Originally known as Hell Razor, Exciter was formed in Ottawa in 1978 by John Ricci on guitars, Allan Johnson on bass and drummer/vocalist Dan Beehler. After honing their chops on the Ontario bar circuit for nearly two years they changed their name to Exciter, after submitting a set of demos to US-based Shrapnel Records the same year. Originally nothing came of it but in ’82 “World War 3” wound up on the compilation album US METAL VOLUME 2. The exposure from the track helped gain them an opening slot on the Canadian leg of Black Sabbath’s world tour that year. This led to their signing to Shrapnel and their debut lp HEAVY METAL MANIAC a year later.
An all-out thrash metal assault of the senses, the record was anything but fancy. Stripped of any finesse, it was recorded on a shoe-string budget with producer John Belrose. Their raw energy caught the attention of execs at Mega Force Records, signing them to a 3-record deal in 1984. They were brought into Ithaca, NY’s Pyramid Sound Studios where they recorded VIOLENCE & FORCE. Produced by Carl Canedy – most noted for his work with The Rods, the album continued in the raw aggressive style of its predecessor. Following several North American tours with the likes of Anthrax and Mercyful Fate. But despite the cult-like following for tracks like “Evil Sinner”, “War Is Hell” and the title track, execs at Mega Force lost faith in the group and released them from their contract.
They rebounded a year later by signing with the independent Music For Nations label. They travelled to London, England and began work on theri next project. With Guy Bidhead (Motorhead’s producer) behind the controls, it marked a definite shift in sound and attitude. Less a speed-metal record and more a straight-forward heavy rock album, LONG LIVE THE LOUD was released in ’85 and contained “Victims Of Sacrifice”, the title track and “Beyond The Gates Of Doom”. Truly their break-out album, the response received from the rabid metal-head fans led to European & North American tours with heavyhitters Accept, Motorhead and Megadeth. Before the end of the year they released the 3-track EP FEEL THE KNIFE – two of which were recorded live in London, which was the last offering from the original lineup. Shortly after returning home John Ricci quit the band to form Blackstar.
With new axeman Brian McPhee they returned to Britain to begin work on the next album. Bidmead was brought in again and the band experimented with a more melodic sound – or as melodic as a heavy metal act can be. Recorded at London’s Britannia Row Studios, UNVEILING THE WICKED was released in ’86. On the strength of the lead-off “Break Down The Walls”, “Brainstorm” and “LiveFast Die Young” they again set out on an exhaustive set of tours with Motorhead, and then Manowar. Following the end of the tours a drastic change was made in personnel. Deciding it would be best to no longer be a trio, Beehler opted to stick to drums, and the band brought in new singer Rob Malnati.
Despite the relative success they were enjoying, they chose to sign to new Canadian label Maze Music. They also decided to keep the sound ‘local’ – renting time at Toronto’s Metalworks Studios. Released in 1988, the self-titled album pushed the envelope of melody to its breaking point. Despite the definite improvement in production with new engineer Ed Stone, tracks like “Back In The Light” and “Eyes In The Sky” just weren’t catching the attention of their headbanger audience and the ensuing tour garnered less than favourable or expected results.
Despondent and rejected, the band put themselves on hiatus until re-emerging in ’91. With the return of Ricci on guitars, they were again a trio – Beehler and new bassist David Ledden rounding out the core. They shopped their services around and signed with German label Noise Records a year later. They went to Leidecker Studios in Aylmer, Quebec and recorded KILL AFTER KILL with Manfred Leideckeras producer. Released the same year, they followed up with another arduous tour across the continent – and also saw time on a European leg with Rage. Of note about KAK was the inclusion of a live version of “Born To Kill”, previously unreleased except for a ‘various artists compilation’ the year before.
The next year saw the release of their first full-length live album. Recorded on the ’91 Canadian Tour, BETTER LIVE THAN DEAD. Oddly tho it only covered material from the first three records. Again the band went into hiatus, not resurfacing until 1996. Reverting back to a quartet, the new lineup consisted of Ricci with vocalist Jacques Belanger and new drummer Rik Charron and bassist Marc Charron – no relation. Ricci was familiar with Belanger from their days together in Blackstar in ’85 – ’86.
THE DARK COMMAND hit the stores in the summer of ’87. Released by Osmose Productions, Leidecker was brought in as producer again and returned the band to their heavy roots. Tho no pop-rock by any stretch of the imagination, it demonstrated a maturity in writing and a toning-down of the speed attitude. They embarked on another tour, this time with fellow Canadians Anvil and Flotsam & Jetsam.
Leidecker made it three-straight albums he’d produced for the band with 2000’s BLOOD OF TYRANTS. Several line-up shuffles however made touring sporadic and not very well-received for the next couple years. Belanger quit the band in 2001, as did Marc Charron a year later. Ricci and the other Charron hired new vocalist Rob Degroot in 2003 and bassist Paul Champagne shortly after. But only months later Degroot was axed due to creative differences, thus seeing the return of Belanger as lead singer.