”Speak English or Die” is the first album of the thrash metal band Stormtroopers of Death, also referred to as S.O.D. It features the well known guitarist from Anthrax, Scott Ian, as well as Anthrax’s drummer, Charlie Benante. Lesser known members are Danny Lilker on bass and Billy Milano, who does all the screaming.
This specific album is silver and says “1 million sold worldwide”, probably because the original release of the album did so much better than anyone thought it would. The art inside is a collage of photos taken during the heyday of S.O.D., with Scott Ian’s face prevailing. Also recognizable among the crowd are Madonna, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and the butt cheeks of a very large man.
The actual music that S.O.D. puts forth is heavy guitar riffs, repeated guitar riffs, plenty of double bass, and fast furious guitar riffs. Doubtless much of this stuff is hard to do. The notes are very quick and involved with each other, making it hard to for the ear to pin down much of a tune beyond a constant thrash, hence its categorical name.
Much of the lyrics are at first, to the beginner, unintelligible screaming. Many a chorus do come through though, such as “Pussy whipped, pussy whipped, don’t you know you’re pussy whipped?”, “Mosh!”, and of course “SPEAK... ENGLISH... OR... DIIIIIEEEE!” When you read the words along with the music, things start to make more sense. Given you have a sense of humor, S.O.D. might even begin to grow on you, especially when you finally understand what Billy Milano is saying on “Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues”; “I’m passing clots the size of basketballs!” was a favorite, and also “I can’t go out like this, I look like I’ve been shot!!”
The title of this album is probably a turnoff for many, especially those who have bumper stickers claiming that “mean people suck”. “Speak English or Die”, the song itself (track 5), is pretty harsh toward immigrants. I make no excuses for the band, except to say that this certainly isn’t a sentiment exclusive to Americans. If you go to France, perhaps there are thrash metal bands that scream “PARLEZ.... FRANCAIS........ OU...... MOUREZZZZ!!!” And so on and so forth.
By and large, Stormtroopers of Death represents your typical body of work by thrash medalists. They party, they get angry, they propose their own toughness while ever doubting the toughness of others, they end up hating things they don’t understand. Music of this ilk and volume is definitely an acquired taste; even if you agree with their views, you’ll probably just get sick of the noise and turn it off.