Here we are for Part 3 of 1985.
WASP – The Last Command
I always thought WASP was huge in the U.S, because they always appeared in magazines.
But they weren’t.
This album and the self-titled debut, got a Gold certification from the RIAA in June 1998, 14 and 13 years after their release. Maybe their claim to fame was due to the controversy of their song titles, lyrics and the overall decadence.
Regardless, WASP has a special place in my music life.
Those opening arpeggios for “Wild Child” hooked me in. And when Blackie tells us he rides the winds that bring the rains, I was interested and the Chorus about being a wild child, so turn the flames higher and be touched and loved.
Well, how can you not like it, even if it doesn’t make sense.
And the Vodka/Budweiser Swilling Chris Holmes breaks out a mean little lick from about 3.50 minutes which brings back memories of the “2 Minutes To Midnight” solo from Maiden, that slow little breakdown section before it picks up again into the intro riff.
How can you not like “Ballcrusher” about a vicious voodoo women who drank all of Blackie’s JD and stole his car?
“Fistful of Diamonds” is Blackie’s social song about the corruption of Wall Street and how the bankers/investors are tied in with the Governments. Because power rules the game. And the power is with the banks. It’s why the Government bailed out the banks when the GFC happened. And the banks gave themselves bonuses and had luxury parties while people lost their homes.
I like the intro to “Widowmaker”. The clean tone section sounds so doomy that when the distortion kicks in, it’s as bleak and dirgey like a Paradise Lost song.
“Blind In Texas” is not my favourite WASP tune, but I do like its high tempo ZZ Top”isms”.
“Cries In The Night” makes me want to pick up the guitar and play it as it moves between acoustic and distortion.
Spencer Proffer was the “producer of the moment” for a few years because of “Metal Health” by Quiet Riot and he was on hand to produce this album, going for crispness in sound.
John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow
How good is the “Rain On The Scarecrow” start?
“Small Town” resonated and was overplayed on radio.
“Lonely Ol’ Night” is excellent and so is the reggae appropriated “The Face Of The Nation”.
“Between A Laugh And A Tear” sounds like a cross between Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen done Mellencamp style.
“You’ve To Stand For Something” is the best song on the album for me. Lyrically, its excellent, dropping cultural references in each verse. And how much truth is in the Chorus.
“You’ve got to stand for something or you will fall for anything”.
And the album closes with “R.O.C.K In The U.S.A”, a track which transports your mind to the 60’s even though you didn’t live it.
Dio – Sacred Heart
The trilogy ends with the Mark 1 Dio band.
“The first two were definitely a lot more fun than the third. ‘Sacred Heart’ was a very very difficult record to make for many reasons. I also think that musically it’s a little overly complex for the band. I think we started to kind of wander off course a bit.
I know that Jimmy and Vinny feel the same about that. It was a more difficult record to write and it was a more difficult record to record.
Ronnie was going through some very dark personal issues at the time; he was separating from his wife Wendy who was also the manager of the band. But Ronnie was in a very very dark place and he wasn’t easy to be around at that time. Ronnie was also producing the record…that made it exceptionally difficult for everyone involved. So that was a dark time.
Maybe that kind of clouds my being able to reflect objectively on that record, I don’t have great feelings for that record. But ‘Holy Diver’ and ‘Last in Line’ are two great records. They were very easy to write, they were very easy to record.”
Vivian Campbell would be fired mid-tour, replaced by Craig Goldy. This led to Campbell and Dio going after each other in the press. Campbell would then disappoint a lot of his fans (the same way Gary Moore did ) when he said that he hated all the three albums he did with Dio (the same way Gary Moore said he hated all of his rock records) but in the last few years, Campbell has made amends with his past and acknowledged his heritage.
“King Of Rock N Roll”, “Hungry For Heaven” and “Sacred Heart” are classic Dio songs.
“Rock N Roll Children” rivals “Rainbow In The Dark”. “Like The Beat Of My Heart” has a solo section that makes me play air guitar. “Just Another Day” has a classic up-tempo riff with a classic Dio vocal melody.
And to finish off, how good is the intro to “Hide In The Rainbow”. Another Kashmir like groove to close off an album with a shred-a-licious solo.
And the album is more mature and the arrangements a bit more complex, but it’s still a worthy album.
Vandenberg – Alibi
The last album before Adrian put the band on hold, joined Whitesnake for a decade, disappeared from the scene for about a decade and a half, then tried to resurrect Vandenberg and was told he couldn’t by his ex-bandmates, so Vandenberg became Vandenberg’s Moonkings and in 2020, its Vandenberg again.
“All The Way” kicks it off, with its arena rock riffs and chorus. The way Vandenberg decorates the verses, is Hendrix guitar hero stuff, moving between power chords, arpeggios, single note melodic lines.
