How comes Canadians always do it better? Think of the rich Hardrock and Heavy Metal history of the country: Triumph and Rush in the '70's, Anvil and Exciter in the '80's. Death Dealer (later Deaf Dealer) from the French-speaking part of the country might well have been one of the great Metal bands of the early '80's but bad luck (and probably bad management) prevented them from making it really big. Death Dealer debuted in 1983 with the fantastic "Cross my Way" on Brian Slagel's "Metal Massacre IV" compilation album. Following their debut on vinyl, André LaRouche and his boys recorded numerous high-quality demos, which you can hear on their limited edition double album on High Roller Records/ Fils Du Metal. André comments on the early recordings of Death Dealer: "We did record the major demo album at the University of Québec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) in March 1983. This production contains 15 songs, so nearly 80 minutes of music. Also, with some versions of this demo on the tape trading market, I saw some songs added to it, like 'Rapid Fire', a piece we played as a cover from Judas Priest. At that time, the tape of Death Dealer was 15 songs on a full two 45-minute sides. We have a lot of audio cuts taken from that time as we did record our songs to see how our music sounded. I still have a lot of them and never released the first Death Dealer songs such as 'Danger of Death', 'High School Bridge' or 'Die hard'. For sure, the 1983 demo opened doors for the band regarding ther contract with Metal Blade Records. This tape is still well-known on the Heavy Metal scene and all the HM maniacs of the '80 often talk to me about that Death Dealer production." After "Cross my Way" on "Metal Massacre IV" received such phnenomenal reactions, it seemed just a matter of time for Death Dealer's debut longplayer to see the light of day. Did Brian Slagel offer the band an album deal at all? André LaRouche: "Yes, he did! Right after the release of 'Metal Massacre IV'. It was summertime, we were playing lots of shows with Anvil and Coney Hatch and others and weren't worrying about that contract. Brian Slagel wanted to put on LP nearly all the songs of the demo album. We started looking at the agreement in the winter of 1984. Then we went into the studio to record that album. But in the summer of '84 I did leave the band ... So that complicated things for the rest of the members. That is the reason why the first album of Deaf Dealer was only released in 1986. I still think today that we took too long a time before looking seriously into this contract. So years after, for me, the band wasn't in a good position to continue as the manager we had at the time, 'CRB', was complicating the direction of the band. A producer then coming from Montreal decided to take the band and manage it. He succeed to get a big record agreement with Mercury Records so they recorded their first album 'Keeper of the Flame'. The reviews of this album were very good. It included the original songs of Death Dealer classics such as 'Death Dealer', 'Sherry', 'Overshoot', 'Coercion to kill' and 'Dead Zone' - the last piece I composed with the band, called at that time 'Wake up'...
Brian Slagel really loved the tape of Death Dealer. I had the chance to talk with him on the phone in 1983 to confirm that Death Dealer will appear on the album 'Metal Massacre IV'. He said he has a project with us and then sent us a five year agreement to produce one album a year after that ... The fact of waiting too long to study this contract had had a negative effect on the band. It's much more easy to evaluate that years later!"
When "Keeper of the Flame" finally saw the light of day in 1986 (in Europe on Steamhammer and NEAT Records in the UK), it was too little too late, as André LaRouche recalls: "In the summer of 1984 I left the band and a new singer took my place 'till the beginning of 1985. After some shows, I think that the manager of the band at that time concluded that he didn't really fit the style of the band. His voice was quite different and I am not sure he possessed the right tone for the Death Dealer songs. So the manager decided to replace him a year later. During that time, the drummer Michel LaRouche, my older brother, also decided to leave the band. So in 1985, Yves, Marc and Jean-Pierre were looking for musicians to rebuild the band and preparing the first album. With good musicians and the original songs of Death Dealer they got a major contract with the record company Mercury." One thingh which always struck me back then was the fact that Death Dealer was always compared to the mighty Iron Maiden. Did this have anything to do do with Death Dealer covering two of their numbers, namely "Phantom of the Opera" and "Where Eagles dare"? "Maybe", reflects André. "I think that the band in the first years 'till 1984 was not really close to the Maiden style. My voice was not in the same range as Dickinson's on the album 'Number of the Beast'. For sure we loved playing their songs and 'Phantom of the Opera' was a magical song for us. Playing that song gave us a kind of security. For me, only the composition of Death Dealer's 'Coercion to kill' was close to their style. All the other 14 songs on the album were quite differents. In the band, Jean-Pierre Fortin, the bassist, was the one who loved the more Iron Maiden. We were composing songs, never thinking of a certain style but trying to do something new and original. That was our main goal!"
In the very early days, however, Death Dealer did indeed complement their live-set with a selection of cover tunes. André explains: "In 1981, after six or eight months of Death Dealer's existence, we commited to play our first show. This show was mainly covers plus our first four original compositions, namely 'Overshoot', 'Death Dealer', 'High School Bridge' and 'Danger of Death'. These songs are now appearing for the first time ever on the vinyl double album on High Roller Records/ Fils Du Metal. It is a version taken from our rehearsal room in the basement of the St. Marie Church in Jonquiere ... The first breath of Death Dealer. At this first show, we covered lots of bands, like Motörhead's 'The Ace of Spades', Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Girlschool, AC/DC, Saxon, Anvil ... A show in a High School with no way to dim the lights, so it was a very bright Heavy Metal show! It was the beginning of the Death Dealer adventure and following that show we started composing a lot and replacing all the covers with original stuff. 1982 was our year of creating our own material. We completed a show in December 1982, one year after the first one but that time with only original songs. A party overall but a very good show for close friends, maybe a hundred ... After that show, no more covers and with the arrival of Marc Brassard in 1983, we really took an important step leading the band into the major leagues. Death Dealer did always try to find an original sound. I think we did accomplish that and seeing the fans all around the world today still asking for a Death Dealer release is very special. It has been a real pleasure working with High Roller Records and Fils Du Metal to produce this compilation album of classic Death Dealer material ... For fans only!"
Matthias Mader (Iron Pages)