Don Dokken – Up From The Ashes (1990)
The relationship between the members of the band Dokken was notoriously dysfunctional. Lead singer Don Dokken and guitarist George Lynch were always at odds, but the push and pull between the two egos seemed to work from a creative standpoint. Dokken delivered three platinum and one gold album during their original run — which ended in 1989. After the inevitable break up, it was only a matter of time before Don and George each formed their own new band. In 1990, Don Dokken’s solo band went head to head with George Lynch’s band Lynch Mob (which also included Dokken drummer Mick Brown). Don Dokken released Up From The Ashes and Lynch Mob released Wicked Sensation. You’ve got to believe these two guys wanted to prove to themselves, each other, and the world who was the real genius behind Dokken — at least in their minds. So who won? Well it depends on who you ask. I personally give the nod to Lynch Mob.
Don Dokken assembled a formidable line-up of established pros for Up From The Ashes, the most noteworthy of which was ex-Europe guitarist John Norum. Despite the new faces, Up From The Ashes sounds very much like another Dokken record. Don was obviously content with sticking with the Dokken formula. Up From The Ashes is more of the same commercially viable melodramatic rock with strong guitar work, except this time it’s Norum delivering the solos and not Lynch.
Up From The Ashes could actually be called Dokken-lite due the high percentage of ballads and quasi-ballads on tap. I guess it shows the direction Don wanted to take with Dokken if Lynch hadn’t been there to challenge him. In truth, I find Up From The Ashes just a bit uninspired — only because it plays it so safe. By staying within his comfort zone, Don Dokken appeased his fading fan base but did little to attract new fans or bring back the Dokken fans that had moved on. My score: B-
Attacker – The Second Coming (1988)
Screaming for vengeance from America’s armpit, New Jersey’s Attacker returned in 1988 with their follow-up to 1985’s Battle At Helms Deep. The Second Coming appeared on Mercenary Records. This was a much different album from the epic-style power metal of the debut. This time around Attacker came out with a brand of speed metal that called to mind the likes of Agent Steel and Savage Grace (circa 1984’s Master Of Disguise). The lead vocalist for Battle At Helms Deep (Bob Mitchell) was out and new vocalist John Leone was in. In my opinion Leone was a much better singer than the shrill and screechy Mitchell. Leone’s vocals were like a cross between Rob Halford and David Wayne (Metal Church). The album is relatively short with just eight tunes (one of which is a short instrumental). Bassist Lou Ciarlo wrote all the songs. There’s very little in the way of variety here from song to song, but this new and refurbished Attacker delivered a straight shot of metal up your ass. When all is said and done, The Second Coming isn’t nearly as original as Battle At Helms Deep, but it does have the better vocals which (almost) evens the scale. Fave cut: The Madness. My score: B-
Forced Entry – Uncertain Future (1989)
Uncertain Future was released on Combat Records in 1989. It was the first full-length album for this Seattle thrash band. It seems that Forced Entry’s main purpose in life was to pack as many tempo changes into their songs as humanly possible. This makes the album a somewhat jarring and difficult listen for the average fan (like myself). If you’re really into the technical aspects of thrash (perhaps a musician yourself) then you may better appreciate Forced Entry’s style. But if you are simply a fan of “song” then you may have a hard time with Uncertain Future. This is some harsh stuff. My score: C
Samhain – Unholy Passion (1985)
This five-song EP arrived in 1985 on Plan 9 Records. Though the rather titillating cover was a step up from the first record (1984’s Initium), there’s little else here that could be considered progress with respect to the debut. Glenn Danzig continued to explore his rather odd Samhain vision — one lost somewhere in the netherworld between punk and heavy metal. Samhain was a band unsure whether to continue with the gimmickry of Misfits or try to be taken seriously as something more real world scary. While it’s true that Samhain sounded like none other, I’m not so sure that any band would (or should) want to. My score: C+
Frehley’s Comet – Live + 1 (1988)
Ace Frehley’s first album after leaving KISS was called Frehley’s Comet (1987) — and a damn fine album it was! In 1988, Ace followed up with the five-track EP Live + 1 (with Frehley’s Comet now as the band’s official name). Contents include two live cuts taken from the Frehley’s Comet album — Breakout and Something Moved (both voiced by Tod Howarth). The version of Breakout is extended thanks to a superfluous drum solo from Anton Fig. (Get the skip button ready for that one.) Two more live cuts were from Ace’s KISS days — Rip It Out and Rocket Ride, the latter of which Ace introduces by telling the crowd it’s a song about “entering a black hole”. A not-so-clever double entendre there. The EP ends with a new studio track called Words Are Not Enough. This is an upbeat and catchy rocker. They threw some keyboards in there, too — just in case you needed a reminder it was 1988. My score: B-
Vengeance Rising – Human Sacrifice (1988)
I was online one day researching an album for one of my reviews when I came across Heaven’s Metal Magazine’s “Top 100 Christian Metal Albums Of All Time List”. The number one album on the list was Vengeance Rising’s Human Sacrifice (released in 1988 by Intense Records). It just so happens that I own this album. I obtained a copy of Human Sacrifice on cassette when I bought someone’s entire metal collection on eBay. I had never gotten around to listening to it, but when I saw the aforementioned list above my interest was piqued. Though I am by no means an aficionado of Christian metal, I now knew I wanted to hear the so-called “most radical Christian album ever released” for myself.
