One of the crucial links in the musical chain linking hardcore punk with speed metal, the Stormtroopers of Death -- known more commonly as S.O.D. -- were actually intended to be a one-off novelty side project, done as a lark during a gap in Anthrax's recording and touring schedule in 1985. Guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante were joined by former Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker (then in Nuclear Assault) plus Anthrax roadie Billy Milano on vocals; Ian and Milano had recorded a hyperspeed demo for the project under the name Crab Society North. The resulting album, Speak English or Die, was recorded in three days and released later that year, and it gained as much notoriety for its silly, sometimes racist and sexist humor as it did for its raw musical power. The group played a small number of concerts, after which the musicians returned to their full-time projects and Milano went on to form M.O.D.
S.O.D. had ostensibly been put on permanent hiatus, but a dedicated cult following grew around the record, as well as critical acclaim for the band's freewheeling melding of heavy guitar styles. Milano eventually spearheaded a full S.O.D. reunion in 1992, which produced the live album Live at Budokan (actually recorded in New York City), consisting mostly of Speak English or Die material mixed in with a few new covers. S.O.D. then broke up again, reconvening in 1997 for a few concerts; in 1999, they reunited once more and finally released an album of all-new studio material, titled Bigger Than the Devil. After a successful tour and a hilarious followup video/DVD (Kill Yourself: the Movie), the various members went their own ways. But when Anthrax's Behind the Music special appeared on VH1 in 2002, Milano took offense to not being included and began speaking poorly of Ian and Benante in the press. He claimed to have thought of the gimmick of wearing shorts in concert, as well as having riffs stolen for various Anthrax tracks. He even began saying that Ian had sabotaged his career by forcing him to do the second S.O.D. album when Ian was being investigated by the IRS. The Anthrax camp had no response, but Milano's press outbursts looked to have sealed the S.O.D. coffin for good, that is until the release of Rise of the Infidels in 2007, an "extended EP" (nearly an hour long) that featured four unreleased tracks, as well as a full concert recorded in Seattle. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
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