Those having read the review I did for the re-issue of this band's debut album The Fire Awaits You, will remember that rhythm guitarist Kevin Lewis (whom would later spend time with Cryptameria) left just prior to that album's recordings? Well...guess what? He actually gave a new attempt at the permanent position of rhythm guitarist in the band, returning to the fold when they had just started the writing/ recording sessions for their 1998 EP Visions Of End. Production-wize, the sound quality was now far better, and the 5 songs came through real good...except for the somewhat wacky cover of Lizzy Borden's “Give 'Em The Axe”. Not that it lacked anything soundwize, you know, but Fowley's vocal rendition of the track kinda ridicules it a bit. Otherwize however, the EP (originally released in 1997 through Old Metal Records and then again in 1999) sparkled with Heavy Metal exhuberance and enthusiasm! It also had some keyboards (as best heard on “Servants And Masters” and even more so on the EP's closer “The Legend Of The Haunted Sea”).
Around that time, Fowley came to the decision to use a separate singer for live performances, feeling more comfortable in his position behind his drum kit...but keeping the lead singing parts during recordings for himself. So, in came Chuck Parsons (a friend of Fowley's) and Shawn Pelata (a friend of Williams'), and the band did a series of shows with both of them, but separated ways with 'em due to not quite standing up to the band's standards. You see, where Parsons showed energy on stage but had a somewhat more rugged voice, Pelata was quite the contrary: good singer but lacking stage presence, and so neither of the two really suited the band.
2000's Meet Thy Maker was originally released through RIP Records , and licensed to the European division of Metal Blade, who included the Visions Of The End EP as a bonus. Things were really looking up for the band, as they even got to play the renowned Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, but then Lewis went and spoiled the band's progress by once again leaving the band. Dave Castillo (formerly of Hatred, later to join Deceased) was brought in to fill in on drums for certain shows, which allowed Fowley to run the stage as the band's frontman...and other shows were played by the threesome of Fowley/ Hunter/ Williams. But before 2000 was at an end, O31 recruited Twisted Tower Dire members Tony Taylor (on vocals) and Scott Waldrop (on rhythm guitar)...a venture which would last into 2002, but that part of the story I shall reserve for a future release of the band, of which we can expect a new album (their 4th full-length) in 2014 through the same label which now gives us these re-issues!
Anyway, that brings us back to the material on the Meet Thy Maker re-issue, which not only includes the original album's 7 tracks (among which a classy cover of Saxon's “Power And The Glory”) ànd the Visions Of The End EP, but also a re-recording (Meet Thy Maker sessions) of “When Darkness Covers The Sun” (already on the debut demo), as well as a 1997 demo version of Visions Of The End's “The Chosen One”, a 1999 demo version of “Meet Thy Maker” with Chuck Parsons singing, and a live recording of Shawn Palata singing “The Chosen One”...the latter two giving us a chance to experience what the band might've sounded like with those other singers. Personally, I feel the guys were too harsh on Parsons whom, in my view, did a better job in the studio than Fowley...but perhaps the man's voice wasn't quite that steady during performances, eh? From the somewhat bad quality live recording, I can nevertheless make out that Palata was indeed a relatively good singer, capable of reaching a high note with some tremble on it (meaning he perhaps needs a little more practice with the songs in order to really master what he had to do with his voice). Still, he must've been a real bore on stage for the band to sack him!
What's left for me to do now, is to direct you to a spot on the Internet where you might listen to some of the band's music, and of course their MySpace might be indicated to most among you as the best place for that, but perhaps the “mp3s” section at the band's own (http://) truemetal.org/october31 is even better, as it includes material from not only the two albums of the re-issues, but also of the Visions Of The End EP, and of O31's third and 2004 full-length, No Survivors! Check it out, and enjoy!