Malice was a Los Angeles based metal band, heavily influenced by European bands, most noticeable Judas Priest. Their insistence on wearing studded black leather only compounded the comparisons. It was Jay Reynolds that provided the catalyst for Malice. Having returned to Portland from Hawaii, where the guitarist had worked with various acts, he soon forged The Ravers. When this band folded Reynolds set to work assembling Malice, the first rehearsals featuring vocalist James Neal (a practicing Buddhist!?!), bass player Matt McCourt (Wild Dogs, Evil Genius), Deen Castronovo (Wild Dogs, Ozzy Osbourne) and then sixteen year old Kip Doran (Evil Genius, The Enemy) on guitar. Making their initial vinyl appearance on the first Metal Blade Records 'Metal Massacre' compilation album, the only band to contribute two tracks, with "Captive Of Light" and "Kick You Down". Malice were in fact at that stage not yet a band, the five members only deciding on a permanent union following the sessions. Introducing bassist Mark Behn (Fire Eye, Kharma) and drummer Peter Laufmann, this formation relocated to Los Angeles. The buzz on Malice now roller coasted, with the respected Dutch magazine 'Aardschok' giving the band a cover story a mere two months after their formation. The band's first gig came in November 1982 appearing at Los Angeles Troubadour Club, headlining a bill with Metallica and Pandemonium as opening acts. A line-up change saw the introduction of with new drummer Cliff Carruthers (Snow, Assassin). The quintet's ensuing Michael Wagener produced demo proved an immense tour de force, and Malice soon found themselves at the centre of a record company bidding war. Atlantic Records snapped up the band in July 1984, and the demo comprised half of Malice's first album, 1985's 'In The Beginning'. The remaining tracks were produced by Ashley Howe. The second album, entitled 'License To Kill', was produced by Max Norman, and released in 1986. Guests in the studio included Megadeth men Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson, and Black n' Blue's Tommy Thayer and Jaime St. James. Malice folded in late 1987. Reynolds was very briefly to flirt with Megadeth, although the friend he entrusted this confidential information to, and tutored Reynolds on Megadeth riffs, Jeff Young, put his own name forward and landed the coveted position. A third Malice release, an EP called 'Crazy In The Night', was issued in 1989. Although none of the new tracks featured Neal, his place having been taken in the studio by two singers, nineteen year old Mark Weitz (L.A. Rocks), and Paul Sabu. The latter a strange union bearing in mind Sabu's AOR history. Neal did, however, appear in a concert sequence in the movie 'Vice Versa'. Subsequently, Weitz briefly teamed up with Americade then Impelliterri. Zane, Behn and Carruthers attempted to sustain Malice, but with no product forthcoming they split the band. In 1995 Zane and Behn returned to the fray with the Los Angeles based Monster, releasing the 'Through The Eyes Of The World' album on Long Island Records. Monster featured Behn's old Kharma band mate Pete Holmes. and previously unknown vocalist Mark Isham. Jay Reynolds would resurface in early 2004 as a member of the re-vamped Metal Church. In November 2006 a press statement announced that Malice had been resurrected with guitar players Mick Zane and Jay Reynolds, bassist Mark Behn, drummer Pete Holmes (Black n' Blue) and newfound vocalist Brian Allen (Last Empire).

IN THE BEGINNING... (1985, 2005) WOUNDED BIRD

  1. Rockin' With You
  2. Into The Ground
  3. Air Attack
  4. Stellar Masters
  5. Tarot Dealer
  6. Squeeze It Dry
  7. Hellrider
  8. No Haven For The Raven
  9. The Unwanted
  10. Godz Of Thunder
Line-up:
James Neal - Vocals
Jay Reynolds - Guitars
Mick Zane - Guitars, Acoustic
Mark Behn - Bass, Taurus Pedals
Clifford Carothers - Drums, Motorcycle

Malice spent the first half of the 80's recording demos, touring and hunting for that golden record deal. And finally in 1985 they got to release their debut album on Atlantic. Heavy metal was big business back then, and it was no wonder a visual band like Malice were picked up by one of the biggest labels.

All of the songs on 'In The Beginning...' had already appeared on various demos, and the band even recorded the entire album, and released it in demo form in 1984. I'm not sure if they re-recorded it for Atlantic, or if it was more of a reissue of the demo. Nonetheless, this is time typical heavy metal, played with balls and conviction. Heavily influenced by European bands, such as Judas Priest and Accept, Malice were kind of unique in the US. When the US slowly turned into a thrash and speed metal moshpit, Malice plundered on with their traditional metal. James Neal sounded like a young Rob Halford. But he had a softer upper range. Jack and Mick delivered the mandatory twin guitar attack, and drummer Clifford was the timekeeper. 'In The Beginning...' is one of the few albums from the 80's where you can actually hear the bass too! Malice would definitely be viewed as a cliché band today. But back then they were jut another band in a growing scene. I think they might be one of the most overlooked bands in the metal circuit, seeing that they were signed to the biggest labels, were featured in a blockbuster movie and were touring the country with better known acts, but still they are virtually unknown today, except to the die hard fans that are hunting the pawn shops for golden oldies.

I own a re-release of this album, released on Wounded Bird Records 20 years after the original came out. So if you are a fan of the 80's metal sound, and especially bands like Judas Priest and Saint, then Malice is a band to check out.

