Album Reviews (1985)

A bunch of short reviews.  All from 1985…

Attack – Return Of The Evil

Ricky van Helden continued on his warrior’s journey through the barren wastelands of heavy metal obscurity on Return Of The Evil, his band’s second album.  Attack’s quirky debut Danger In The Air was an interesting curio to say the least.  But with Return Of The Evil, Ricky forged ahead with a more conventional “power metal” sound.  Here, a clear Iron Maiden influence comes to light (though Ricky’s approach was a little more straightforward).  Ricky van Helden crafted songs that weren’t complicated technically, but were played with high energy, and provided a sturdy framework to back his melodic vocal ideas.  Dirty Mary and Warriors In Pain are my personal faves.  The album creates an atmosphere of epic fantasy, of ancient warriors in some quasi-medieval realm.  (Raise your broadswords, all ye warriors of METAL!)  Return Of The Evil was an even better album than Danger In The Air, but Attack’s best work was still on the horizon.  I’m talking about the long-lost gem called Destinies Of War (1989)!  Cheers to you, Ricky van Helden, you magnificent bastard.  My score: A- 

Gravestone – Back To Attack

Bummer dude!  Gravestone’s follow-up to their extraordinary 1984 offering Victim Of Chains wasn’t nearly as good as that iron-forged masterwork.  Nay, Back To Attack lacks the moments of bliss that flowed generously from the pulsing veins of Victim Of Chains (with tracks like The Hour and Death And Reality).  Still, the Scratch Records mix offered up here is another white-hot face melter (and sometimes that’s half the battle, ain’t it?)  Man, I love the molten metal sound of some of these Scratch Records products!  Don’t get me wrong, Back To Attack is another consistent and competent Gravestone record (stylistically, there was really no change from Victim Of Chains), but it just doesn’t quite blow me away like Victim Of ChainsI Love The Night and Break Out are my faves.  My score: B

Omen – Warning Of Danger

If a band like Iron Maiden was the equivalent of a prime rib dinner, then Omen would be the equivalent of your standard bologna sandwich; not your first choice for a meal, but enough to sustain you when the cupboards are bare.  Omen was formed by ex-Savage Grace guitarist Kenny Powell (leaving that band after their weak-sauce debut The Dominatress).   J.D. Kimball (R.I.P.) provided the vocals.  (Kimball, evidently, with his vocal cords on loan from Joe Cocker.)  I would have considered Omen to be in the top third of the Metal Blade roster in ’85, and maybe a middle-of-the-pack act overall.  Despite the second tier status, Warning Of Danger has enough clout to put a little more hair on your chest, with its sturdy (though not spectacular) armor-plated battle cries.  Something that may be worth checking out if your allowance is burning a hole in your pocket.  A quibble: Kimball’s vocals dominate the mix a bit too much.  My score: B-

Stormtroopers Of Death – Speak English Or Die

Speak English Or Die, a throwaway crossover album brought to you by a few dudes from Anthrax, and featuring  Billy Milano (future M.O.D.) on vocals.  By no means did the guys in S.O.D. intend to be taken seriously with this side project.  (Yet, for reasons unbeknownst to me, it is considered one of the great albums of ’80s metal.  Huh?)  One can tell by listening to Speak English Or Die that the guys were having fun with a couple of half-baked ideas and intentionally juvenile lyrics.  Offensive and comically racist, Speak English Or Die is one of those albums that you need only listen to once.  A few chuckles, maybe a few beers, and then it can be cast aside for more important things.  Musically, its shouty and, well… pretty piss poor.  But that’s kind of the idea.  One thing that Speak English Or Die is NOT… is timeless.  The album is very much a product of its time; totally mid-eighties mosh madness that sounds almost completely useless (and not nearly as funny) in 2012.  Yeah, I get it.  But that doesn’t mean I ever listen to it.  My score: D

Artillery – Fear Of Tomorrow

With a series of demo recordings under their belt dating way-the-hell back to ’82, the Danish thrash act Artillery finally launched their recording career in earnest in ’85 with Fear Of Tomorrow.  First of all, cool band logo and cool cover.  As for the music, those familiar with Artillery’s well-regarded 1987 album Terror Squad will find Fear Of Tomorrow a bit cruder, though not at all rudimentary.  In comparison to other thrash debuts from 1985, I would say Fear Of Tomorrow is not as intense/insane as Exodus’ LP Bonded By Blood, or as catchy as Overkill’s Feel The Fire.  This album lies somewhere betwixt; a respectable thrash debut featuring a handful of fun tracks like The Almighty and Time Has Come (and without the oft-oppressive heaviness of their future endeavors).  My score: B-

