The hair bands of the ‘80s played a selective brand of rock that ranged from the unmistakable metal of the era, to a harder thrash style heard in the ‘90s. But no matter how you shook that rug, those merged eras of music are lovingly adored by hundreds of thousands of fans. The unfortunate problem is that many of the cult bands, those who failed to score successive hit singles, were forgotten by labels when the switch to CDs occurred in the middle ‘80s. The middle to late ‘80s saw the LP diminish and the CD become the chosen method. Some of those bands never saw a transition to CD, and if they did, once supplies ran out, they stayed out. The ‘90s bands merely faded to a blur.
As the new group of kids grow into music, they are looking to the past for inspiration. With this new interest, labels are digging into the vaults and finding albums that have not been reissued after they fell out of print. Some will never find their way out of that musical purgatory, but younger crowds are rediscovering some of those ‘retired’ classics.
Alcatrazz, whose lineup boasted Steve Vai (who replaced previous guitar whiz, Yngwie Malmsteen), released their 3rd album on Capitol Records called Disturbing the Peace in 1985. The album had some excellent songs that included “Will You be Home Tonight,” the guitar instrumental of “Lighter Shade of Green,” which showed off Vai’s own guitar prowess as it leads into “Sons and Lovers,” and the obvious “God Blessed Video.” Alcatrazz was put together by ex-Rainbow / Michael Schenker Group vocalist, Graham Bonnet several years prior to this album’s release, but the band just never seemed to get over a needed hump despite the talent in the band.
King Kobra was formed by wanderlust drummer Carmine Appice, who has participated in several ‘60s and ‘70s bands including important gigs with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and a collaborative stint with Jeff Beck, and Tim Bogert (also from Vanilla Fudge and Cactus) called Beck, Bogert, & Appice. King Kobra had a transitive ‘70s/’80s sound. As with Alcatrazz, King Kobra never found their place in the roll call of ’80s metal even as they were better than many bands of their timeframe. Their first album was Ready to Strike from 1985, and their follow-up was Thrill of a Lifetime (1986), both enjoyable albums.
Hurricane, a moderately successful band from LA, with a Top hit single under their spandex (“I’m On to You”), was another band that time…and labels forgot. Originally signed to Capitol Records, the band released an EP and several full-length albums. Like their many counterparts in the ‘80s, they were perfectly coiffed, outrageously dressed, and productive. Hurricane formed after a fated introduction between Robert Sarzo (guitars), and Tony Cavazo (bass) by Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow. They meshed well with their other band-mates, and produced albums they could be proud of. Like the previous bands, they have enjoyed their days in the sun. On Over the Edge, they have a stylized ‘80s metal version of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” that is quite interesting to hear as it dilutes the impact of the song by deviating from the original’s flashes of teenage angst. Regardless, the band could write their own music well enough and present it as well as the best of their kind.
In the ‘90s, the music changed into harder riffs, away from the melodic glam-flash of the metal of the ‘80s. The vocals weren’t as far-reaching, but then they didn’t need to be for this kind of metal. This music was more primal; it was a pure adrenaline shot for the heart. It allowed the audience to channel the rush from the music into their bodies and let go. Mosh pits, here we come.
Exodus, a thrash metal band, started by Kirk Hammett (Metallica) even though he spent little time with the band proper, was begun in the early ‘80s. They are now considered one of the first thrash bands. They have been through many personnel changes, and yet the band perseveres. Thrash metal has become a genre that is still played today, revered by many. It has splintered into deeper levels of darkness as the genre typically produces bands that question many facets and their validity of today’s world. Exodus, in their sound, is a clear and developed offshoot of punk music from the late ‘70s with a blend of metal worked into the recipe. Exodus is currently preparing for the release of their ninth album. It’s a rich history for a band that refuses to quit before they’re done. Force of Habit, which came after Impact is Imminent, is a much better album musically.
What ties all of these albums together is that they have been reintroduced into the market place where they haven’t been for some time – other than secondary markets and CD-Rs since falling out of print. They come back in collectible Japanese mini-vinyl styled CDs that reproduce the original vinyl releases. Caroline Records, in conjunction with Capitol, who originally released these albums, have imported a very small number of these discs for clamoring fans. If I have a complaint of these Japanese collectibles, it is this, that these stylized mini-vinyl replications, in their attempt to be exact, must reduce fonts on the backs of some of the albums that had lyrics or notes. This makes for a very difficult, if not impossible, read without the aid of a magnifying glass. But otherwise, nice to have