Today is December 23rd my friends! That means Festivus is finally upon us! At long last we can air our grievances and perform feats of strength as tradition dictates. All the while the Festivus pole shines brightly like only aluminum can shine! Enjoy some reviews while you celebrate this tinsel-free holiday.
Stryper – In God We Trust (1988)
Only in the eighties could a band that looked as ridiculous looking as Stryper not only exist, but thrive. Here, have a gander! Yes indeed, these black and yellow clad, bible humping Christian glamsters actually have some gold and platinum records tucked away in their tabernacle. ‘Twas some crazy times.
I am a fan of glam “metal”. I do not apologize for that in the least. And I don’t shy away from the wimpy stuff either. Ever heard TNT’s Intuition? It’s wimp metal to the max, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a fine album. But when it comes to Stryper’s In God We Trust I have to say this is one of the wimpiest albums I have ever heard. So much wimp. Too much wimp.
Bless his heart, Michael Sweet sings his balls off on this album. And by that I mean he sounds like he literally has no testicles. How else could he get such an effeminate, limp-wristed voice? Dude would have killed on Broadway doing show tunes.
Sadly, the boys in Stryper barely break a sweat on In God We Trust, save for the occasional blistering solo. Nay, Stryper spend most of the time showering their lord with perfumed balladry. Hey, I’m not gonna lie, there are some guilty pleasures to be found here — but overall the lameness factor is too much to take. My score: C
Meliah Rage – Live Kill (1989)
Boston’s Meliah Rage debuted in 1988 with a very strong album called Kill To Survive (Epic Records). The Live Kill EP arrived in 1989, featuring five songs recorded live in April of 1989 at Harpo’s in Detroit. Meliah Rage did not disappoint, as they delivered a bone-crushing performance. I believe Meliah Rage were opening up for Metal Church on this particular evening. It seems they did their damnedest to win over the crowd.
Four of the five cuts on Live Kill were from Kill To Survive, including my personal fave Bates Motel. The “new” song here is Kill To Survive — a song that was actually left off the Kill To Survive album (even though it was the “title track”).
Meliah Rage were a nice cross between traditional metal and thrash. I classify them as “power thrash” along with bands such as Metal Church and Heretic. Meliah Rage’s songs had a lot of meat on the bone, with thick riffs and testosterone-fueled vocals. The only silly thing about this live album is Mike Munro’s over-the-top banter between songs. My score: B
Heretic – Torture Knows No Boundary (1986)
As mentioned above, I consider Heretic to be part of the “power thrash” sub-genre. Their first release was an EP, 1986’s Torture Knows No Boundary (Metal Blade Records). I’m a little puzzled by the sequence of the songs on this EP. Things start off with a cover of Russ Ballard’s Riding With The Angels. Though I have never heard Russ Ballard’s version, I am familiar with Samson’s version from the 1981 LP Shock Tactics. But I just don’t understand why a band would start their first album with a cover. It’s your first chance to make a statement to the listener, to introduce yourself to the audience, and you choose a song from someone else? Usually that’s not a good sign. And another weird thing is that Heretic end the album with an instrumental. Again, I don’t understand the logic. Why not end the album with an explanation point that puts a stamp on the listener’s skull? The instrumental is a good one, but I don’t think it fits as a closer. (Note: I realize Metallica used an instrumental to end Ride The Lightning, but I still don’t like the idea.)
In between the cover song that opens the EP and the instrumental that meekly closes it, there are three Heretic originals. These three songs are Blood Will Tell, Portrait Of Faith, and White Chapel. All three were written by guitarist Brian Korban. These songs are quite strong with some chunky riffage. The band sounds powerful save for their vocalist Julian Mendez, who I think is the band’s only weak link. Mendez’s voice sounds very strained — like it could give out at any point. He almost sounds like he has laryngitis. His vocal track is also pushed back a bit in the mix, which only makes him sound like he is trying (unsuccessfully) to be heard above the guitars and drums. It makes me wonder how Torture Knows No Boundary would have sounded with a different singer, because think there is some solid material here (I especially like White Chapel). Not surprisingly, by the time Heretic recorded their next album (1988’s Breaking Point), they had a new singer in tow. My score: B
Metallica – The $5.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited (1987)
As you can tell by the not-so-serious cover, Metallica were just having a little fun with this EP of cover songs. Diamond Head, Holocaust, Killing Joke, Budgie and Misfits were all given the Metallica treatment.
A crushing version of Diamond Head’s Helpless opens the record, and it is far better than the original. This would be Metallica’s second time recording a cover of the forgotten NWOBHMers. They covered Diamond Head’s best song Am I Evil? for the original “Garage Days Revisited” on the B-side to their Creeping Death single/EP (more info on that record is here). The inclusion of Misfit’s Last Caress is another highlight. This song is hilarious for its alarmingly crass lyrics. “I’ve got something to say, I killed your baby today!” You get the idea.
The 5.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited introduced Metallica fans to new bassist Jason Newsted and also gave them some homework to do — get out and find the original records from the influential bands covered. These were bands that many Metallica fans had little to any knowledge of at the time. Diamond Head and Misfits seemed to get the biggest “bump” from the free publicity offered by Metallica. Note: The CD version was titled The 9.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited. My score: B