Alex Harvey was not only one of Scotland’s most legendary rockers, he was also steeped in showbiz. This album, his third with SAHB, came out in ’74 but Alex had been around in music and theatre since the late 50s. He formed his “Sensational” band, with members of prog rockers Tear Gas, in the early 70s and often referred to them in terms of movies and the stage: he was their director. And The Impossible Dream is their most theatrical and cinematic album, the culmination of Harvey’s decades of experience. It’s comparable to Alice Cooper’s School’s Out: an adventurous extravaganza. From the tribal, comic book stomp of Vambo and Man in the Jar‘s gonzo noir to the dancehall Sergeant Fury, the skittery blues of Weights Made of Lead and the riffing pirate yarn Tomahawk Kid this album is a total romp. Yo ho ho! And as Anthem closes the album out, it’s extremely moving too. It’ll make ye greet.
Wrrrow! Look out! Eeee eeee… From the top of the mountain, yeah! Yow! Fire! Owww. Ruff. Oooh… Look out! Rowf! Yeah! Oooh yeah!
And so David DeFeis kicks off Virgin Steele’s 13th album The Black Light Bacchanalia with every vocal exclamation known to man.
He sounds excited and so he should: the opening track By the Hammer of Zeus (and the Wrecking Ball of Thor) is pure awesomeness. It delivers on the promise of its ridiculously mighty title. I’ve become obsessed with this song and have been listening to it thrice daily for many moons now. Ruff!
Unfortunately, the rest of the album isn’t as instantly appealing . Exclamations aside, DeFeis spends most of The Black Light Bacchanalia singing in an oddly soft voice. It’s an interesting experiment, making it seem like he’s whispering sweet nothings into your ear or he’s inside your head. Look out! But it doesn’t do much for the album’s dynamics, especially when many of the songs are meandering and forgettable.
But my hopeless addiction to that opening track keeps me coming back for more and moments of greatness keeping popping out with each listen. Weirdly, considering the laid-back vocals on the heavier tracks, DeFeis sings the excellent piano-ballad The Tortures of the Damned with raging passion. Fire! And the softer vocal approach works dreamily on To Crown Them With Halos (Parts 1 & 2) and Necropolis (He Answers Them With Death), bringing out all the drama and the melody. I’m finding that there’s nothing in my collection quite like this so I’m seduced into giving it another spin. It’s flawed but fascinating. And even if it doesn’t quite live up to its exclamatory opening there’s still plenty to get excited about here. Ooohh yeah!
I’ve been getting into this album way more now than I did when it came out. There were loads of great albums out in 2013 and this one just got lost in the stampede. I’d have rated a good 5 or 6 albums above this back then but I’ve not gone back to any of that year’s albums as much as this one. I attribute its staying power to its classic none-more-metal power. I did think some of Fenriz’s tracks were a bit cartoonish when I first got it but really he’s just going for broke in a way too few metal acts do anymore. Endearing enthusiasm and naivety. His three songs here are just an absolute hoot. And on the remaining three, Nocturno Culto delivers the type of frosty misanthropy that he is still the master of. Genius, biting riffs and his incredible decayed growl. Darkthrone totally understand the execution and the spirit of 80s metal. NWOBHM, speed, 1st wave black… the kind of stuff that never gets old. And if it’s not totally perfect? Who needs perfect when you can have awesome?
HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5
Here’s the best, and most fun, song on The Underground Resistance. Totally boisterous, simple and… check out that bridge riff.