It all started with my cousin, Mega (his nickname was short for Megadeth). He was one of those dudes that just stayed up and taped and taped and taped everything to do with metal and rock music doing the rounds on our local TV stations. One such clip he taped and played me was a song called “Alison Hell”. After he saw that I was interested in it, he told me he had the LP and if I want to copy it off him.
Lucky for me, I had a blank TDK tape handy, so it was a no brainer to get him to copy it.
Since it was a blank tape, I needed to fill up the B side and Mega had a lot of music which I didn’t have. As part of this day together, we also ended up watching the “Shocker” movie and of course, Mega also had the “Shocker” soundtrack on vinyl.
And yes, I was confused with the spelling. The album is called “Alice In Hell” so when I was writing down the track list, my cousin was reading it out to me from the album cover, so when he said “Alison Hell” for song 2, I heard “Alice In Hell” and was about to write that down.
The acoustic guitars of “Crystal-Ann” fills my headspace and the guitar playing technique is excellent and precise. I asked my cousin who the guitarist is and he reads out Jeff Waters from the liner notes. At that stage I’d never heard of him.
By the way, I wasn’t allowed to hold his album covers in case I wrecked em. Actually no one was allowed to touch Mega’s albums except Mega.
Then the evil sounding intro to “Alison Hell” kicks in and when the drums come, you know it’s desk breaking time. And it goes through so many changes and moods before the first verse even starts. To me, this is progressive music. It doesn’t have to be constant time changes, and 50 million notes per bar, which on some occasions is okay, but not all the time. Changes in mood will do the job, and it can all be done in a 4/4 time signature.
When “Welcome To Your Death” comes in, you get the feeling that Jeff Waters is way ahead of his time in song writing . Not only does he merge the speed and aggression and technical progressive song writing of Megadeth with Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus and Metallica, he also brings in elements of Randy Rhoads and Michael Schenker influences into the mix.
The lyrics and the vocal melodies are not as strong as the artists who had more sales and while people still like to go mental at break neck riffs, their needs to be a message in the words which they can relate to and connect with.
“Wicked Mystic” is another speed a thon with head banging open string riffs and fast palm muted lines. And that solo, feels like “Over The Mountain” got merged with “Master of Puppets”.
The rest of the album is not as strong as it became too repetitive in the riffs department, with the only light being some cool lead breaks here and there in the songs.
In Australia, we got our music late compared to the rest of the world because of gated releases. I basically heard “Alice In Hell” and the second album, “Never Neverland” in the same year of 1990. However on this day when I was at Mega’s house, I only had one tape with me and it had music on it. On Side 1, was my own Walkman edition of “Somewhere In Time” from Iron Maiden with Side 2 first, and then Side 1. On the second side, I had a mix of Maiden from “The Number of The Beast”, “Piece of Mind” and “Powerslave”. And that was the side which was sacrificed to record “Never, Neverland”.
The difference in production is the first thing you hear. While “Alison Hell” sounded like it was recorded in a garage, “Never, Neverland” had better sonics and a different vocalist. The debut album had Randy Rampage and the second had an unknown called Coburn Pharr, who sounded better. And the reason why Randy Rampage quit the band was to keep his senior role at the shipping docks in North Vancouver.
You see, even back in the 80s/90s artists had to work two jobs to make a living in music, hoping that they will become the 1% of artists which breaks through. A label deal never guaranteed riches. All it did was give an artist an opportunity to participate in the recording business, provided the A&R rep was satisfied with the end output. But it also meant, an artist would have to give up their most valuable asset to the labels to exploit forever.
Another upgrade with this album was the influence of grooves, which Pantera would build a career on and all song writing being done by Jeff Waters, which involved lyrics a person could connect with.
“The Fun Palace” has a lead break of about 2 minutes which is guitar hero status. And those riffs.
“Road To Ruin” has an interlude, lead section, which blows me away. On the road to ruin with alcoholic speed alright and the song ends with tyres screeching before a smash.
“Sixes And Sevens” has this interlude progressive bit, which hooks me in and when the lead break comes in, Jeff Waters delivers on all levels.
“Stonewall” is another great song, with killer riffs and great lyrics.
“Never, Neverland” has a pretty cool 90 second intro before the verses kick in. And sonically it’s a different song, moving between clean and distorted tones.
The other three albums I have on CD are not available on Spotify Australia which is wrong, but hey, they are all on different labels, like SPV and Music For Nations, so since those companies own the rights, they can do whatever they want with the music.
In saying that, I got “Refresh The Demon” to see what the band was up to since “Never, Neverland” and I don’t remember a song from it, but it must have been okay, because I purchased “Remains” and was vomiting all over the place when I heard electronic programmed drums and an industrial sound. However in 2002, I gave them another shot with “Waking The Fury” (because the album title reminded me of Yngwie Malmsteen) and I can’t really remember a track from that album either and I haven’t really gone back to the band, except for the first two albums.
And who remembers the CD holder teeth breaking? I only pushed down once and bang they all went.