Album Reviews (May 30, 2016)

Razor – Malicious Intent (1986)

After having released two albums in ’85, Razor returned in 1986 with Malicious Intent.  Shitting out albums at a frenzied pace was common practice for these no-frills Canadian thrashers.  In fact, between 1984 and 1991, Razor released eight albums.  While the quantity was certainly there, something was amiss in the quality control department!  With Malicious Intent, the band’s brand of dirt bag thrash remained stagnant while the rest of the thrash world was ever-evolving.  Unfazed, Razor seemed more than content to play to their denim-clad base in metal’s deep underground.  This particular batch of bloodshot ampheta-metal tunes doesn’t impress me like those from 1985’s Evil Invaders.  However part of me wonders whether the two albums are any different at all?  Perhaps I just like Evil Invaders better because I heard it first?  To date, I own four Razor albums — I probably should have stopped after one.  My score: D

Legs Diamond – Out On Bail (1984)

Legs Diamond released three hard rock albums in the seventies before disappearing.  They returned in 1984 with  Out On Bail — a six song mini-album released by Target Entertainment Group.  The record found Legs Diamond dropping their decibel level and taking a shot at synth-driven radio rock.  In fact, Out On Bail barely qualifies as hard rock.  Only the lean and mean title track has any balls (reminds me of the band Riot).  To make matters worse, the drums on this album are completely fake!  That’s a cardinal sin in rock and roll!  Despite the new sound, the folks at Kerrang! magazine loved the album and rated it as the fourth best of 1984.  (Truth be told, Kerrang! was pretty enamored with wimp rock at the time.)  As for yours truly, I actually like the album as well (to my own surprise).  Yeah, it’s pretty tame, but songs like Walkaway and Finding Out The Hard Way have irresistible hooks — made possible by Rick Sanford’s top-shelf voice.  While it’s clear that Legs Diamond didn’t return to compete with the big boys of hard rock or metal, Out On Bail can be an enjoyable album as long as your expectations are sufficiently curbed.  My score: B

Legs Diamond – Land Of The Gun (1985)

Now with only two members left from the seventies line-up, Legs Diamond came back in 1985 with a nine song LP called Land Of The Gun (released by a few different labels, all with different covers).  Apparently pleased with the decaffeinated new sound introduced on Out On Bail, band leader Michael Prince (keyboards and guitars) trotted out the same style of keyboard goop on this follow-up release.  Though I feel I should hate it, I am once again seduced by Legs Diamond’s smooth delivery and vanilla hooks.  I think it has a lot to do with Rick Sanford’s righteous rock throat.  Every song is keyboard-dense except for a lone guitar-driven rocker called Rock Doktor.  The song Waitin For The Nite (their misspellings, not mine) actually kicks off with a white hot riff, but it is quickly hosed down by Prince’s synths.  Nevertheless, consider Land Of The Gun a continuation of Out On Bail‘s shameless wimp rock.  Do with that information what you will.  My score: B

Legs Diamond – Town Bad Girl (1990)

I find it kind of weird that Legs Diamond’s 1990 album Town Bad Girl was released by Metal Blade Records.  Seeing how Legs Diamond’s previous two releases (see above) were essentially straight-up AOR, it makes one wonder why America’s foremost heavy metal label signed on with the band.  By no means could Legs Diamond even remotely be considered metal at the time.  I read somewhere that the head of Metal Blade (Brian Slagel) was a fan of the band from their olden days (back when they drew comparisons to Deep Purple).  That might explain his willingness to give this non-metal band a spot on his roster.

With Town Bad Girl, Legs Diamond tipped the scales back to a more guitar-driven approach.  Don’t get me wrong, Michael Prince’s keyboards remained a major part of the Legs Diamond sound, but the guitars were indeed beefed up a bit.  The return of Roger Romero, their old guitarist from their early days, probably had a hand in influencing the band’s (slight) change of direction with respect to their two synth-heavy releases from the eighties.  Unfortunately, most of the hooks are limper than a soggy noodle.  And in the world of AOR, if you ain’t got hooks you ain’t got shit.  This album doesn’t seem to have the same smooth character as their two previous albums (as pantywaist as they were).  It’s unfortunate because the production was top-notch and Rick Sanford’s voice remained in fine form.  My score: C+

Mace – The Evil In Good (1987)

