Stormtroopers of Death

Picture of Stormtroopers of Death

Speak English Or Die

Stormtroopers of Death - Speak English or Die ©1985 Megaforce
1. March of the S.O.D.
2. Sargent D & the S.O.D.
3. Kill Yourself
4. Milano Mosh
5. Speak English or Die
6. United Forces
7. Chromatic Death
8. Pi Alpha Nu
9. Anti-Procrastination Song
10. What's That Noise
11. Freddy Krueger
12. Milk
13. Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues
14. Pussy Whipped
15. Fist Banging Mania
16. No Turning Back
17. Fuck the Middle East
18. Douche Crew
19. Hey Gordy!

20. The Ballad of Jimi Hendrix
21. Diamonds and Rust (Extended Version)
22. Ram It Up

Stormtroopers of Death (or S.O.D., as they are known best by people who love acronyms) was nothing more than a lark by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian. During the recording session for Spreading the Disease, Ian amused himself by creating a comic strip featuring a character named "Sargent D." This character ultimately inspired the idea to make a one-off hardcore record based on Sargent D's less than polite worldviews. Ian recruited Charlie Benante to play drums as well as former bassist Dan Lilker and Billy Milano on vocals. Milano's connection to the trio was from his days being a roadie for them. The resulting record Speak English or Die was quickly recorded inside of three days and has since become a crossover thrash/hardcore classic, even if it's not exactly the greatest thing ever recorded. Ironically, from a production standpoint, the guitar sound they captured in that recording session would instantly become the template for thrash bands everywhere (as pointed out in the documentary about Overkill).

For the most part, the album is meant to be a bit of a joke record poking and prodding at the sensibilities of people everywhere. The whole point of the lyrics were in the tradition of early Fear: enrage people. These days, though, some of the song list almost looks like a wet dream for contemporary Republicans everywhere: "Fuck the Middle East" or the title track would unfortunately be taken without a grain of salt by certain folks these days. Some of the lyrics border on misogynist nonsense and some are just silly ("Milk" is about how Milano lacks cow juice for his cereal and his subsequent ruminations on the matter). And of course, the five second "The Ballad of Jimi Hendrix" truly is a classic. Musically, the hardcore infused thrash clings more to the heavy metal side but displays the no frills style of hardcore. Ian doesn't bother noodling around with endless solos as he shows off his always impressive speedy rhythms. Milano is nothing more than a guy who can yell in the hardcore style.

On the whole, S.O.D. may have gotten more attention than it really ever needed. The record has its moments but sometimes tries a bit too hard to offend, though that was also the point. There are no subtle moments here or nuances to unfold. But what I've always resented about S.O.D.'s existence is that it encouraged Billy Milano to continue on in music as a vocalist. After Stormtroopers of Death ran its course, he formed Method of Destruction (M.O.D., which obviously was meant to remind fans of the connection to S.O.D.) and released a few too many mediocre thrash records that often offered attempts at offensive humor without success. Through the six degrees of separation, I'm aware Milano is fine fellow and someone you'd want to call a friend, but let's just say I've never been a fan of his further contributions to music.

Speak English or Die has been reissued multiple times and has been milked a bit by the members for reunions and a truly misguided second record in the late 90s. It does have its moments, but it honestly should be lightly regarded as a mildly amusing one-off for Anthrax.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2012

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