Album Reviews (1988)

Another round of reviews.  All from 1988…

Ozzy Osbourne – No Rest For The Wicked

Enter Zakk Wylde.  Before settling on his current persona as some kind of biker/tough guy/steroid monster/booze guzzler/long-lost Allman Brother/foul-mouthed redneck, Wylde was just a young six-string whiz kid plucked from nowhere to replace Jake. E. Lee in Ozzy’s band.  And he absolutely smoked on the No Rest For The Wicked album, helping the addled Osbourne construct another standout record.  Wylde delivered a masterful performance, unleashing searing riffs and blistering licks, all sprinkled with his trademark squealing harmonics.  Osbourne himself was the same crazed madman we all remember fondly.  I’m sure there were plenty of puppeteers helping Ozzy get through the writing/recording process (chief among them, the great Bob Daisley), but the end result was still a glorious metal feast.  Rolling Stone bashed No Rest For The Wicked (giving it one star out of five), which is all the more reason for you to buy it!  Faves include Miracle Man (great lyrics), Fire In The Sky, Tattooed Dancer, and Demon Alcohol.  The original U.S. LP version of No Rest For The Wicked did not include Hero, another killer track.  The Japanese version of No Rest For The Wicked included the bonus track The Liar.  My score: A

Testament – The New Order

Warning: contents under pressure.  Like The Legacy before it, Testament’s second LP, The New Order, took a humorless, almost smothering approach to thrash.  I wish that Testament had injected just a little bit of levity into their songs to let us know we could smile and have a little fun.  Maybe it’s the vocals of Chuck Billy that bug me.  The man was just a little too relentless and serious in his delivery, all the while trying to dodge the label of “a poor man’s James Hetfield”.  Testament did have an unquestionable talent in their ranks, however.  That would be guitarist Alex Skolnick.  He was much more of a guitar virtuoso than many of his Bay Area peers.  This really showed on Skolnick’s interesting solos, but unfortunately the riffs on The New Order were pretty ordinary.  My score: C+

Overkill – Under The Influence

Staying the course, Overkill continued to roll like a tank over the rotting corpses of poseurs with their third full-length release, Under The Influence.  The damage begins with Shred, in which a manic Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth shouts; “make no bones about it — I came to SHRED!”  Bobby was just letting you know that Overkill had returned once again to shove a fistful of thrash into your whiny gob.  Never Say Never and Hello From The Gutter follow in a similar vein, both carrying big hooks and Overkill’s trademark “f*ck you” attitude.  Unlike Testament (see above), Overkill’s lyrics weren’t serious 100% of the time, which I think helped them come across as more endearing than the majority of their thrashing peers.  Highlights of side two include End Of The Line, and the album’s stirring finale Overkill III (Under The Influence).  My score: A-

Bathory – Blood Fire Death

Black metal.  I know there is some unwritten rule that you are not “metal” enough if you don’t like this kind of harsh, noisy shit.  It is a badge of honor, I suppose, to be a fan of the heinous and the colorless.  (Puts hair on your pimply white chest, does it?)  It is too bad this kind of garbage sprouted up in the eighties and pulled metal in a less musical direction in the nineties and beyond.  Hey, no one is saying Bathory weren’t highly influential.  It just sucks that they were.  (Actually, the “they” should be a “he”, as Bathory was more or less just one guy, Quorthon.)  Of course, the indecipherable, belched vocals only add rancid icing to this urine soaked cake.  A purchase I immediately regretted.  My score: F

Death – Leprosy

Unlike the nauseating experience that is Bathory (see above), Death had actual talent and craftsmanship.  Chuck Schuldiner’s band knew how to mix things up, moving with agility from all-out thrash madness to skull crushing grooves with the blink of an eye.  Of course, there’s the matter of the patented death metal vocals, something I find altogether laughable and unfortunate.  I guess it’s a good thing I have zero tolerance for death metal voices, because it would probably cost me a ton of dough to go out and collect all the death metal stuff.  Luckily, that’s money in my pocket because I just won’t go there.  With Leprosy, I can actually appreciate what Death was up to, and even tolerate the vocals to a degree (hey, at least I can understand what Chuck was saying).  But it’s not something I’ll actively reach for.  Favorite cut: Pull The Plug.  My score: C+

Van Halen – OU812

If you don’t like 5150, then there’s little chance you will enjoy OU812.  Personally I love 5150, but I will concede that OU812 is a step down from that record.

Sandwiched between the exquisite 5150 (1986) and the very good For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), OU812 seems to be the odd man out in the “Van Hagar” catalog.  Truth is, Van Halen didn’t change much approach-wise with OU812 relative to 5150, but while 5150 consisted entirely of songs I would classify as very good to perfect, OU812 was much more of a hit and miss affair.  The album’s opener is Mine All Mine, a curious choice for an opener, given the bounty of keyboards on display (and we learn right away that Alex’s questionable electronic drums have returned for another album).  Nevertheless Mine All Mine is a good song, though it would not necessarily be my first choice for track #1.  Other notable cuts include Finish What Ya Started (a tasty acoustic retreat) and the pounding Black And Blue.  And of course, Sammy Hagar began his journey to Jimmy Buffet land with the sunny Cabo Wabo, my favorite track on the album.  However, tracks like A Apolitical Blues, When It’s Love, and Source Of Infection can’t exactly be classified as top-shelf Van Halen material.  My score: B+