Killer tracks: Air Attack, Stellar Masters, Hellrider

LICENSE TO KILL (1987, 2004) WOUNDED BIRD

  1. Sinister Double
  2. License To Kill
  3. Against The Empire
  4. Vigilante
  5. Chain Gang Women
  6. Christine
  7. Murder
  8. Breathin' Down Your Neck
  9. Circle Of Fire
Line-up:
James Neal - Lead Vocals
Jay Reynolds - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Mick Zane - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Mark Behn - Bass, Taurus Pedals, Vocals
Clifford Carothers - Drums, Electronic Drums

2 years went by before Malice released their second album, 'License To Kill'. The line-up remained intact though.

'License To Kill' is a much more streamlined album than the debut. But it lacks one or two over-the-top songs, like "Air Attack" or "Hellrider" from 'In The Beginning...'. What is over-the-top here though is the singing! James Neal sound like his leather pants won't come off. And he easily rivals a young Geoff Tate for best helium infested falsetto madness. 'Likened To Kill' also features less of the speed metal from the debut, but it does deliver the classic mid-paced metal sound just fine. And the song "Chain Gang Women" even includes a moment of blues metal galore. "Christine" is inspired by the movie of the same name, an adaptation of a Stephen King story. Judas Priest, Accept and Saint were obvious comparison bands for the debut. This second effort also makes me think of bands such as Dokken and Mass. So any fan of 80's metal, be it the speedier metal styles, or the more melodic side of the spectrum, should be sure to check out Malice.

I own the Wounded Bird Records version of the album, reissued in 2004.

Killer tracks: Sinister Double, License To Kill, Christine, Circle Of Fire

CRAZY IN THE NIGHT (1989) METAL BLADE/ENIGMA (EP)

  1. Captive Of Light
  2. Vice Versa
  3. Crazy In The Night
  4. Death Or Glory

Line-up :
Mark Weitz - Vocals on 3

Paul Sabu - Vocals on 2

James Neal - Vocals on 1, 4
 Jay Raynolds - Guitars
 Mick Zane - Guitars
 Mark Behn - Bass
Cliff Carrothers - Drums

The late 80's was a strange, but also great, time for heavy metal lovers. Metal was such a household genre, it leaked into many other pop-culture arenas, such as the movies. Thus you can actually see the band Malice appear in the 1988 comedy, 'Vice Versa', starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage! And seeing this movie was actually my only knowledge of this band, 'til I bought this EP almost 2 decades later.

'Crazy In The Night' is only a 4 track EP, released after the band formally broke up. "Captive Of Light" appeared on the first 'Metal Massacre' album alongside Metallica, Bitch and Cirith Ungol, to name a few. 'Vice Versa' is of course a song from the movie already mentioned. Paul Sabu is doing the vocals on this one. I guess the movie company wanted a more streamlined vocalist for their soundtrack, rather then James' high pitched helium voice. Then follows the title track on the EP, another cool metal tune, and I think Mark Weitz is singing on this one. "Death Or Glory" is another tune from the demo days of Malice. All this makes 'Crazy In The Night' an essential part of the Malice collection.

I've read online that the original singer, James Neal, does not appear on this EP, although he is credited in the liner notes. But that would mean that both "Captive Of Light" and "Death Or Glory" are re-recorded for this EP, and that is simply false. Production credits are given to the band for the first song, and Michael Wagener for the latter. So that means we are talking about the original demo versions of both songs. I've also compared the tracks from the demo versions, and they match. Thus James has to be the singer on these tracks.

THE RARE AND UNRELEASED (2008) MALICE RECORDS/RETROSPECT RECORDS

  1. Captive of Light
  2. Kick You Down
  3. Vice Versa
  4. Crazy in the Night
  5. Death or Glory
  6. Trouble Shooter
  7. Dues Paid in Hell
  8. Cry Out to the Godz
  9. Rockin' With You
  10. Air Attack
  11. Stellar Masters
  12. Hellrider
  13.  Godz of Thunder
  14. Murder
  15. No Haven For the Raven
  16. Vigilante
  17. Circle of Fire
  18. Jet Stream Cruiser
Tracks 2, 6-8, 14-18: Previously Unreleased Demo versions
Tracks 9-13: Alternate Versions

2006 saw Malice reunite for the first time in over a decade. And in 2008 they teamed up with Retrospect Records to release this odds and sods compilation, aptly entitled 'The Rare And Unreleased'.

This cheap release serves 18 tracks, mostly in demo quality. So if you're looking to get to know this stellar American metal band, please look elsewhere. But if you're a long time fan of the band, this compilation can be a nice addition to the collection. However, I would not go as far as calling in a necessity. You see even though it promises the rare and the unreleased, there is in fact little on here that any long time fan haven't heard in one form or another. 4 of the 5 first tracks were available on the 'Crazy In The Night' EP, including the bands contribution to the very first Metal Massacre release. And if you compare some of the alternative versions offered to the versions available on the bands albums, it would seem all that differs are short intros and other minor changes to the songs! In fact, most of them appear very close to the final versions you've already heard. Still, there are some songs here that only appear on the bands demos, and those are of course welcomed by any fan. "Kick You Down" is one example of a rippin' tune not on any of the bands studio efforts. "Jet Stream Cruiser" is another. Unfortunately the 1 sheet cover serves no information on where any of these songs originally appeared.

In fear of repeating myself, 'The Rare And The Unreleased' will mostly appeal to people who are already fans of Malice. It is not something I'm gonna listen to instead of the studio albums. But every now and then it might be cool to hear the origins of one of USA's most underrated heavy metal bands.

Related Artists:

Metal Church, Black Symphony, Ozzy Osbourne, Impellitteri