Lizzy Borden – Love You To Pieces

Love You To Pieces is a quality metal album that, unfortunately, is doused in the piss of flat production.  Though this is not a GREAT album, (the production makes sure of that, as does the jittery vibe of many of the songs which probably should have been slowed down a bit), Love You To Pieces does contain two exceptional Lizzy Borden tunes; American Metal and Rod Of Iron.  The first, the quintessential Lizzy Borden anthem, and the second, the album’s stirring finale.  The band’s leader was singer Lizzy Borden (the name of the man as well as the band… like a poor man’s Alice Cooper).  Lizzy gave an enjoyable, though at times excessive, vocal performance on Love You To Pieces.  The villainous Lizzy always had a rather unique voice and delivery.  Meanwhile, his band carried on anonymously and without luster, sounding like an unwashed Iron Maiden.  The cover rules/sucks like only an eighties metal cover can.  My score: B

Stormwitch – Tales Of Terror

Record number two for these guys.  Originally released by Scratch Records (one of the labels under the GAMA Musikverlag shroud), Tales of Terror became available on CD for the first time in 2005 thanks to the folks at Battle Cry Records.  The formula was the same as Stormwitch’s debut Walpurgis Night; twin leads, serviceable vocals, and occult-ish lyrics.  Tales Of Terror, I feel, is not as good as Walpurgis Night, as it lacks any truly kick-ass tunes.  I like the dark, somewhat cheesy, atmosphere conveyed here (in much the same way I always enjoy those old ’80s horror flicks).  The craptastic cover probably tells you something about Stormwitch’s style.  The two highlights (IMO) are Point Of No Return and Arabian Nights.  My score: B

Tox – Prince Of Darkness

Another nugget from the GAMA Musikverlag catalog.  This one on their Camel Records imprint.  (Mausoleum Records also released Prince Of Darkness.)  Tox was a three-piece band that played tight melodic metal/hard rock.  Tox sounded a little left of center in comparison to most of the metal coming out of Germany at the time.  The first thing one may notice about Prince Of Darkness would be the compressed and punchy drum sound.  Nice fidelity on the recording though, with each instrument (guitar, bass, drum, and voice) getting equal treatment in the mix.  The songs are spatial and clean, and the album, as a whole, has a nice variety of tunes.  Rosa Lee, which opens the album, is my favorite track.  Pure hard rock candy!  The song Prince Of Darkness is a cool track that matches the sinister vibe of the album’s cover.  Power Of Love goes a bit overboard on the AOR tip; probably the album’s weakest track.  Hard Hearted shows of the band’s more sensitive side.  Classy stuff.  My score: B

Savatage – Power Of The Night

The third album from Savatage, and its the same vintage metal sound as their first two.  Again, great production and just a sick guitar tone conjured by the master, Criss Oliva.  His riffs, as before, were straight up NASTY.  However, I don’t think Power Of The Night is as good an album as its predecessors, Sirens (1983) or The Dungeons Are Calling (1984).  With one exception (I’ll get to that in a moment), this album suffers from some really weak (vocal) hooks.  I sound like a broken record when I review these ol’ Savatage albums, but singer Jon Oliva, for all his talent, just couldn’t deliver a chorus worth a damn in the early years.  As for the exception, this album features my favorite Savatage song from the 1980s, Power Of The Night!  A stone cold gem!  Great riff, kick-ass solo, excellent vocals, and really cool lyrics. “Thrashing!  Screaming!  Twisting!  Banging!  Heads upon the platform. The witch has been conceived!”  All of Savatage’s greatest qualities came together perfectly on this essential track.  One for the ages.  Damn, there’s just nothing better than a great metal song!  RAISE THE FIST OF THE METAL CHILD!  My score: B-   

ZnoWhite – Kick ‘Em When They’re Down

This rust bucket from the speed/thrash junkyard has a decent little motor under the hood.  But the minute singer Nicole Lee opens her mouth to sing, one realizes this thing ain’t ever getting back on the road.  Lee’s voice, unfortunately, was powerless and shrill.  She sounded like a nine-year old boy on the mic!  That’s not a knock on female vocalists in general.  There were a few female singers in the eighties that had enough of a mean streak to get the job done (see Pesch, Doro or Weinhold, Jutta).  But Lee, bless her heart, didn’t have the right voice to lead a heavy metal band to the promise land.  As a result, Kick ‘Em When They’re Down is no more than a mild curiosity… a novelty even.  Mercifully, only five tracks.  Try not to laugh.  My score: C-

 

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8 thoughts on “Album Reviews (1985)

  1. …..(Yet, for reasons unbeknownst to me, it is considered one of the great albums of ’80s metal. Huh?)….

