As I explained in volume 1 of this series (found here), I am making a concerted effort to go through my heavy metal and hard rock cassette collection and give these old gems a fresh listen (or in many cases a first listen). I’ve amassed quite a large quantity of tapes over the years and maybe its time to figure out which ones should be promoted to CD! I have chosen another ten tapes from my collection (some of which I have never listened to and don’t know much about), and over the last two weeks I have been listening to them constantly. Here’s a pic of the ten tapes I picked out for this edition of Tales of the Tape…
…and now that I have listened to them (and done a bit of online research), here’s a quick review of each tape:
Hitt Man – Hitt Man (1988)
Is it Hitt Man or Hittman? Everywhere I look online it is spelled Hittman, but the tape I have in front of me clearly says Hitt Man on the album cover, spine, and liner notes. Then again, the tape itself says Hittman. Which is it? These things are important to me people!
This album was released in 1988 by Steamhammer Records (the metal division of SPV Records). The tape I have is a Roadrunner Records pressing that appeared on their RC Records label.
This is some quality American heavy metal from a little-known New York band. Vocalist Dirk Kennedy has a high, regal voice that reminds me of the likes of Midnight or Geoff Tate. The sound is tight, clean and metal to the core. Two particular favs are Breakout (a metal barnstormer) and Will You Be There? (a great heavy ballad). Apparently, Hitt Man went unnoticed in the U.S. due to poor availability and untimely trends. Worth checking out, especially if you dig Crimson Glory or Queensryche. My score: B+
Saint Vitus – Thirsty And Miserable (1987)
Doomsters Saint Vitus released Thirsty And Miserable, a three-track EP, in 1987. It came out on SST Records. The title track is a cover of the Black Flag song.
Frankly, this tape is a rather forgettable foray. None of the songs hold my interest and the vocals of Scott “Wino” Weinrich are pretty damn crappy. Sort of an inconsequential release in my humble opinion. The guitar tones are straight from Masters Of Reality by Black Sabbath, which is about the only good thing I can say about this. Thirsty And Miserable has never been released in CD form. My score: D
David Lee Roth – Skyscraper (1988)
As far as I am concerned there are three good songs on Skyscraper, and the rest I could take or leave. The three tracks are Knucklebones, Just Like Paradise, and Hot Dog And A Shake. Just Like Paradise was a huge hit (top ten in fact) and it was all over the place in ’88. This song brings back some good memories for me. It was the album’s lead single. The second single, as I recall, was Stand Up, which I remember hating. As I listen to it today I realize that it still sucks royally. Roth should have released Hot Dog And A Shake as a single. It is a fast, rocking tune that is fun and catchy. I think it would have been a modest hit on rock radio (though it would have been too fast for Top 40 radio). Guitar aficionados may enjoy this album due to Steve Vai’s creative playing, but in most cases the songs just don’t add up to the sum of their parts (bass hero Billy Sheehan was also in the band). A decent album, but I would expect more from DLR. Skyscraper is certified platinum in the United States. My score: B
Jet Red – Jet Red (1989)
Jet Red were a California band that released this, their self-titled debut, in 1989 on Relativity Records. The album never caught on and Jet Red disbanded before releasing a follow-up.
The sound of the record is light hair metal mixed with melodic AOR. Obviously, the point of the record was to get mainstream radio airplay, but unfortunately the Jet Red album falls short on two fronts. First, the production lacks the polish and pop of a typical AOR record (like a Night Ranger or Journey album). Second, the hooks just don’t stick like they should. I listened to this tape several times but nothing really caught my attention. Not a single track. Jet Red just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. My score: C-
Fastway – Fastway (1983)
Good stuff by Fastway right here. This is their 1983 debut. Fastway featured “Fast” Eddie Clarke (formerly of Motorhead) on guitar. Clarke formed the band with Pete Way (former UFO bassist). Hence the name Fast + Way. The singer was a young and unknown Irishmen named Dave King. Pete Way bailed on the project before the album came out, and wound up forming Waysted (an excellent and underrated band).
The track list on the cassette cover does not include the song Far Far From Home, but the cassette label itself does. The song is indeed on the cassette, so no worries.
Fastway kicks off with the free-wheeling Easy Livin’. The album maintains it’s grip with raunchy rock characterized by a touch of heavy blues, dirty guitars, and the commanding vocal presence of Dave King (who sounds like a meaner, jacked up version of Robert Plant or Jack Russell). Not a lot of variety but that’s okay. Personal favorite is Give It All You Got. My score: A-
Piledriver – Metal Inquisition (1985)
Once again, is it Piledriver or Pile Driver? The band logo looks like Piledriver on the front cover, but the cassette spine and cassette itself say Pile Driver. What the hell? I’m going with Piledriver.
Metal Inquisition was a studio project put together by Cobra Records, a Canadian label. Although the liner notes say that there were five band members, really there were only two guys. One guy singing and another guy playing all the instruments. The drums aren’t real, they are programmed.
