We can credit Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force LP (1984) for ushering in a wave of shred-centric metal albums in the mid and late eighties. The idea that a metal band could center solely around a virtuoso guitar player was a relatively new one (at least in the commercial sense). We certainly had seen virtuosos before, but they had almost always shared the spotlight with a lead singer of equal billing. After Yngwie’s arrival, we started to see shred records without any vocals at all, or records where the lead singer took a back seat to the marquee attraction — the guitarist.
Shrapnel Records was synonymous with shred in the 80’s, and this is the label that introduced us to Racer X. Notice the album cover says Racer X “with Paul Gilbert”. Paul being the flashy young guitarist.
Street Lethal features fast metal with a nod towards the popular glam movement happening in L.A. at the time. High hair and high octane, Racer X attempted to appease the shred-thirsty niche fans as well as the pop metal masses. For the most part, Racer X succeeded at toeing the line. There are flaws though. The hooks are a little weak, and Jeff Martin’s vocals are average at best. Shabby production doesn’t help either. My score: B-