Well, the US presidential elections are over. And no matter how hard I tried to write and edit reviews last night, I could not ignore the votes rolling in. Sure, the half-bottle of bourbon didn’t help my focus either, but you can’t blame me for trying to take the edge off. After a long night of suspense and bewilderment, this morning finds a fog encasing the house as I wait for a sunrise they tell me should arrive. And, as I wait, I do what I always do when politics threaten to kill my already slow internet connection. I ignore social-media posts and Slack messages as if they carried the bubonic plague. Yes, I admit to ignoring all the bullshit and refuse to be a part of the conversation, but someone’s gotta keep a vigilant lookout for the next-best King Diamond ripoff. Though this new promo sitting on the top of my queue sounds nothing like King, it does have a fitting title for the occasion. Ladies and gents, I give you Lightning Strikes.
Having started way back in 1985, you would expect a classic metal outfit like California’s Lightning Strikes to be the proud owners of a dozen or more releases. Instead, there’s only one: a simple, two-track single that preceded the band’s 1987 breakup. And now, for reasons that can only explained by mysterious star alignments and Sumerian incantations, Lightning Strikes have reemerged three decades too late with their Dio-meets-Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath debut. Not only that, they even brought the Tony Martin onboard for “301 A.D. (Sins of Our Father)” and “Death Valley.” There’s no denying it: these dudes are olde as shit and are on a quest to reach back into the times of VCRs and landlines to bring you something… well, olde [I respect that. – Steel Druhm].
Along with the awesome performances by Tony Martin, the band also recruited former Dream Theater (and current Joe Bonamassa) keyboardist Derek Sherinian to fill the gaps between soaring vocals, overdriven guitars, and ripping solos. The keys pop in and out of songs with great finesse, dropping a keyboard solo on “301 A.D.,” some ballady piano strokes on “Fear,” and organs a-plenty on “Bermuda Triangle” and “Kamikazi.” And, speaking of “Kamikazi,” Avanchick‘s Noah provides his unique pipes to this album curveball. After opening the track with a slow version of the traditional “Doki no Sakura” (wrought with Japanese koto), Noah unleashes one of the more addictive performances on the album. “Kamikazi” mixes clean vox with gruff ones and unloads a bucketful of timeless riffs. These couple tracks are quite bizarre, but the originality makes them special.
And, just when you thought there couldn’t be any more surprises, you get a cover of Deep Purple‘s “Our Lady.” An underrated song that I find myself looking forward to with every spin of the disc. Vocalist Nando Fernandez nails it and the vibe permeates through the album like an aftershock. Along with opener “Victim,” “Death Valley,” “Kamikazi,” and closer “We Don’t Rock Alone,” this track is one of my favorites. “Victim” has a Dio stench like none other and its addictive groove is only matched by “Death Valley.” While the opener (along with its successor) borrow from the perfections of Dio, “Death Valley” (with the help of Tony Martin) reeks of late-’80s Sabbath. Martin’s contribution to the song works so well, you might find yourself questioning the validity of time travel. Closer “We Don’t Rock Alone” follows the cover better than a tight latex glove over sadistic digits. Not only does it add the perfect amount of energy and memorability to the album, but it also sports the disc’s best chorus. It’s the kind of track that reminds ancient metalheads everywhere that your best records live in the crates in the basement.
For a band that dropped off the face of the Earth well before most of our current readers could wipe their own asses, this is quite the achievement. Though, “Doki no Sakura” and “Kamikazi” are the extent of its uniqueness and the lyrics of “301 A.D.” and “Stay with Me” are slathered in cheese, this album is fucking fun. It may not have those great dynamics from the days of yore, but producer Roy Z did well to make the bass and keys shine as bright as the guitars and vocals. It’s a cool little record that won’t make year-end lists, but oughta remind you that the only good music that came out of the ’80s was metal.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Pure Legend Records
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2016