L.A. Guns – L.A. Guns

The Hollywood vampires surfaced from the seedy underbelly in 1988 with this eponymous debut.  Though they looked like a bunch of junkies from skid row, the music on the debut was surprisingly harmless.  I always thought L.A. Guns looked much more “dangerous” than they actually sounded on record.  The L.A. Guns album was a decent chunk of mild sleaze, but truth be told, the album could have easily slipped into obscurity had L.A. Guns not knocked it out of the park with their sophomore effort Cocked & Loaded (1989).  That album helped make L.A. Guns a band worthy of further exploration.  And I, like many others I’m sure, chose to check out L.A. Guns only AFTER hearing Cocked & Loaded.  Call this one a fair beginning for a band with better stuff on the way.  My score: B-

Veto – Carthago

Veto was an under-appreciated German metal band that released two albums on Peter Garattoni’s GAMA record label.  Veto’s first LP was the great Veto from 1986.  The album wasn’t much of a success, and thereafter Veto continued as more of a studio project than a live band.  Veto’s second LP was Carthago, another round of crisp Teutonic steel.  I do not think Carthago is quite the gem that Veto was, though the band certainly kept their good metal name (in my mind).  I suspect the use of drum machines on the double bass parts.  Best tracks: Riders On The Loose and Trust Your Heart.  Released on CD as a 2-in-1 with Veto by Blower Records of Mexico.  My score: B

Anacrusis – Suffering Hour

AnacrusisThe Missouri thrash band Anacrusis recorded Suffering Hour on the cheap, and on their own dime.  Needless to say, the audio quality of the Suffering Hour is not ideal.  This diminishes the overall impact of what is otherwise a better than average thrash record.  Vocalist Kenn Nardi used several different singing styles on Suffering Hour, often switching back and forth between them many times within the same song.  He sometimes used a “clean” voice (quite serviceable), but more often he opted for a gut-spilling bark or an soul-raping screech (just awful).  Anacrusis mixed on a few melodic moments into their otherwise harsh brand of nose-bleed thrash.  Present Tense, A World To Gain, and Fighting Evil all featured ear-friendly chorus refrains.  Future albums by Anacrusis found them exploring a more progressive style of thrash, something that eventually garnered them critical praise.  Suffering Hour was originally released in 1988 by Active Records in Europe, and later re-released by Metal Blade in 1990.  Suffering Hour, as well as Anacrusis’ subsequent releases, are all available for free download on the band’s website.  My score: B-

Angel Dust – To Dust You Will Decay

The Angel Dust lineup got an overhaul for this, their second album.  The somewhat repetitive all-out speed metal of the debut Into The Dark Past was now a distant memory, as Angel Dust (with a new, quality singer in tow) added some much-needed melody and variation to their high tempo metal attack, making From Dusk You Will Decay an album that can be enjoyed from start to finish.  The CD version of From Dust You Will Decay was a highly sought after collector’s item for a time.  Bootlegs made the rounds, and yours truly made the mistake of buying one on eBay (thought it was legit).  Live and learn.  My score: B

Mekong Delta – The Music Of Erich Zann

Mekong DeltaMekong Delta tried to distinguish themselves by being a little more technical than the standard German speed n’ thrash fair.  They also tried to be a little more brainy — The Music Of Erich Zann is a concept album based on an H.P. Lovecraft story.  The result is a sound somewhere between the harsh technical architecture of Coroner (circa Punishment For Decadence, also released in 1988), and Rage’s cut throat velocity attack (circa Perfect Man, another ’88 release).  But unfortunately The Music Of Erich Zann isn’t nearly as good as either of these records.  So at the end of the day, I just don’t care.  My score: C


2 thoughts on “Album Reviews (1988)

  1. hey man, you’re a great writer, i’m having fun, though i don’t like a lot of the albums you praise (well, i’m actually just talking about hair metal and overproduced hard rock/metal, including van halen post-fair warning). i do love some crust punk, including amebix, whom you bashed with abandon haha, i loathe stryper, and i love the 70s, from bloody budgie or foghat all the way to television, the stooges, free jazz and krautrock. oh i’ve got such an open mind, i know… BUT i think i finally found someone who shares my distate for black metal in general or death metal’s horrid vocal style (and the music’s just too busy for me, most of the time). i love the way you consider those styles heinous and incomprehensible, to say the least. i never got it. if i want harsh vocalists, i’ll take david yow from the jesus lizard anyday, thank you. btw, i’m with you with king diamond, too, but that’s a fairly recent opinion of mine, since when i was 14 mercyful fate was where it was for me- they opened the door to a very silly dark side that nowadays just seems nerdy and cocooned by Freudian standards ha… however, i was a thrash/hardcore maniac back in the day, so i enjoyed what you had to say about, say, death angel or the mighty and way underrated blind illusion… oh, ans you deserve a Nobel prize just for your kiss reviews (they got me into metal in 1980, i still enjoy some songs, ace rules and all that, but they’re just thieving magpies, to quote marillion, aren’t they?) ….just discovered your blog, so i’m sorta flipping thru. gonna check your index, because i’m wondering what you have to say about celtic frost, in case you’ve written about them. now, that’s a band i still truly love, along with voivod. but in metal, i just went back to my pube years ha: mostly the huge acts (priest, scorps, dio, sabbath, ufo, et al) and some nwobhm, stuff like that. there’s some cool new bands nowadays (cauldron, high spirits, christian mistress, night demon, sanhedrin, axxion, etc) …so yeah, keep it going, and stay forever long-haired, heavy or whatever…

    • Thanks man. You probably shouldn’t look at my Celtic Frost review though! You’re not going to like it! Anyway, it’s all in good fun and I appreciate your very kind words!

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