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Canada's Exciter was one of the first speed metal bands, bursting out of the gate in 1983 — the year zero for thrash — alongside other upstarts like Slayer and Metallica. But needless to say, their success came nowhere near matching those of their peers, and the band's brush with stardom was a brief one.
Vocalist and drummer Dan Beehler, guitarist John Ricci, and bassist Allan Johnson formed Hell Razor in Ottawa, Canada, in 1978. After changing their name to Exciter in 1980, the band sent their first demos to Shrapnel Records founder Mike Varney, who included the track "World War III" in 1982's U.S. Metal, Vol. 2, then inked them to a one-album deal. Issued in 1983, the band's first effort, Heavy Metal Maniac, was among the first thrash metal albums, and brought them to the attention of Jon Zazula's Megaforce Records (the home of Metallica and Anthrax), which signed Exciter to a three-album deal. After recording 1984's Violence & Force with Anthrax producer Carl Canedy, the band embarked upon its first U.S. tour in support of Mercyful Fate. The following year saw them flying to England to work with Motörhead producer Guy Bidmead on 1985's Long Live the Loud. The apex of their career, the album saw a marked improvement in both songwriting and sound quality and led to extensive touring with Accept in Europe and Motörhead and Megadeth in America.
Just when it seemed like Exciter were starting to make their mark, however, Ricci left the band for a solo career following the release of the three-song Feel the Knife EP. After finding a replacement in guitarist Brian McPhee, the band returned to England and hired Bidmead once again to record 1986's Unveiling the Wicked. Not as popular as its predecessor, the album also revealed an increasing preoccupation with melody, which didn't sit well with the band's hardcore fans. Following another bout of touring in Europe with Motörhead and Manowar, the band returned to America only to discover that its popularity was in swift decline. To make matters worse, Exciter were now without a record deal and Beehler eventually decided that not having a proper frontman was compromising the band's chances of success. So, he relinquished his vocal duties to singer Rob Malnati for their independently released fifth album, 1988's simply titled Exciter. But the strategy backfired, as the album's almost complete abandonment of thrash for a slower, mainstream metal approach alienated what remained of their already dwindling fan base and led to the band's breakup shortly thereafter.
Unexpectedly, Exciter returned to action in 1992 when original members Ricci and Beehler were joined by new bassist David Ledden for the Kill After Kill album. Another flop, this was soon followed by a live effort entitled Better Live Than Dead (with bassist Jeff McDonald) in 1993, after which the bandmembers once again went their separate ways — seemingly for good. But Ricci wasn't quite ready to give up the ghost and resurrected Exciter yet again with a completely new lineup in 1996. Including vocalist Jacques Belanger, bassist Marc Charron, and drummer Rick Charron (no relation), this lineup recorded 1997's The Dark Command and 1999's Blood of Tyrants, behind which they continued to tour sporadically.