It’s kind of hard for me to get behind Metal Inquisition because it’s very existence is an affront to what heavy metal is all about. This was purely a money-making venture. (Yes folks, there was a day and age when heavy metal made people money!) There was no band. No live shows. No blood, sweat and tears. Just the pursuit of the dollar by studio heads and hired mercenaries. The “shock” factor was just part of the plan. One of the things that we love about heavy metal is that, for most bands, it started off as being all about the music (and lifestyle). At some point early on in their careers most of the musicians we love were fans just like us. The ones that can maintain that love for the music and that hunger in the face of trends (and lack of money) are the ones that deserve our loyalty. So what separates Metal Inquisition from most of the fabricated, trendy and soulless pop music that pollutes our ears these days? Not much. These guys were just a marketing tool not unlike the Pussycat Dolls or Black Eyed Peas are today.
Anyway, I digress. How’s the music? Actually really stupid. There are some good riffs (Witch Hunt) and even a few things that make me chuckle (like that burp at the end of Pile Driver; I can practically smell it coming out of my speakers). I’m pretty sure the lyrics are meant to be funny and over the top (song titles include Sex With Satan, Sodomize The Dead, and Alien Rape), but they are still an insult to a fan’s intelligence. Is what the record execs at Cobra Records really thought metal fans wanted? Oh, and the choruses? They are repeated over and over a zillion times to the point where I want to paint these walls with my blown out brains. My score: C-
Alcatrazz – No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll (1983)
This is the debut album from Alcatrazz, a band featuring journeyman vocalist Graham Bonnet (ex-Rainbow, ex-The Michael Schenker Group), and Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar. It was released on Rocshire Records.
It took a long time for this one to start sinking in. When I first got this tape years ago I was kind of put off by Graham Bonnet’s vocals. He has a distinct style, especially in the manner in which he projects his voice. At times it seems the intensity with which he sings outweighs the intensity called for by the song. The fact that the rhythm guitar is mixed far back and his vocals are up front no doubt contributes to this (perceived?) mismatch. Once I got used to Bonnet’s vocals I started to appreciate No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll quite a bit. I’m particularly fond of side one which, by the way, has a different song order than is printed on the cassette. Island In The Sun, General Hospital and Hiroshima Mon Amour are my three favs from side one. Side two doesn’t have any great songs in my opinion, but the songs may be of some interest due to Malmsteen’s amazing solos. The man does his best to outshine Graham Bonnet with his axe work. It’s no wonder the pairing of Bonnet and Malmsteen only survived this one studio album. My score: B+
Tankard – Chemical Invasion (1987)
Ya know, thrash can be a fickle bitch. I love metal, yes I do, but I swear like 50% of the thrash that came out in the ’80s is unlistenable. There are tons of thrash albums that flooded the market in the ’80s and half of them are just crap. I’m a tough one to please when it comes to thrash. So I actually surprised myself when I really enjoyed this Tankard tape!
This is German thrash with pretty fun lyrics (much of it about booze). Though it has a frenzied feel thanks in large part due to the vocalist, who sounds absolutely berserk (in a good way), the album is far from a dissonant train wreck. Chemical Invasion is funny, catchy, and headbanging as hell! You see, unlike many thrash “songs” which are no more than a patchwork of different riffs, Tankard manages to craft actual songs with good transitions, proper continuity and a sense of resolution. My favorite track is the seven minute plus Traitor, which has several different parts that are very cool and make you want to yell along. The lyrics of this song are a nice middle finger to all the “metal” posers of the time. This tape has definitely turned me on to Tankard. In fact, I’m drinking a beer as a write this, so I guess I received Tankard’s message loud and clear. My score: B
Indestroy – Indestroy (1987)
Indestroy was a Maryland band that released this self-titled debut on New Renaissance Records in ’87.
Kick-ass cover! Suck-ass tape! Okay, its not that bad. Hell, I could imagine a fourteen year old boy in 1987 with ten bucks to burn going to the record store, seeing this album cover, and snatching this baby up. Back then, kids could afford maybe seven or eight new albums a year, right? I could see a kid taking a chance on this, playing it to death, and convincing himself it is the greatest thing since Master Of Puppets. The kid pops Indestroy into his Sony Walkman while practicing ollies in the parking lot and thinks he’s getting away with something because his parents don’t know he’s listening to songs like Dead Girls (Don’t Say No) and Dismembered. Kid goes home and watches Tales From The Crypt on HBO. Good day. Been there, right? Well what happens when the kid grows up and is in his mid-thirties and, thanks to the internet, can listen to any all the music from the ’80s for free? Now Indestroy doesn’t seem much like the world beater it once was when there is plenty of competition around.
Anyway, this is pretty unremarkable underground thrash that is tolerable when speedy but really shows its weakness when the tempos are slow. My score: C-
Artch – Another Return (1988)
Artch were a Norwegian band with an Icelandic singer. Another Return was originally released by Active Records in Europe in 1988. The version I have was released by Metal Blade Records in 1989 with the elongated title Another Return To Church Hill (A.R.T.C.H., get it?).
Another Return features rich Euro-metal that is well-played, well-produced, and especially well-voiced. The title track steals the show, as it evokes many things dark and medieval. The rest, though perfectly serviceable, doesn’t leave a lasting impact. Call it early power metal or just plain old heavy metal, Another Return chugs along gallantly, leaving the thirsty listener momentarily satisfied, but ultimately ready to move on to other ales. My score: B
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