Did the Def Leppard guys listen to “Once In A Lifetime” and then went away to write “Hysteria”? Then again these kind of progressions started to become common.
“Voodoo” has an intro and verse riff which reminds me of Michael Schenker. “Dressed To Kill” has a speed metal riff in the vein of Deep Purple’s “Speed King” and “Highway Star”.
“Fighting Against The World” is that classic Euro Rock I like which reminds me of the Uli Jon Roth “Scorpions” era. And Adrian, brings out the guitar hero in him for the lead break.
“How Long” is one of those ballads that moves between rock and classical in the arpeggios and chord voicings.
“Alibi” sounds like it came from the 70’s. Actually “Because Of You” from Storm Force has this same feel in the verses.
The very “Into The Arena” sounding “Kamikaze” closes off the album.
Marillion – Misplaced Childhood
They came into my headspace when Michael Portnoy from Dream Theater kept talking about em in a lot of interviews that he did in the early 90’s. And when I checked em out, Steve Rothery entered my life as an influence.
And this album is a monster.
The synth riff to kick of “Pseudo Silk Kimono” is haunting. And Fish is unique with his vocals and his lyrical phrasing/messages, something that Geoff Tate would take and run with as well.
“Pseudo Silk Kimono” moves into the beautiful strummed guitar for “Kayleigh”, before the arpeggios start and Fish starts singing “Do you remember?”.
And the lead break in “Kayleigh” is so melodic, melancholic and hopeful at the same time.
“Kayleigh” segues into “Lavender” with its major key piano riff.
“Bitter Suite” has this section from 3.45 which always gets me to pay attention when it comes along. “Heart Of Lothian” and “Waterhole” contrast each other between slow and fast tempo’s. “Lords Of The Backstage” sounds like a certain Rush song. And when the 9 plus minute “Blind Curve” begins, I am intoxicated by the various moods of the song and the album overall.
The U2 influenced “Childhoods End” just keeps adding to the variety of the album. And it’s a big reason why I like Marillion. The variety. You get a mix of so many different styles.
Helloween – Walls Of Jericho
The Helloween guys kept on saying that they were like Judas Priest, Scorpions and Iron Maiden, only faster.
And they sure were.
Helloween came into my life because of the song “I Want Out” a few years later and that got me interested to check em out. This album came in various editions. The track listing on this one is from the 1987 edition. Hell, due to a manufacturing error, one of the sides on several cassette copies had the music of Celtic Frost’s “To Mega Therion” on it. And it confused a lot of people.
This is the only album to feature guitarist Kai Hansen on lead vocals as well.
“Warrior” starts off with the same machine gun noises and bomb explosions that Metallica also uses for “One” when they play it live.
The lead breaks in each of the songs are songs within songs compositions, moving between classical influences like Uli Jon Roth Scorpions era and Pentatonic/Modal influences like Michael Schenker UFO era, merged between Iron Maiden’s NWOBHM sounds. Just faster.
“Victim Of Fate” sounds like it came from an Iron Maiden jam session with riffs that remind me of “Phantom Of The Opera”. Just faster.
And after 2 minutes of 150km speeds, the song slows down like a traffic jam. This part of the song is my favourite, as it starts to build up again.
And the lead break that follows gets me playing air guitar. Then it picks up again to a harmonized lead break.
Like “Phantom Of The Opera”. Just faster.
And there is another open string harmony lead break to close the song off. But it didn’t, because with 40 seconds to go, a new lead break was created.
And by the end of the 6 minutes, a classic Helloween song is born and Power Metal with it.
“Cry For Freedom” has this haunting acoustic guitar riff to start it off. “Walls Of Jericho/Ride The Sky” starts off with a trumpet version of “London Bridge Is Falling Down” before a blistering speed metal riff kicks in (which is the start of “Ride The Sky”) to rival anything thrash related that Metallica was doing at that point in time.
“Reptile” sounds like an unfinished demo from “Piece Of Mind”. Only faster.
“Guardians” is patient zero of the Power Metal pandemic. It has it all, the fast riffs, the soaring vocals, the progressive time changes in the solo section and the major key “battle cry” Chorus.
“Phantoms Of Death” sounds like the “The One Riff To Rule Em All” which is known as the “Two Minutes To Midnight” riff but it goes back to the 70’s because it was that common. And a harmony lead break which reminds me of “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. Only faster.
“Gorgar” has this head banging riff that reminds me of Accept. This is the song, which is the slowest on the album. And Wikipedia tells me that “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” is referenced here. Similar to how Accept referenced Beethoven in “Metal Heart”.
And you know the wrestler Chris Jericho who is also the singer in a band called Fozzy, well he took his name and wrestling manoeuvre from the title of this album.
And into the time machine we go for 1977 – Part 3.