When Human Sacrifice was first released the band was simply called Vengeance, but threats of litigation by the Dutch band Vengeance resulted in the name change to Vengeance Rising. My cassette copy of Human Sacrifice is a 1989 issue by Medusa Records that has the name Vengeance Rising on it.
I guess Human Sacrifice made quite a stir in the Christian metal community when it dropped in 1988. First of all, this is an “extreme” Christian metal album. Evidently it is one of the first of its kind. Vengeance Rising was not another Stryper gayly soaring towards the heavens on wings of cheese. Nay, Vengeance Rising was “brutal” thrash/death metal — each song as prickly as a thorn in the Nazarene’s crown. But it really doesn’t matter because the vocals of Roger Martinez can’t possibly be taken seriously. His deranged voice is some sort of proto-death/black metal hybrid that sounds like a possessed Grover from Sesame Street. I know AC/DC’s Brian Johnson once sang that “rock ‘n roll ain’t noise pollution”, but I bet even ol’ Brain would change his mind if he heard Martinez take to the microphone like a rabid jackyl hopped up on Jesus juice and seemingly on the verge of a full brain embolism.
Turns out this Martinez guy later turned his back on Christianity and even became a Satanist (according to the band’s Wikipedia page). Talk about a shit show! My score: D
Blonz – Blonz (1990)
Another in a long parade of hair band clones that arrived at the turn of the decade, the band Blonz delivered just one album before disappearing into the ether. The self-titled album came out on Epic Records (part of the CBS Records mega-label that was dispensing hair metal like Pez directly to the cavity-ridden mouths of a sweet-toothed America). Blonz (all dudes by the way, in case you were wondering) hailed from Georgia. Blonz’s southern roots can be heard coming through on the song It’s The Same. Unfortunately, this is really the only song that is infused with southern flavor. I wish Blonz had explored this sound a bit more. It may have better separated them from the pack. The two tracks that start the album (Miracles and Hands Of Love) are catchy tunes with nice hooks. Both remind me of Bon Jovi. In fact, singer Nathan Utz’s voice was like a cross between Jon Bon Jovi and Jeff Keith (Tesla). As with all hair band albums, a power ballad is a necessity. Blonz delivers not one but two ballads with What’s On Your Mind (forgettable) and Rainbow (decent). My score: B-
No Shame – Good Girls Don’t Last (1989)
No Shame was an all-female quartet that released just one album called Good Girls Don’t Last on Columbia Records in 1989. It’s a fairly average collection of glam rock with a couple of pretty good tunes. Cheater and Good Girls Don’t Last are my personal faves. No Shame were unapologetically glam, but not so over-polished that they lacked a definitive edge. Singer Jacqui Lynn helped define the band’s tough-but-sexy style with her spirited performance. She was a little grating on the high notes and not exactly the smoothest operator on the microphone — as she vamped it up too much — but one can’t deny her passion. But unfortunately at the end of the day, No Shame didn’t have the hits to make enough people take notice. It may be true that good girls don’t last but these girls didn’t last either. My score: C+