In 1983, I did some live recordings of Metal Church at their practice room. This point in time was very dynamic as it was the end of the Shrapnel period and the beginning of Metal Church, with a fury of personnel changes happening over just a few weeks. The Shrapnel lineup was Kurdt Vanderhoof, Craig Wells, Mike Murphy on vocals, Duke Erickson on bass, and Tom Weber on drums.
The first session was at the tail end of the Shrapnel period. Mike Murphy had already left the band, but Tom Weber was still playing drums (Tom would team up later with Kurdt on the Hall Aflame album). The three songs we recorded that day included Hitman and two other original tracks.
This recording of Hitman is the same one that has been floating around underground radio and on the Internet ever since. But, I have the original tape, which has only been played that day for the band, then I took it home to make their copies from, then I put it away for safe keeping. As a result, this recording of Hitman is much cleaner than you might expect. As far as I know neither of the other two tracks, or any variation of them, made it onto an album. However, they have some great riffs. For those who think that Kirk Arrington played in Shrapnel, or on these three tracks, just listen to the drums: There is not one hint of double bass anywhere.
Without a vocalist, these were purely instrumental. We were running a small PA mixer straight into a cassette deck, so there was no opportunity for fixing anything later. We didn't have long enough cords so I was sitting about 15 feet in front of the stacks, listening on headphones to try and get a decent mix while my hair was getting blown back. In the end, it wasn't too bad, except the ride cymbal was a little hot, so it kind of clangs through the mix at various points. Otherwise, it worked surprisingly well.
About four weeks later, the transition to Metal Church had been completed, including the switch from Tom Weber to Kirk Arrington on drums (double bass all over the place), and the addition of David Wayne on vocals. The only song we recorded at this second session was Deathwish, which is the fourth track. Since David was not there that day, it was just instrumental.
For the fifth track, which is the vocal version of Deathwish, we used the instrumental track that we had recorded a week or two earlier and mixed it with David's vocals, just the two of us sitting on the floor at my house. We had a couple of cassette decks running: one playing the instrumental track, which I mixed with David's vocals to record onto the second deck. There was a slight speed difference between the two decks, resulting in a little higher pitch on this recording than on the instrumental version (the fourth track). You will also hear a short break in the audio, between guitar solos at about 3:35. This was because we ran out of time, but we didn't have one full vocal take that David was happy with. So, I took the best first half of the song, and the best second half of the song and spliced them together. The "Four Hymns" version of Deathwish was a shorter version they recorded in the studio just a couple months later.
The few weeks spanned by these recordings represent the most dramatic changes in a band I have witnessed. Before, Shrapnel was practicing all the time and playing local gigs every couple weeks, but once Kurdt flipped the "Metal Church" switch, it was off to the big time!