Here’s a few album reviews…
Mother Love Bone – Shine (1989)
Seattle’s Mother Love Bone found themselves at the forefront of the burgeoning Seattle rock scene when they were signed to a major label in 1988. MLB featured two future Pearl Jam members in Jeff Ament (bass) and Stone Gossard (guitar). But it was their charismatic lead singer Andrew Wood who helped to raise the band’s profile. Considerable buzz surrounded MLB at the time — at least locally. The EP Shine was MLB’s 1989 debut. While I certainly wouldn’t hold this record in the same regard as their more distinguished 1990 LP Apple, there are signs of the band’s considerable promise. The inclusion of their most famous song, the eight minute Chloe Dancer/Crown Of The Thorns is the unquestionable highlight. However, this song sets such a high bar that it dwarfs comparatively rote numbers like Mudshaker Meltdown and Half Ass Monkey Boy. Credit must be given to the opener Thru Fade Away for finding a way to work the words “Mahatma Gandhi” into the chorus. That has to be a first! My score: B+
Gargoyle – Nothing Is Sacred (1988)
Gargoyle were part of a metal sub-genre now referred to as “USPM” (United States Power Metal). In general, the USPM sound was somewhere between the standard “heavy metal” of bands like Priest, Maiden, and Dio and the thrash metal of bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax. Typically USPM had clean, soaring vocals with fantasy-based lyrics. The riffs were usually fast and the drumming aggressive (often double bass).
Gargoyle impressed with their entry on the compilation Metal Massacre VIII (1987) on a song called Into The Darkness, but their one and only full-length LP does not measure up to that earlier tune. Nothing Sacred (New Renaissance Records) flounders for a few key reasons. First, the vocals are too far out in front of the mix. If this were a pop record, that would be okay, but in heavy metal we need to hear the guitars, bass, and drums, and we need them to be LOUD! Second, vocalist Tim Lachman does not give a commanding performance. Great vocals are of the utmost importance in USPM, and an average performer just won’t do. (I lodged a similar complaint in my review of Tyton’s Mind Over Metal LP.) Lachman didn’t always hit his marks when it came to timing and pitch, and Nothing Is Sacred suffers for it. (Side note: much of the lyrics on Nothing Is Sacred have Christian themes.) My score: C+
Cities – Annihilation Absolute (1986)
I guess you could call Cities another example of USPM, but unlike Gargoyle (above) Cities had a vocalist who was in total control of his voice, and thus by extension, the listener’s ear.
The New York band Cities released a six song EP in 1985 called Annihilation Absolute on the Metal Masters label. A year later, they re-recorded the six songs plus an additional three songs for a full-length album (also called Annihilation Absolute) on Metal Blade Records. (This is the version I am reviewing here.)
Cities’ drummer on Annihilation Absolute was A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister, though Cities didn’t really sound that much like Twisted Sister — more like a marriage of Twisted Sister and Anthrax. As mentioned above, Cities’ vocalist Ron Angell was a strong vocalist — a necessity for this type of metal. But the real star of the group was guitarist Steve Mironovich. He carried the axe duties all by his lonesome and laid down some heavy riffage. Steve unfurls a wicked riff that leads off the album on Stop The Race. This riff almost sounds like something from Dave Mustaine’s bag of tricks. My favorite songs on Annihilation Absolute are the first three — the aforementioned Stop The Race, the anthemic Fight For Your Life and the bruising Burn Forever. All in all, this is a solid metal album. Cities remind me a bit of another really good east coast metal band from the same time period — TT Quick. It’s too bad Annihilation Absolute was their only album. My score: B
Impellitteri – Impellitteri (1987)
Impellitteri is the not-so-easy-to-spell last name of Chris Impellitteri, a guitar shredder in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen. Impellitteri was a four-song EP released in 1987 featuring Rob Rock on vocals.
Both Rock and Impellitteri show off their considerable talents on this short sampler. Rob Rock’s vocals soar and Chris’ fingers fly feverishly all over the fret board. The opening cut Lost In The Rain is my fave of the bunch. This album matched up pretty well with some of the better Yngwie material from the same time period. If shredding guitars with good vocals and decent hooks is something you’re in to, then step right up. My score: B
Sepultura – Beneath The Remains (1989)
Producer/engineer Scott Burns traveled to Sepultura’s home country of Brazil to work with the band on Beneath The Remains. Released in 1989 by Roadrunner Records, Burns captured the aggression of Sepultura, and the album broke them with an international audience outside of Brazil. (This was Sepultura’s third full-length album.) Beneath The Remains featured a thick guitar tone, a heavy drum sound, and the furious vocals of Max Cavalera.
Though considered a classic among a lot of thrash fans, I actually find Beneath The Remains to be woefully one-dimensional. Yes, there’s a lot of brutality here, but after a few songs the point is made, and then things get old quick. (To paraphrase Yogi: “It gets late awfully early around here”.) We get a chugging riff that goes on for a while, and then we get a new chugging riff that goes on for a while, and then another chugging riff comes along. Lather, rinse, repeat. All the while, Max Cavalera’s shouts in the same curt, atonal style in every song. One track bleeds into the next. There’s no push and pull — there’s no dynamics that make a song a true “song”. (Granted, I do think Sepultura made the kind of record they wanted to make. It’s just that their idea of a song and my idea of a song obviously differ!)
I know folks like to compare Beneath The Remains to Slayer’s Reign In Blood (1986), but don’t forget that Beneath The Remains came three years AFTER Reign In Blood — and a lot of progress had been made in thrash since. I think Sepultura were still coming into their own as a band on Beneath The Remains, but they weren’t there yet. Sorry, I don’t consider this album an essential thrash release at all! My score: C-