Album Reviews (Jan 31, 2014)

Silver Mountain – Roses & Champagne (1988)

Silver MountainSweden’s Silver Mountain released three studio albums in the eighties.  Their best, by far, was 1985’s Universe.  Unfortunately, Silver Mountain’s lineup never really solidified, meaning their small catalog lacks consistency.  1988’s Roses & Champagne features the band’s third singer in as many albums.  Roses & Champagne doesn’t have any extraordinary numbers (although I’m quite fond of Romeo & Juliet).  The album leans a little more commercial than previous efforts — without great success.  Johan Hansson’s fluid, neo-classical guitar work highlights the album.  Still, those curious about Silver Mountain would best be served by tracking down the superb Universe album instead.  My score: C+

Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf EP (1984)

LeatherwolfAs confusing as this may sound, Leatherwolf’s first three records were all called Leatherwolf.  First, this five track EP appeared in 1984 (Tropical Records).  Then, the EP was expanded to a full LP and released as Leatherwolf in 1985 on a few different labels.  (In the U.K. this LP was titled Endangered Species).  Finally, in 1987, Leatherwolf released an album of all new material on Island Records.  Naturally, they called it Leatherwolf! California’s Leatherwolf were known for their muscular brand of heavy metal, as well as their potent three-guitar attack.  Here, on their debut, we find a band loaded with talent, but yet to master the art of song craft.  Though this EP was probably Leatherwolf’s heaviest record in the eighties, it lacks the focus and depth 1987’s Leatherwolf, or 1989’s Street Ready.  The Leatherwolf EP showcases the band’s guitar-centric approach (not surprising, since there were three guitarist in Leatherwolf’s ranks).  There are plenty of riffs and lead breaks to go around.  Sonically, Leatherwolf put themselves somewhere between the burgeoning thrash scene and the popular L.A. glam metal craze.  Maybe that is why this band sort of slipped through the cracks.  They were too heavy for commercial acceptance, but not thrashy enough for the hardcore headbangers.  Leatherwolf is straight up heavy metal that goes for the throat — much like TT Quick’s debut EP, and Savatage’s The Dungeons Are Calling (both from the same year).  My score: B-

Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf LP (1985)

LeatherwolfAs mentioned above, the Leatherwolf EP was expanded from five to nine songs and released as an LP (with the same cover).  It was released by Steamhammer Records in Europe, Heavy Metal America Records in the U.K. (as Endangered Species), and Tropical Records in the United States.  The four additional tracks were Tonight’s The Night, The Hook, Off The Track, and Vagrant.  Quality-wise, these tracks were on par with the existing EP material.  No better, no worse.  My fave is The Hook.  My score: B-

Leatherwolf – Street Ready (1989)

LeatherwolfSkip ahead to 1989.  Leatherwolf’s Street Ready finds the Cali longhairs mixing tempos and moods on this well-rounded platter.  Shades of hair metal peek through on the shout-it-out choruses of Street Ready and Thunder, while the band’s metal acumen shines brightly on Black Knight and Wicked Ways (the album’s clear standout cut).  It’s obvious that Leatherwolf had matured into better songwriters since the days of their debut (see above).  They covered more ground style-wise, and added a touch of commercial accessibility to their sound palette.  Yet, I can’t help but feel that Leatherwolf had the tools to do better.  Street Ready is a solid album, but not an exceptional one.  My score: B

Vio-lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988)

Vio-lenceThis Bay Area thrash album is looked upon with much favor by many an old school thrash fanatic.  My personal opinion of Eternal Nightmare, however, is not so enthusiastic.  The sound here is somewhere between the tech-evil of Forbidden’s first album, and the mallet-headed mosh mayhem of Exodus’ debut.  Thing is, Eternal Nightmare isn’t nearly as entertaining as either of those two albums.  To me, Eternal Nightmare loses its charm after the first two songs — Eternal Nightmare and Serial Killer.  The biggest drawback being the vocals of one Sean Killian.  If I were to pick one word to describe Killian’s vocal performance I guess I would have to go with “annoying”.  My score: C

Ozzy Osbourne – Randy Rhoads Tribute (1987)

OzzyIt’s hard to argue with this live album because the material is drawn from two albums of pure gold.  Tribute includes live versions of all the songs from the Blizzard Of Ozz album, and another two from Diary Of A Madman.  (I wish there were more cuts from Diary Of A Madman, my favorite metal album of the eighties.)  Throw in some ol’ Sabbath tunes — Paranoid (yawn), Iron Man (double yawn) and Children Of The Grave (yay!), and you’ve got yourself a robust package.  All the live cuts are from the early eighties, and feature Randy Rhoads on guitar.  Rhoads, of course, was the legendary Ozzy guitarist who died during the Diary Of A Madman tour.  Rhoads fans will no doubt enjoy Randy’s live performance here.  He dresses up his playing with more bells and whistles than the studio originals.  This includes an extended solo taken during Suicide Solution.  The album closes with studio outtakes of Rhoads’ classical instrumental piece Dee (from Blizzard Of Ozz).  For his part, Ozzy sounded pretty great live.  He didn’t stray much at all from the studio versions — which is just fine by me.  Tribute was originally issued as a double LP on vinyl.  The cassette and CD versions were single units.  Tribute is as solid as they come as far as live albums go, though I admit I personally prefer studio albums to live albums as a general rule.  My score: A-