    COMMENT ON THE CLASSIC STROMTROOPERS OF DEATH ‘ SPEAK ENGLISH OR DIE’

    I will give this a shot, I hope this is articulate. This album was 2 years after the Suicidal Tendencies “Suicidal Tendencies” July 1983 Masterpiece.

    Speak English or Die was released in July 1985…There would be no second Suicidal Tendenies 2nd album untill July 1987.

    Stormtroopers of Death, combined The Suicidal Tendencies debut and mixed it with everything extreme in hardcore punk rock thrash and exteme metal power, speed and thrash and a dallop of a secret ingrediant of Slayer’s “Haunting The Chapel”

    The heaviest band in the world at the time of July 1985 was Stromtroopers of Death, and for sure the most extreme band in the world at the time.

    If you will notice after this album, alot of hardcore punk rock thrashing bands…all-a-sudden started to try to blend in with Speed Metal.

    There is no accounting for taste and luckily music is best enjoyed when you approach it from a subjective headspace, and point of view.

    • No problem. It’s all about the discussion. My opinion, as I always say, is worthless. But I have to be honest with myself. My goal is to stir interest in eighties metal. Hopefully some kid will stumble upon this site and start trying stuff out. I don’t expect (or want) everyone to agree with me. That’s the fun of it! I love the back and forth. And your comments always add value to the discussion, my man!
      Thanks!

      • Nah, your opinion is not worthless…Opinions are just opinions, because I have a different head-space, I see things all little differently.

        For you they are dated and for me..I still get a rush out of the total thrashing crunching powerful metal insanitiy. With a singer, who out Mentors THE MENTORS, when it comes to tasteless good friendly violent fun.

        I am honest enough to admit I collect music along a specific SUBJECTIVE state of mind. Which stared really with December’s 1983 Slayer’s “Show No Mercy” and I can back track this to say my love of the fast fast NWOBHM classics.

        Stuff like SOD “Speak English or Die” is right in the “sweet spot”, or the middle of the bell curve which starts with (1980)Tygers of Pan Tang “WildCat” and ends with say Doctor Butcher “Doctor Butcher”(1994)…This is just headspace stuff to close to the heart, and the subjective factor kicks in…

        I have been listening to heavy metal casually, since 1978 when Van Halen was all the rage, and thrash was big in 1985, so between those two points there are bands that overlap, between those who collect traditional metal/ hard rock and those who are metal only collectors.

        I am not a metal only collector…I came from the Classical music genre as a true fan of that genre. Because I am impressed with the invention of the AMP that first happened in 1962, by that Marshall guy.

  2. Lizzy Borden a poor mans Alice Cooper….

    So what..!!!!

    There is such a thing to me as having the correct influences (NO NOT REALLY) Alice Cooper, no Mercyful Fate, noSex Pistols, no Wasp, no Crue, no Twisted Sister and the SMF’s.

    God bless the afro-man singer from LA…I love the band Starwood and the headbanger classic “If it aint broke break it”.

    I am still waiting for “Give em the Axe” to be re-pressed, as a stand-alone on CD.

    I will take this band with its obvious Alice Cooper influence over the other 86, 000 over hyped bands over at metal archives*com

    One day my favorite hard rockers were Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, then out of now-where, I moved Alice Cooper up to the top spot over Aersosmith…because it is no secret Randy Rhodes the Guitartist of Ozzy Osbourne’s favorite band besides Van Halen was Alice Cooper !!!!

    And I am a total Randy Rhodes-era Ozzy Osbourne freak !!!!!!!

    • I am also a Randy-era freak. Diary Of A Madman is my favorite metal album. As for Lizzy Borden, they always had a few gems on their albums. Master Of Disguise is my personal fave.

      • Whoa…so true for me also. “Diary of a Madman” was my first favorite album, off all-time…The most purchased album I had was Iron Maiden “Iron Maiden’ It would only take me about 30 days, to wear off the writing during the walk-man and vinyl era. Of those white shelled cassettes. As a record collector…I always had a mint condition fetish, for something I was doing to play into the ground, untill I memorized it.

  3. Stormwitch – Tales of Terror. The sound is more polished and there’s lighter vibe about it than Walpurgis Night (which drives a metal tank into the upper echelons of that era’s Germanic sound — tough as nails… hard hitting songs, top 5 German Metal for me – regardless of the production… exempt category for rating 80s metal albums) Nevertheless its a fun album because of all those elements you listed. The following album likewise.

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