I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.
If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.
Sticking with the 1983 theme of Eliminator and LA theme of W.A.S.P, this time I’ll be listening to LA Based Hair Metal pioneers Quiet Riot’s 1983 album Metal Health. When they got signed, broke through and sold Six Million copies of this record, the LA bands all suddenly looked more exciting to the record companies. Or so said some documentaries. Others cite other bands, especially Motely Crue. So, who’s to be believed?
Anyway. Quiet Riot. I’ve had an interest in exploring Quiet Riot for over a decade now, because from the very first time I ever heard ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ on GTA Vice City I thoroughly enjoyed that song. I remember a few years later finding out it was a Slade cover and being a bit disappointed, because the only other things I knew about Slade were the Christmas song and the advertisements for Noddy’s Nuts. Slade didn’t seem a cool band to get into. Quiet Riot had seemed like they might’ve been. They kind of fell out of my mind for a few years. I remember a band on the Simpsons who didn’t know if they were Quiet Riot or not. Boom. That’s three references. ZZ Top, Poison, Quiet Riot, what’s next? The scene where Bart has a dream about School being out to the tune of School’s Out? The Hammers from Pink Floyd’s The Wall? Highway To Hell? Otto waiting in line for Metallica? You get where I’m going with this. Of course you do my half-inflated dark lord.
Anyway. I also remember an issue of Metal Hammer Magazine doing a run down of 100, 300 or 500 albums you have to hear or something similar (twice actually, once when they put Trivium down as Thrash Metal before I’d got into Trivium and once a few years later when the cover was a mixture of loads of different classic album covers like Powerslave, Puppets and Ace Of Spades and inside Jamie Jasta recommended Madball’s Set It Off) where they had a picture of Metal Health’s album cover and its striking image stuck in my mind as being really exciting, in the same vein as Iron Maiden’s Piece Of Mind was for Brann Dailor (“there’s a monster on it. I’m getting it.”)
Last night I also found out that Quiet Riot’s track ‘Metal Health (Bang Your Head)’ was in GTA Vice City Stories and my memory totally blanked it out. But then, I didn’t even really like Holy Diver all that much when I heard it in that context, so never mind. I think it was either the poor gameplay or bad luck making me only hear Ratt’s ‘Round And Round’ a lot that made me miss out.
But, when I saw the film The Wrestler I certainly enjoyed ‘Metal Health (Bang Your Head)’ and it went straight onto my ‘musical to do list.’ When I saw the Hair Metal episodes of Heavy The Story Of Metal and Metal Evolution it went up it even faster and recently when I saw a bunch of MTV Behind The Musics of Hair Bands as well as MTV’s When Metal Ruled The World it went up even further, eventually off the edge and into my collection, and so here we are.
In between, getting into Ozzy Osbourne, who’s first two albums featured Quiet Riot members Rudy Sarzo and Randy Rhoads, as well as into Dio (who worked with Rudy Sarzo) as well as Queensryche (Rudy Sarzo is currently in Geoff Tate’s “all star” version of Queensryche).
I remember checking out a few of the tracks from the first two, Japan Only, Quiet Riot albums on youtube to see Randy’s contribution, seeing as I’ve found it a little weird how he become such an absolute legend despite only playing on two Ozzy Osbourne records, and dying before the tour of the second one was finished. It doesn’t seem enough time to become such a megastar. I was confused enough about Eddie Van Halen’s status, but Randy’s was especially confusing.
Anyway, I also listened to the two hits off of Metal Health just because, and enjoyed them again, but didn’t look any further into the record since there was no Randy. When looking at the music videos however I did get a bit confused because to my untrained eye, he seemed to be in them. Turns out that their next guitarist Carlos Cavazo just looks a bit like him.
A quick little drum roll and then those huge hanging chords. Then the pounding Judas Priest and Dio style stomp comes in. I don’t care how cheesy it is, I don’t care about clichés or anything else. This is amazing fun. Its every bit as good as ‘Crazy Train’ in my opinion and I can totally enjoy it in the same spirit as I did ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ from the W.A.S.P. Its almost as fun as ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming’ but as much as I love the track, its not that good.
All I can think of is the stuck in the past, arrested development eejits saying ‘what’s wrong with wanting to have a good time?’ and actually agreeing with them before getting the time to start thinking about the actual message the film was trying to convey with that scene.
For what is reportedly a lightweight pop-metal record, the guitar solo is surprisingly accomplished. Then all the extra little lead bits like the one at the end. But then I suppose you’d have to go that way if everyone knew that Randy Rhoads used to be in the band.
Next up comes the Slade cover. The big hit. Well, front-load the album why don’t you? The keys underneath are so life-affirming. This song sounds like it should be played while you receive a Viking funeral and float off into the sea in Miami on a boat made out of burning guitars. As your first born son weds his high school sweetheart on the shoreline. I think only The Final Countdown or Living On A Prayer could share that scenario, and even then, maybe not as suitably as this.
The guitar solo is sublime and the production on it is amazingly syrupy and sweet. Its just magnificent to my ears. The little Brian May like touches here and there, the emotion in the vocals here and there that I didn’t remember (like with ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’) all just go together to add up to this whole so much bigger and better than the era, the band, Slade, the parts or whatever else.
For the first unfamiliar track then, ‘Don’t Wanna Let You Go’ comes in. Remember the thing I was saying in the ZZ Top F.I. about Dio-Ballads? Its one of those. It’s a bit slower and sadder than ‘Bang Your Head’ without actually being a ballad. Its just a slow emotional 80s tinged rock song. It sounds like rain in LA. Think about if The Terminator was a love story, and Arnie was just the Jealous Ex. That’s what this sounds like, the scene where Sarah Conner and whatever John Conner’s dad was called are in bed together, imagine Arnie seeing that through the window and then going for a teary-eyed booze up where even the neon bangled strippers can’t bring a smile to his broken-hearted face.
