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Lillian Axe

Lillian Axe

Review by Gary Hill

Lillian Axe (at least in my head) got caught up in the "hair metal" movement of the 1980's. I recently discovered them with their latest disc and am now getting a chance to catch up on some of their back catalog. This debut disc has now been reissued and it shows a band that were not untouched by the glam metal movement, but still managed to rise far above it. They seemed to foreshadow epic and power metal movements and even prog metal at times. When they did delve into more generic glam territory they did it better than most of the other bands performing that style of metal. The result is a disc that sounds a little dated, but still holds up very well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dream of a Lifetime
A dramatic, extended keyboard based introduction leads things off. This runs through and gives way to a ringing bell - like an alarm clock. From there the group stomp out into a 1980's styled hard rocking metallic romp. This is catchy but still meaty. It's a good tune. The instrumental break includes some especially tasty guitar work. The vocal arrangement on this reminds me a bit of Angel.
Inside Out
A meatier guitar sound leads this off, feeling a bit like Motley Crue perhaps. This is a decidedly "tougher" sound. It's still got a bit of an '80's catchiness to it, but just has some more crunch and a bit more "rawk and roll" sound. The guitar solo borders on generic, but is still quite meaty.
Vision in the Night
This reminds me a bit of a harder edged April Wine. The 1980's melodic metal textures are all over this, but the band does it better than most of the practitioners of that musical style. No molds are broken here, but it's one of the better songs of the genre.
Picture Perfect
The Motley Crue elements are all over this one, as well. At times it feels like it could have come from Shout at the Devil and at other points I hear Girls Girls Girls, but the Angel vocals stay with this one, as well. The bridge on this one is exceptionally tasty and we get some of the most fiery guitar work of the whole disc here.
More That You Get
Another fairly typical 1980's metal texture leads this one off. It's not about creating a new sound, but more about perfecting something that others do only so well. The vocal arrangement here really steals the show, but not at any sacrifice of meaty guitar. This is a bit generic, but still quite strong.
Misery Loves Company
This one is a bit harder edged and it pays off in terms of value for the dollar. I can hear a bit of The Crue on this one, too, but very early Crue. These guys show that they can rock it out with the best of them. The main riff here, while rather typical, is very tasty. The vocal arrangement on this one shines, too. I really love some of the powerhouse melodic metal guitar soloing on this, too. This is one of my favorite pieces on show here.
Nobody Knows
You knew there would have to be a ballad. This number doesn't breeak any real new ground, but it's still quite strong. It's pretty and evocative without getting cheesy. So much metal of the era had a tendency towards schmaltzyness on the ballads. Thankfully Lillian Axe avoid that pitfall here. I suppose the closest comparison would be Bon Jovi, but this has a bit more meat on the bone.
Hard Luck
Keyboards lead this one off and build slowly. As the melody comes in on the keys something in the back of my head screams out, "Journey." These guys shift it out into heavier territory from there, though, dispelling all thoughts of Steve Perry and the boys. They drop it down to a fairly stripped down arrangement for the verse. This is one of the least "hair metal" tracks on show here and also one of the strongest tunes. The chorus has a very catchy texture. That gives this sort of all the best parts of "hair metal" without the negatives. It's a dramatic and evocative piece of music that straddles the fence between hard rocking metal and the more balladic, without ever crossing into pure ballad territory. It's a great tune.
Waiting in the Dark
Another meaty metallic excursion takes things here. This is a fairly dramatic tune that seems to foreshadow a lot of European epic metal. It pounds in with a heavy movement and then drops back down for a very dramatic balladic approach. This song really does have a lot in common with what would later emerge as epic or power metal and perhaps a bit of prog metal. This is another highlight of the disc and one of the most powerful tracks. It's also one of the most dynamic and far ahead of its time. The acoustic segment mid-piece combines folk music and progressive rock leanings in an intricate little excursion. The group launch out into neo-classical motifs from there.
Laughing in Your Face
Here we get a pretty straightforward metal tune that's got one foot in solid rock and roll. It's catchy and still meaty and it does turn more involved later. It makes for a great disc closer.
 
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