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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Vixen

Live and Learn

Review by Gary Hill

In the 1980's I had a big aversion to most of the metal out there, considering it to be “hair metal pop.” I know that I lumped Vixen in with that grouping. It seems that their big claim to fame in the day was the fact that they were an all female band, putting them as a more metal Runaways – at least in my mind. Well, Vixen is back and they are no gimmick. This album is a great metal disc that showcases both catchy arrangements and meaty crunch. While not every song is stellar, most are quite strong. I wouldn't say this will be on a lot of lists of best of 2007, but it's still a great album that you'll find yourself popping in frequently.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Anyways
Starting with a spoken “life's too short to live too fast,” this cut launches into a mid-tempo metal cut that has a catchy hook and a killer guitar sound. The vocal arrangement on the chorus is also exceptional. This has a decided '80's metal texture, but in a good way.
Live & Learn
Heavier, this just plain stomps in. If the guitar sound on the last one was good, then this one is great! This is a metal screamer that is one of the highlights on the disc. The vocal arrangement here is also worth mention. This is what pop metal should be! I especially like the little hints of funky bass here and there. The guitar solo is also quite tasty.
I Try
The third slot is where a lot of metal bands put the ballad, and this disc is no exception. This is a pretty and evocative cut that really gains a lot from the layered vocals. It turns quite crunchy later, feeling a bit like something from Lacuna Coil. This is another smoking number on a great disc.
Little Voice
This is one of the least metallic tracks on show here. It feels more like something from Heart or another classic rock band. While this song isn't bad, and does make for a nice piece of variety, it just doesn't do a lot for me. They even turn it rather prog later on.
Pacifist
A stripped down, almost punky mode leads this off. It builds quite slowly, reminding me a bit of Marianne Faithful in the first verse. They pound it out into more metallic fury on the lead up to the chorus and the build up is worth waiting for. With a beefy, bluesy hard rocking texture this is one of the cooler cuts on show here. The climbing progression and killer arrangement work together to create one of the strongest and most accessible pieces on the whole disc.
Don't Want It Anymore
This has almost a modern pop rock sound that is infused with '80's metal textures. It's another cut that might be considered a throwaway. The guitar solo, though, is tasty and manages to elevate the track a bit.
Love Song
This has more of a meaty metal approach and is a definite step up from the one that came before it. I love the laid back, but very dark and powerful verse section. The layered vocals on the pre-chorus and chorus are great, too. Not one of the sheer highlights of the disc, this one definitely shines anyway.
Angry
Here they come in tentatively, but launch out into a fairly raw catchy rocker. This one is among the stronger tracks on the disc and includes some great instrumental work and songwriting. The spoken segment later on is another point where the disc reminds me of Marianne Faithful.
I'm Sorry
This one is cut from much the same cloth as a lot of the disc, but the bouncing arrangement and strong vocals keep it from becoming trite.
You Wish
More stripped down and raw, this one is a killer. It's rather punky and I'm reminded a bit of early Blondie at times (from the first couple albums). It also has some meaty guitar lines. That Marianne Faithful leaning can be heard here, too.
Suffragette City
Here we get a smoking, metallic cover of the old David Bowie track. This one is cool and a great addition to the disc.
Give Me Away
As this comes in it feels like progressive rock. They drop it back to more of a balladic metal mode to carry forward. This one powers up nicely into anthemic territory and has a powerfully evocative texture that serves to end the disc in a satisfying way. A celtic section (complete with bagpipes) that leads to space ends it in an unusual manner.
 
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