Album Reviews (Feb 3, 2015)

More reviews coming at ya…

Kick Axe – Welcome To The Club (1985)

Kick AxeWelcome To The Club was this Canadian band’s follow-up to their buzz-worthy 1984 debut Vices.  Oddly, the album arrived showcasing a streamlined new band logo and curiously “un-metal cover” art.  But despite the new aesthetics, Kick Axe continued to rock with bombast — as they did on their first, well-received party platter.  One will notice that the production, like the debut, emphasized a booming drum sound and meticulous vocal layering/harmonies.  Pasha’s Spencer Proffer, who produced the debut, had a hand in the production here as well.  With their crystalline cyber-sound, Kick Axe were like a ying to Helix’s yang.  Helix, of course, being the other big name in Canadian “hair” metal at the time — known for their simple, sweaty brand of raunch n’ roll.

While Welcome To The Club is not quite as good as Vices, it does have its share of highlights.  Faves include the title track (with a catchy lead riff), Comin’ After You, and Make Your Move.  The album closes with a spirited cover of With A Little Help From My Friends — featuring guest vocals from a slew of fellow Canadian rockers.  My score: B

 Stampede – Hurricane Town (1983)

StampedeThe story of Stampede, a lesser-known NWOBHM band, is an interesting one.  You see, the band was formed by a step-father and step-son duo.  Pretty unique, eh?  Yes, Stampede was formed by Rueben Archer (vocals) and his step-son Laurence Archer (guitars).  Rueben is fifteen years older than Laurence.   I can only imagine this made for a strange situation backstage when the groupies came-a-calling!  I’m guessing the sentence “don’t tell your mom” was uttered more than once.

Hurricane Town, released in 1983 by Polydor Records, was Stampede’s second album (their debut was actually a live album).  Long out of print, Hurricane Town was re-released on CD for the first time in 2006 by Rock Candy Records (out of the U.K.).  Anyone who owns one of these Rock Candy “Remastered & Reloaded” collector’s edition CDs knows that Rock Candy does a great job with these re-releases — informative liner notes, pics, bonus material… the whole kit and caboodle.  Highly recommended.

At the time, Stampede drew comparisons to Thin Lizzy and UFO.  Both comparisons seem appropriate from my viewpoint.  Hurricane Town contains nine cuts of very melodic, vibrant hard rock.  Choruses are fairly big and moderately memorable.  The singing and guitar work are both more-than-serviceable.  Unfortunately, Stampede didn’t get a very good push from their label (Polydor) when this album arrived in 1983.  According to Rueben, Polydor was preoccupied with another band on their roster at the time — the young and rising Heavy Pettin.  Partly due to the label’s apathy, Hurricane Town was to be Stampede’s final album (until reunion in 2009).  Choice cut: Mexico.  My score: B

 Y&T – Best Of ’81 To ’85 (1990)

Y&TThis compilation was released in 1990 by A&M Records.  The material was culled from Y&T’s tenure on the A&M label from 1981 to 1985.  During that period Y&T released five studio albums and one live album.  I think most would agree these were Y&T’s best years.  So what do we get on Best Of ’81 To ’85?  Well sir, there are fifteen tracks (plus one short instrumental), including two (useless) previously unreleased tracks.  The studio tracks draw heavily from Y&T’s three best albums — Earthshaker (1981), Black Tiger (1982), and Meanstreak (1983).  Y&T’s biggest hit, Summertime Girls from ’85 (a song I never cared for), is also included.  All together, Best Of ’81 To ’85 is a good collection for the casual fan.  This was actually my first Y&T album.  It was enough to turn my casual interest into a more serious love affair.  I eventually collected all of the individual albums.  My score: A-

Tyton – Mind Over Metal (1987)

TytonI consider this one a “near miss”.  Tyton released their second (and last) album Mind Over Metal (Medusa Records) in 1987.  It was a well-intentioned stab at U.S. traditional metal.  Several of the songs on the album carry medieval themes — knights, castles, swords, and steeds… all that good shit.  For the most part, Tyton delivered the goods.  The only place where Mind Over Metal falls short is the vocal department.  Don’t get me wrong, the vocals of Shawn Damien-Barusch aren’t bad, they just aren’t excellent.  And to really make a great metal album in this genre, the vocals need to be spot on.  Damien-Barusch’s phrasing, his timing, and his pitch were just a little bit “off” in some places.  This is most evident on side two of the album.  To me, this makes the difference between a great album and an “okay” album.  Like I said, a “near miss”.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy several tracks, most notably The Warrior, Castle Donnington, and Destiny Calls.

Note: Because of the overtly Christian lyrics of the song Arcadian, Tyton received some attention from the Christian metal community.  My score: B-

U.D.O. – Mean Machine (1988)

Mean MachineAfter his departure from Accept, vocalist Udo Dirkschneider formed U.D.O. and released Animal House in 1987.  It was a great album, but one with a caveat — it was actually written by Udo’s old band, Accept.  As such, U.D.O.’s sophomore release Mean Machine would be a crucible for the new band.  This would be the first U.D.O. album written exclusively by Udo Dirkschneider and his guitarists Mathais Dieth and Andy Susemihl.  The question as to whether U.D.O. could be a viable metal band without the help of Accept was answered with a resounding “yes” by the Mean Machine album.  Like the great Accept albums of yore, Mean Machine has a nice balance of bruising speed metal and commercially viable metal anthems.  Throw the requisite ballad in there, too.  To be honest, Mean Machine really didn’t sound a whole lot different from Accept.  I assume this was by design.  I think Udo knew what his fans wanted to hear and was more than happy to oblige.  Faves: Mean Machine, Lost Passion, and Sweet Little Child.  My score: B+

U.D.O. – Faceless World (1990)

Faceless WorldU.D.O. trimmed down to a four-piece for the recording of their third album Faceless World.  Mathias Dieth remained as the sole guitarist in the band.  Dieth (a veteran of one of Germany’s best unheralded metal bands — Gravestone), truly shines on this album.  His excellent performance actually steals the limelight from Udo Dirkschneider!  The album opens with the sinewy lead riff of Heart Of Gold (the album’s best track) — and immediately Dieth has made his presence felt.  He continues to impress throughout the album with his creative riffing, tasty licks, and exquisite soloing.  Even though I had heard Mathias many times before with Gravestone, Sinner, and on the first two U.D.O. albums, I never stood up and took notice of his talents until I heard Faceless World.  He really stepped up to the plate here… BIG TIME!  Just when you thought you had heard all there was to hear in the world of Teutonic metal (a genre that has been guilty of a fair share of recycling), Dieth raises the bar!  Take a bow Mathias.  My score: A-

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5 thoughts on “Album Reviews (Feb 3, 2015)

  1. Well i wish i had a bit more time on the vocals, but i think i made somewhat of a point with the songs, hahaa, good review, 🙂 Shawn 🙂

  2. I had just recieved the Tyton vinyl of mind over metal. My God how did I miss this back in 87! This album kicks frickin ass!! I have to disagree with you about the vocals, I think they match the music perfectly . At the time this came out I was into much heavier stuff , but this I would have totally made an exception for. I think if more people who were into metal heard this obscure Jem they’d love it too for sure. I would frequent record stores back in the 80’s ( & now , the few that are left ) often and I don’t even remember seeing this cover I took a chance at ordering it and I love it.

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