Album Reviews (1984) vol. 3

I’ve noticed some of my reviews have been a little long-winded lately.  To counteract my overindulgence, here’s a bunch of (mostly) short reviews.  All albums were released in 1984…

Dark Heart – Shadows Of The Night

EXIF JPEG 2.1With that curious cover art, it’s a bit ambiguous as to just what style of music lurks beneath, but a closer look reveals the band’s name scrawled in a nice horror movie style font – a telling sign that metal resides here.  Dark Heart was a British band that released just one album, a nuts and bolts affair called Shadows Of The Night.  It is an album almost wholly without riffs, instead relying on hanging power chords for substrate, and slinky, re-occurring lead guitar motifs for a splash of melody.  Problem is Dark Heart didn’t have much of a singer to drive home their simple, repetitive songs.  Nevertheless, the title track warrants mention as the album’s lone, addictive highlight.  My score: C+

Biscaya – On 45

BiscayaThe name Biscaya sounds like a type of fancy cookie.  But nay, Biscaya was a Swedish rock band.  Their 1983 self-titled debut was a real winner, dabbling in all sorts of rock styles.  One of that album’s unquestionable highlights was a heavy metal scorcher called Howl In The Sky, a track that left me wishing the multifaceted Biscaya had committed to heavy metal on a full-time basis.  The follow-up to Biscaya was this four track EP called On 45.  Again, Biscaya displayed tremendous skill and a spirit of adventure, though unfortunately for metal fans, they didn’t revisit the metal genre on this short recording.  What we have instead is a jubilant form of rock delivered with a lust for the progressive, and bolstered by top shelf production.  I suppose Biscaya was kind of an enigma.  It’s hard to tell just what audience they were playing to.  In the end I just think Biscaya was a very talented band that liked to keep everyone’s head on a swivel.  All four tracks from this EP were included as unlisted bonus cuts on the 1996 CD re-issue of Biscaya, adding even more value to an already worthwhile purchase.  My score: B

Dirty Looks – Dirty Looks

Dirty LooksThe rare Dirty Looks LP was originally released independently by the band on their Sticky Records label in 1984.  I can’t find a decent pic of the original indie album cover on the net, so instead I’m showing you the cover to the 1985 re-issue of Dirty Looks on France’s Axe Killer Records.

Dirty Looks’ Henrik Ostergaard was a very prolific songwriter.  He issued many albums under the Dirty Looks name right up until the time of his death in early 2011.  Of course, you may say that it’s easy to be prolific when you write the same song over and over (and I’m only half kidding).  But hey, at least it was a good one!  Dirty Looks had a brief prime, with major label albums Cool From The Wire (1988) and Turn Of The Screw (1989) being the most popular Dirty Looks releases.  Both were killer sleaze fests.

Here we have Henrik back in the early days with a decent batch of tunes in his trademark Dirty Looks style.  Better stuff was on the way from Dirty Looks, so this album really shouldn’t be considered essential to anyone but the most die-hard Dirty Looks completist, as the recording is just too noisy and stiff.  Seems to me the band really could have used a better producer (or more money) to scale back their harsher tendencies and accentuate the songs’ inherent grooves.  My score: B-

Maltese Falcon – Metal Rush

Maltese FalconApparently, Kerrang! magazine once called this album something like “the worst metal album ever”.  I’m not sure why Kerrang! rained such a tornado of hate down on poor ol’ Metal Rush because it’s just another spirited chunk of trench metal from mainland Europe.  These guys were Danes, but they might as well have been German since they had that same bruising rough n’ tumble metal sound ascending from the cauldrons of West Germany at the time.  Maltese Falcon worked up a serviceable flop sweat behind their screechy-voiced vocalist “Charlie”.  I think that Metal Rush would have benefited greatly from a better mix – something akin to Accept’s Balls To The Wall might have been nice, as the recording sounds a bit too noisy for my taste.  Nevertheless, there are two beer swillin’ gems to be found here in Heavy ‘N’ Loud and Rebellion.  Crank ’em up!  My score: B-

White Sister – White Sister

White SisterBelieve it or not White Sister is a pretty solid album.  I don’t think one would expect such quality after taking a gander at the mountainous glob of creamy splooge that is the album’s awful cover!  Nice font on that logo boys.  Jeesh!  These California dudes really punched their ticket to nowhere with that lame ass cover, eh?  Too bad, because those with a hankering for some decent (and heavier than it looks) AOR might want to get involved ASAP.  Heck, there are gooey choruses all over the joint!  I’m particularly enamored with Don’t Say You’re Mine and Breakin’ All The Rules.  Avert your eyes from those leg warmers and just enjoy the music.  My score: B

Proud – Fire Breaks The Dawn

Fire Breaks The Dawn…and proud they very well should be!  This Swedish band joins ranks with the likes of Wizz and Saigon as Swedes that delivered a single kick-ass album and then disappeared into the heavy metal graveyard.  A youthful verve emanates from the band on Fire Breaks The Dawn, as they cut through the frigid Swedish air with swirling guitars and melodic vocals.  The closest approximation I can make would be the mighty Overdrive, another Swedish band with spastic ideas and minds of melancholia.  Fire Breaks The Dawn was finally pressed to CD by the rogue pirates at Old Metal Records out of Arlington, Virginia.  Most likely a bootleg, but at least someone had the presence of mind to resurrect this ol’ beauty (originally released by EMI Records).  My favorite track is the exquisite Echoes From The Past.  My score: B+

Boss – Step On It

BossThat dreaded artificial and compressed drum sound of the eighties rears its ugly head once again, destroying everything in its path on this Aussie band’s one and only album.  Too bad the overbearing drum machine stifled what could have been a rootsy bit of hard rock goodness, especially with the righteous rock lungs of singer Craig Csongrady at the helm.  (When Csongrady opens up for the higher notes he sounds just like Billy Squier.)  Instead we are left with something much more stiff and generic than it should have been.  Choice cut: Dancin’ Queen (no, not THAT one).  My score: B-


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