‘Loves A Bitch’ comes on next, and sounds very like it could be on Holy Diver during its intro. It also really reminds me of ‘Thank God For The Bomb’ and ‘Killer Of Giants’ by Ozzy. It starts off as one of those Dio-Ballads too, but its kind of a proggy one with a bit more depth. It ends up sounding a bit like AC/DC by the end. During the guitar solo, it takes on a fun staccato stomp that really reminds me of Pantera’s Hollow, but it doesn’t last long as it goes off in a more November Rain direction. It’s a really good song for what it is.
The next track, ‘Breathless’ is a proper ‘rocker’ with that galloping Maideny feel, the Motorcycle music video type of track that would fit well onto the W.A.S.P debut only for its shimmering arpeggios during the chorus giving it a bit more of a romantic feel than the gallop should allow for. I can see the notion of Pop Metal in full effect here. It’s the kind of thing I really like, but it also could get away with being on the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club because really, there’s nothing too sharp for the pop ear to get offended by. Nice solo too, bit brief though. Oh, cool little leads afterwards to make up for it.
That’s followed by ‘Run For Cover’ which is the same idea but with much more umph and bite. Its got steady mid-paced double kicks, and more chug. The drummer throws in some great little touches that I wouldn’t expect from this type of record. There’s nothing bad about his track at all. The solos are longer, the vocals are more energetic, the whole thing is more urgent sounding. It’s exactly what I was asking for from this album, without even realizing it. The little drum solo at the end is really enjoyable too. Nice way to finish it off.
‘Battle Axe’ comes in next, but its just one of those tracks that’s just a lone guitar soloing away. Its decent, but these sorts of things are never really my thing, even with how much I love guitar solos within an actual song.
The next real song is ‘Lets Get Crazy’ which sounds a bit like its trying to rip off Cat Scratch Fever but without looking too guilty, if you get what I mean. Its produced to death, reversed-snare-reverb suck-ins and all, but it’s a lot of fun. If you said the phrase ‘Hard Rock’ to me, I’d hope it’d be at least this hard. And you can’t deny that the musicians are putting in a lot of effort. Even the singer is all over the place.
I read online and even in the linear notes that the singer was such a big mouth that between this album exploding and their second album coming out, they became one of the most hated bands in the genre.
Next comes the Queen influenced actual-ballad ‘Thunderbird’ which is apparently a tribute to the late Randy Rhoads. It reminds me a little of Gamma Ray’s dead-drummer ballad ‘Farewell.’ Its actually a decent song, with some very surprisingly show-offy drumming that saves it from being over sentimental.
Normally, and back in 1983, that would be the end of the album. So, two raging singles, two decent Metal tracks, one decent hard rock track, two semi-ballads, a guitar solo and a ballad. I guess that’s a fair enough ratio, compared to some of the Sabbath, Purple or Led Zeppelin albums but it still feels a wee bit insubstantial to me.
Luckily however, my edition came with two bonus tracks. The first of which is ‘Danger Zone’ and that adds another 80s Priesty delivery of Metal to the table. It helps my brain with the radio. To be fair, I absolutely hate the way he sings the line ‘In The Danger Zone’ but the rest of it is just what I wanted. Its not as good as Skid Row’s ‘Big Guns’ or Judas Priest’s ‘Parental Guidance’ but its definitely in the general area that I wanted from this album. It takes an interesting turn with acoustic jangles in the middle, giving it a bit of depth too, which doesn’t hurt.
Then comes a live rendition of the Rhoads era track ‘Slick Black Cadillac’ which starts off with the singer teasing the crowd in a very Paul Stanley way, but nothing I’ve ever heard tops the hilariously stupid sound of the singer making brumming car noises with his mouth when they stop the track halfway through. It’s a decent song in any case. A live track is a good way to end a record like this. A fun, LA Party sounding tune to end the record with a smile.
So what did I think of the record? Well it was pretty fun. The drummer was a standout. Its ratio of Metal to other things wasn’t as high as absolutely ideal, but could’ve been worse. The main problem was that nothing was as good as the two singles, which are also the first two tracks. For all that though, I probably enjoyed it as much as Diary Of A Madman and it wasn’t too far off of the W.A.S.P debut, which got more marks for singing, consistency and heaviness but this record had a little bit more fun and feel.
Of all the things in this vein, or general area of the genre, on this end of the rock & metal spectrum, I don’t think there’s anything I’ll enjoy more than Skid Row’s debut. If Metal Health had about three more songs as good as its title track, and the rest of the tracks had the same electricity as Skid Row or Appetite era GnR then I think I could seriously love them, but its just kind’ve ok with some highlights. I think I’ll enjoy the two singles for years to come, but I could well end up ignoring 99% of the rest of the material, based on this First Impression. Unless of course, that Condition Critical, the band’s second album, which I got at the same time as Metal Health, is as exciting and incendiary as Slaves To The Grind and so sparks off a proper Quiet Riot section getting carved into my brain.
I’d gladly add ‘Breathless’ and ‘Run For Cover’ to a glam/hair playlist, but I wouldn’t enjoy them as much as GnR’s ‘Out To Get Me’ or Skid Row’s ‘Sweet Little Sister.’ I suppose its their much harder bite that makes people take them away from the rest of the scene. That sort of thing is a million miles away from ‘Unskinny Bop’ and while I did enjoy this Quiet Riot record, it’s a bit short on bite. No one is going to mistake them for Pantera in a hurry.
I’ve already been through the whole hair spectrum talk a few times now. No need to repeat the past. Lets look to the future. Got a suggestion for what I should listen to next? Let me know.