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It was September, 1988, and I lived on the Gulf Coast, in Biloxi, Mississippi. I had recently finished my time in the military and been discharged from the US Air Force, but my wife was still enlisted. The huge Hurricane Gilbert was bearing down on the coast, and as was common practice, we had to spend the night in one of the most safe buildings on base, the medical center where my wife worked, and where I had previously worked. While I had done this sleep-on-the-floor game before when I was enlisted, this was my first time doing so as a military dependent, and so was doing it this time among my wife's work people, whom I did not know. To give me some solace, and feeling of normalcy, I brought by "boom box" and head phones and a selection of cassettes with which I could use to enter my own world, blocking out the chaos and confusion going on around me. There was one tape I, to this day, distinctly remember bringing and playing over and over — the recently acquired Xalt Dark War tape.

Back in the day, it was a musical world filled with custom released "demo" tapes, and being a huge music fan as well as just starting in as a magazine editor at the time (The Pendragon), I had quite a few music choices to choose from. But at the time, Xalt, a band that just popped up out of nowhere on my radar, and whom I knew little to nothing about, jumped to the top of the pack with their profession looking and sounding release. And while it is no surprise that they were immediately scooped up and signed to go on and release a few more superb releases — Under the Ruins (1990), History (1991), and Helium Blue Gazebo (1997) — this initial release still held a most special place in my heart, and it was sad that it was never given its due and issued in a digital format — UNTIL NOW!

2017 brought me the good news that this release would finally see the light of day with an official CD remastered release. I know not everyone feels the same as me, but I am thrilled to see old releases get reissued, especially when they are remastered, remixed, or have additional bonus material on them, and especially if they have never been released in a digital form. I guess the collector mentality is strong with me, so this release thrilled me, and I was not displeased.

What we have here is a major upgrade from the format that has been around for decades. One of the first amazing things you notice is the cover. Scott Water (NoLifeTilMetal / Ultimatum) really outdid himself with this cover, in my opinion. Comparing the new to the old edition, this new one has been given brand new life. It is just so much more colorful, more crisp and just overall more beautifully presented; the whole case design works well. Two thumbs up and a big round of applause for sure.

Get past the beautiful cosmetics of the whole packaging, and inside you find the best sounding edition of this release available yet. Not only with the full original 11-track release itself, but also with the bonus 6-track demo set that was recorded the year after this release in preparation for their follow-up Under the Ruins release.

The music itself, for those not already familiar, is mid-tempo melodic metal as was common in the 80's at the time, and it is done well here. Lyrically it is unashamedly Christian without sounding "cheesy" as it sometimes can. Musically it is top notch all the way around, and as a musician myself, I tend to occasionally listen to bands with an overly-critical ear, but I still find no flaws in the playing or song arrangements on this release. And in a sea of often mediocre production sounding tapes released at that time, this one stands out as very professional, which makes this reissues even that much better. I still enjoy listening to this album to this day, and this reissue has breathed an entirely new life into what was already a great release — making something great even greater!

My only complaint...well, let me reword, not a complaint really. This product finds no complaints at all for what it is. The problem is more with my completest/collector mentality, which would have loved to have seen the inclusion of the other six demo tracks to this masterful reproduction. There are six tracks recorded prior to Dark War, with original vocalist John Heald (Armada). They are all songs that made it on Dark War, but the drastic vocal difference between John and Scott makes the older versions feel so different. Of course, that is probably a key reason to exclude them here, as they are out of place to a degree, and I admit Scott's vocals are a much better fit for this style of music. I just love John, Armada and that whole sound, the heavy blues hard rock feel, and again, as a completest, would love to have a better sounding copy of those tracks. But, I guess I'll live, and will do so more abundantly now that I possess this amazing reissue.


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