This crossover act out of Washington state had a dark sense of humor, but their heinous sound makes for a torturous listen.  The guitars sound like they were recorded in someone’s rectum and the vocals of Kirk Verhey are like an assassination attempt on my ears.  It’s almost as if I’m listening to a tape that’s been sped up — an “Alvin And The Chipmunks” situation if you will.  I’m sure these guys had no delusions they were making the next Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band but that doesn’t make The Evil In Good any less odious.  Best to leave this one for the masochists.  My score: D

Kraken – Kraken (1983)

Kraken was an unsigned Canadian trio that recorded this ten track demo in 1983.  Kraken was produced with the help of Steve “Lips” Kudlow of Anvil.  Thereafter, vinyl copies of this recording began circulating about.  It is unclear to me whether these copies were independently released by the band themselves, or were actually bootlegs (or both).  Nevertheless, the Kraken LP was (and still is?) a sought after rarity.  I can understand the fuss, as it is apparent Kraken had something special going on.  Unfortunately, the audio quality of the album is really poor.  As such, I can’t really recommend it.  Instead, I am left to wonder what might have been.  Had Kraken ever been able to secure a record deal and make a legitimate studio album, they may well have made a name for themselves.  Their sound was kind of like Anvil — heavy and unhinged.  But there is obviously a more direct NWOBHM influence here as well.  An epic vibe flows through the proceedings.  Lead track Abandoned is a standout that sounds like some of the rich metal emanating from Sweden at the time.  The solos are a bit gangly and unglued, but we can overlook that minor blight in lieu of the band’s youthful verve.

In 2010 Arkeyn Steel Records released a couple of albums worth of old Kraken material.  Called Abandoned and Underground 1980-1983, these compilations contained some of the songs that originally appeared on the old Kraken LP.  I haven’t heard these two albums and I’m not sure if the versions of the songs from Kraken are different recordings or not.  I must say, it certainly would be nice to hear the entire Kraken album cleaned up properly (if that’s even possible).  As it is, the sound quality on the original LP is just in too sorry a state for me to truly enjoy.  My score: C+

Sacred Reich – Surf Nicaragua (1988)

Sacred Reich debuted in 1987 with the Ignorance LP on Metal Blade Records.  They followed up in 1988 with a grab bag of goodies called Surf Nicaragua.  This EP (also released by Metal Blade) was encased with a bitchin’ cover of a dude surfing a coffin lid while wearing a gas mask and holding an old-fashion cartoon bomb.  Surf Nicaragua is comprised of four songs (the CD adds two live bonus tracks).  The feature attraction of this little EP is the first song, the killer Surf Nicaragua — which is memorable for its truly headbanging chorus.  The tune also has a bit of a novelty factor too, as Sacred Reich found a way to work bits of Wipe Out and the Hawaii Five O theme into the song.  The lyrics of Surf Nicaragua are political in nature — denouncing the United State’s military intervention in Nicaragua.  The second track One Nation is another song with sociopolitical lyrics.  It’s a quality cut with a nice mid-paced groove, though it lacks a memorable hook.  A cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs comes next — it’s decent, but no match for Faith No More’s version from The Real Thing (1989).  The next track is Draining You Of Life, a re-recording of an older Sacred Reich tune from their ’86 demo.  The CD added two additional live cuts with Ignorance and Death Squad.  The studio versions of these two tracks appeared on the Ignorance album.  These live cuts feature more of an ordinary hardcore sound.  I say “ordinary” because I feel like tons of bands had these type of fast songs with shouted vocals and no hooks.  My score: B-

Hallows Eve – Monument (1988)

Hallows Eve released their third album Monument on Metal Blade Records in ’88.  The cover kind of blows — I prefer the cheesy horror camp of their first two covers.

Hallows Eve spend most of their time on Monument chugging along at a medium pace.  The songs are fairly straightforward with simple riffs and restrained drumming (by thrash standards).  For your basic head bang Monument serves its purpose.  There’s a cover of Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack that is actually tighter than the rather messy original (Sheer Heart Attack is not one of Queen’s best songs).  The vocal style of Stacy Anderson is kind of similar to the hardcore/crossover shouters — but I think this has less to do with Hallows Eve’s crossover tendencies and more to do with Stacy’s limited range as a singer.  When you get down to it, Monument is just plain ol’ uncomplicated thrash.  Take it or leave it.  My score: C+

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