Cliches about not judging a book by its cover aside, the image that 'graces' Accuser's 1987 debut album The Conviction does not inspire confidence in its audio contents. Perhaps if the Terminator were some haggardly old judge, or whatever the hell that is pointing at us, I might feel some degree of menace. But honestly I just want to shudder at the quality, and unfortunately the music, while not quite in the same dregs, does leave something to be desired. You could think of the band as a midway point between the bustling guitar frenzy of their countrymen Destruction and Rage, and the dirty, lower register vocal barking of Metal Church's David Wayne. On paper, this sounds like a match appropriately made in Hell, but the songs just sort of rifle straight through the consciousness and out into the nether void of mediocrity.
However, early on, they do attempt to snatch your attention with a few of the more fluid, abrasive numbers like "Evil Liar" and "Down By Law". The former has faster paced riffs like a "Trapped Under Ice" mixed, with the snarling dog vocals barking across the top; the latter opens with a decent melody before it basically transforms into Rage, the shrieked vocals sounding almost like Peavey Wagner. I think Rage even has a track with the same name, though they do structure differently. "Law of War" and "Screaming for Guilt" continue straight along this path, but the band's namesake "Accuser" thankfully puts the brakes on to provide a more dynamic experience, one that is 10 1/2 minutes long...opening with clean guitars and then weaving through faster and mid-paced material with some solid riffs. "Sadistic Terror" and "The Conviction" are suitably snarling and angry, the latter with a great charging riff similar to "Damage, Inc." and other Master of Puppets fare. In fact, if you slightly changed the vocals, that might pass for a Metallica song from that era.
When you compare all the details, The Conviction is perhaps one of the most consistent records of Accuser's entire lineage. A few of the later works have better individual songs, but on the whole they're uneven, and this one you can at least listen through as an angrier alternative to, say, Vectom. I would never call it 'good', but there was clearly some effort in the writing, even if its clearly derivative of a few obvious sources. The mix is quite good, with a loud bass alongside the pummeling guitar tones, and though I don't really care for the vocals, they are at least bitter enough sounding to bang your head along. Albums like Finished with the Dogs, Persecution Mania, Terrible Certainty and Execution Guaranteed pretty much ensured that little attention would be cast upon this record, but there's nothing cringe inducing apart from the cover art.
Verdict: Indifference [6/10] (beyond the clouds of vice)