the new material. I tend to believe the former is the case, given how uninspired this show is. Even the transition into Slayer's "Raining Blood" during "Speak English Or Die" — a trademark of the band's live show — feels forced and sterile, like they're going through the motions.
Unless you are the most die-hard completist, you can easily ignore Rise Of The Infidels entirely. The legacy of Stormtroopers Of Death is that of a phenomenal, genre-defining record created entirely by accident, followed by a tremendous live album, and a decent second full-length. This low-effort offering feels like little more than an attempt to squeeze the last few dollars out of a defunct brand. There is nothing essential to be found on this record; I question how much collaboration with the label went into this project. Based on the shoddy nature of the packaging and the rant from Billy Milano in the liner notes, this seems like this was his doing alone — and he probably spent most of a weekend on it.
A project that started with no serious intention behind it is finally retired after a minimal-effort swansong release — truly beautiful symmetry. This is for collectors and marks, everyone else can and should ignore this lazy cash-grab.
The final chapter of the Stormtroopers Of Death saga, this extended EP includes some fortgettable B-sides and covers stapled to an unremarkable live show. Rise Of The Infidels is basically an insult — the perfect ending for a joke band premised on being equal opportunity offenders. This thing sucks, absolutely do not buy it unless you like hoarding trash.
Release date: August 21st, 2007
Record label: Megaforce Records
Billy Milano — vocals
Scott Ian — guitar, backing vocals
Dan Lilker — bass, backing vocals
Charlie Benante — drums
- Stand Up And Fight
- Java Amigo
- United And Strong (Agnostic Front cover)
- Ready To Fight (Negative Approach cover)
- Ballad Of Nirvana / March Of The SOD (live)
- Sargent D. And The SOD (live)
- Kill Yourself (live)
- Milano Mosh (live)
- Speak English Or Die (live)
- Fuck The Middle East (live)
- Douche Crew (live)
- Ballad Of Jimi Hendrix (live)
- Ballad Of Jim Morrison (live)
- Ballad On INXS (live)
- Ballad Of Frank Sinatra (live)
- Ballad Of Nirvana (live)
- Ballad Of Freddie Mercury (live)
- Chromatic Death (live)
- Fist Banging Mania (live)
- No Turning Back (live)
- Milk (live)
- Pussywhipped (live)
- Freddy Krueger (live)
- United Forces (live)
Published: July 17th, 2020.