Ozzy Osbourne – Just Say Ozzy (1990)

OzzyThis one feels like a contractual obligation.  Just Say Ozzy is a six-track live EP featuring Zakk Wylde on guitar, Randy Castillo on drums, and Geezer Butler on bass.  I’m happy to report that Ozzy’s vocals sound quite good on this record.  Seeing how Ozzy has been a pathetic alcoholic mess his entire life, its surprising how in-tune he was on his old live albums.  (He’s a little flat on War Pigs though.)  The track list?  Three from No Rest For The Wicked, Shot In The Dark from The Ultimate Sin, and two Sabbath cuts.  Zakk tears it up something fierce, giving Randy Rhoads’ performance on Tribute (1987) a serious run for its money.  (I actually think Zakk one-upped Randy!)  I’m not really sure why Just Say Ozzy needed to exist, but hey, its nice to hear Zakk (the master of squealing pinch-harmonics) deliver the goods live.  My score: B+

Forbidden – Twisted Into Form (1990)

ForbiddenI consider myself a fan of Forbidden’s debut album Forbidden Evil (1988).  It featured a couple of strong numbers, and the title track was a an absolute KILLER!  As for Twisted Into Form, I have never really found a connection with this record, despite repeated attempts.  Whereas Russ Anderson’s unique vocal style sounded novel (and even inspiring) on Forbidden Evil, here on Twisted Into Form it just kind of weighs on the nerves.  Thrash was getting a little long in the tooth creatively by 1990 (unless your name was Megadeth), so maybe its just a case of “been there, done that” for me.  Favorite track: Tossed Away.  My score: C

Laaz Rockit – Annihilation Principle (1989)

Laaz RockitThis one didn’t grab my attention like Laaz Rockit’s previous album, Know Your Enemy (1987).  While Know Your Enemy mixed thrash with a little bit of good ol’ fashion heavy metal, Annihilation Principle is pretty much 100% thrash (except for the snooze-inducing ballad The Omen).  Though Laaz Rockit were still a notch above the riff raff in the thrash world, I think they lost a bit of their charm here.  A little more variety would have been nice.  Still, a couple of cool cuts stick out — Fire In The Hole and Holiday In Cambodia (a Dead Kennedys cover).  My score: C+

Firehouse – Firehouse (1990)

FirehouseTo me, Firehouse’s first album reminds me a lot of Slaughter’s debut.  Both came out in 1990.  The two albums were similar in both approach and presentation.  Both are undeniably corporate records, yet neither insult the listener’s intelligence with shameless pandering.  These were professionals at work, consciously trying to make each and every song on the album a potential radio single.  (Yes folks, in 1990 they actually played rock on the radio!  You could make money playing an instrument!)  This is good old fashion hard rock with a pop twist.  Just try to resist the effervescent sweetness of All She Wrote or (my favorite) Don’t Treat Me Bad.  And while Love Of A Lifetime isn’t one of my favorite power ballads, you’ve got to appreciate Firehouse’s foresight.  They must have known that Love Of A Lifetime would live on indefinitely — at wedding receptions.  My score: B+

Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1986)

Nuclear AssaultEast Coast thrashers Nuclear Assault debuted in 1986 on Combat Records with this frenzied piece of NY blitzcore.  Nuclear Assault were one of those bands vying for the “more-thrash-than-you” championship belt.  To those of us with somewhat broader expectations for our music-listening experience, this album doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot to scratch that itch.  I suggest moving past this album, as well as the similar sounding follow-up EP The Plague (1987), and on to Nuclear Assault’s much-improved 1988 release Survive.  My score: C

Testament – Souls Of Black (1990)

TestamentTestament’s fourth studio album (in four years) comes with no surprises.  Without a single new or original idea to offer, Souls Of Black is mired in stagnant waters.  This album is wholly average in every conceivable way (except for Alex Skolnick‘s tasty soloing).  I really can find no reason to keep Souls Of Black in rotation.  My score: C


3 thoughts on “Album Reviews (Jan 31, 2014)

  1. Cool to see Just Say Ozzy get some props. It often gets overlooked but I love that era. And I find that Vio-Lence album pretty hard to stomach. I like a bit more each listen but the vocals are… a challenge!

  2. Ha ha, I know what you mean about Vio-lence, its good on paper but its a bit boring to actually listen to.

    I like Souls Of Black though, can’t help myself, although that’s mostly the Title Track keeping my enthusiasm up.

  3. Hey thanks for the enlightenment on that Leatherwolf Endangered Species thing! I have Endangered Species, the album, but I had heard of an EP. I didn’t know the story until now. Thank you.

    Street Ready is my fave from them 🙂

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