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VANDALS ON VINYL




While doing research for this site I have encountered a 7” release from 1998 called ‘Last Call for the Lost Scenes Vol. 2’. It was released in December of that year on Tian An Men 89, a record label which, according to discogs website, operated mainly out of France, although it is noted that it also operated out of other countries, two of which are Uganda and Abkhazia. It specialized in limited-edition vinyl releases from bands coming from Asia, The Middle East, Latin America and even the former Soviet Union and was created in 1993 for the purpose of releasing music from parts of the world where there was no possibility for the bands to release their music (discogs label profile).


So, what does Malta has to do with all this?


Well, this release featured a song called ‘Baptism in Fire’, a song which the Vandals (now X-Vandals) recorded and released as part of the track list on ‘Rise Of Evil’ demo in 1991. Released on cassette only, this demo featured five tracks, three recorded live (side A) with Albert Bell on bass while the other two (side B), which were recorded in the band’s rehearsal garage, featured James Spiteri on bass and Al Crusher on guitars on ‘Depths Of Sin’ while Jason Zammit played guitars on ‘Transmission Fading’.

But did the band have any knowledge that one of their songs recorded 7 years earlier was released as part of this 7” split in 1998?


We asked this question to current band members James Spiteri, Ray Schembri, Raymond Micallef, Stefan Curmi and Albert Bell, although the latter had already left the band when the cassette was released. Albert Bell played bass from 1989 till 1991, a few months before the demo’s release and joined back in 2019, this time on guitars.


Bell, a vivid record collector, replied, “I left Vandals in 1991 and was not involved in the band at all after that. I did however come across that release eventually on metal archives or somewhere like that. It's quite cool to see "Baptism in Fire" (a Vandals track to which I contributed a lot both musically and lyrically) gather some attention and help give Vandals more exposure. It was a regular feature in our live sets and was pretty intense capturing the band's energy and vitality at the time. Great memories!”


It turns out that the other band members were not aware of this release until I brought the matter up to their attention. Ray Schembri consented that at that time they used to do a lot of tape trading, like every upcoming band in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He also recollected such activity with someone in France, although he cannot remember with whom. Who knows, maybe one of these traded cassettes ended up in the hands of Tian An Men 89 record label owner Lük Haas and the rest is history.

“The (garage) tracks on the demo were recorded and produced by Marcel Scalpello, Beheaded’s singer at the time and who later moved to the UK. We were all trading tapes and posting to record labels, including Marcel, so who knows” commented Ray Micallef.


Marcel Scalpello has also produced and engineered Forsaken’s 1991 demo ‘Requiem’.


If asked (by the record label), would the band have given permission?


“Most definitely”, reacted bassist James, “which upcoming band would miss an opportunity like this, even if on a limited release”. And according to James the band would probably all agree that the song they would have submitted would have been in fact ‘Baptism in Fire’. Albert added, “I cannot recall the quality of that live version (need to check that out haha!), but I would guess that the band might have preferred a studio version”, Albert added. “Who knows, it might have even changed the prospect of the band”, continued James.


Vandals went on a hiatus around 1994, making a comeback in the early 2000’s.


“Had the offer been made at the time...who knows? In any case, we're really enjoying ourselves now and it is not worth crying over spilt milk and dwell too much on issues of what could have been” sustained Albert, “ I say only this - those Vandals tracks and shows from way back were phenomenal and if any Maltese metal band from that time deserved international attention it had to be Vandals. End of! Haha!”


Meanwhile a few copies of the ‘Last Call for the Lost Scenes Vol. 2’ 7” vinyl are up for grabs on the internet, and apart from Vandals’ ‘Baptism in Fire’ it also features Paraguayan band Kaos’ song ‘Titeres Rebeldes’ on side A plus ‘Red Wine’ by Inflate(Moldova), Juanito El Punk by El Bosque (Costa Rica) and an untitled song by Pink Daemon from Brunei Darussalam.


Noel Mifsud

22nd February 2023

The music from this EP can be listened to here: https://youtu.be/hqjvIcFrZTU



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