Back in the early 90s, a second divison Mötley Crüe obsessed outfit named Wildside released their only album ‘Under The Influence’. Aside from the rather crass ‘Hang On Lucy’, the album featured material that was largely forgettable. Somehow, despite that, CD pressings of the album became sought after by fans of late 80s/early 90s glam and sleaze rock. Many years later, their guitarist Brent Woods would become sideman to Mötley’s Vince Neil in one of his solo bands, but like so many others, Wildside ended up being no more than a footnote to that scene.
When this album first appeared in the forthcoming releases schedule at Escape Music early in 2010, part of me hoped that Brent Woods had resurrected the name and was coming back to have another go. However, this particular Wild Side (note the two word band name as opposed to the singular one of the early 90s) aren’t the US glam band who never made it; this Wild Side hail from Norway – and on the basis of this debut album aren’t likely to make it either.
After an intro, ‘Live Forever’ thunders with a riff that musically fits snugly somewhere between forgotten 90s band Heaven’s Edge, Mötley Crüe’s ‘Shout at the Devil’ album (though lacking even the small amount of finesse the Crüe had back then) and German stalwarts Scorpions at their heaviest, circa their ‘Blackout’ album. Tackled at full bore, the speed is largely a tool to show off Tom Grena and Jon Aarseth’s prowess in the guitar solo department. Joachim Berntsen’s vocals also have a very European feel about them; his strong accent and higher pitch more than reminiscent of Scorpions man Klaus Meine (or if you’re lucky, Klaus doing a half-arsed impersonation of Vince Neil, as evidenced on the album’s second proper track, ‘Mine Tonight’). Generally speaking, most of Wild Side’s key traits can be found in this rather unsubtle opener and if you don’t like it, it’s unlikely that much of the album is going to win you over.
That afore-mentioned second track, ‘Mine Tonight’ has a slower tempo which works in its favour as well as a solid bass intro. However, once Joachim starts wailing his way through a bunch of questionable lyrics, any promise gets sucked out of the song’s solid foundations. Likewise, the mid-paced riffer ‘Play With Me’ loses any credibility by including lyrics like “I wanna rock you baby, come and play with me / We can have a good time / I just wanna feel your love / Hear you scream all night”. I wish they were including these with a tongue placed firmly in-cheek, but I fear that it’s all being delivered decades late and with no sense of irony.
Halfway into the album and taking a tempo similar to the opening number, Wild Side hammer their way through ‘Wild One’ with gusto, but by this point, unless you want to stick around to smirk at lyrics like “she’s a wild one / Wild one from the street”, the show’s over. By track 5 (barring the sappy ballad ‘Love For You’ near the album’s end) you’ve heard both of Wild Side’s typical default styles. On a positive note, Wild Side show that they are more than musically competent, but it takes more than that to make an album worthy of long-term enjoyment; the fact that Wild Side are almost incapable of stepping outside their rigid forms of either fast paced rock with big solos or mid-paced riffage really works against them. With only the two styles predominantly on show, the ballad feels like a token gesture, since all rock albums have one.
‘Speed Devil’ is completely unoriginal album. That alone wouldn’t necessarily make it bad of course, but once you combine that with the poor song writing and slightly painful vocal delivery, it doesn’t bode well all at all. It’s beyond salvation (a few guitar dramatics here and there don’t come anywhere close to making this album hold it’s own) and as such, it is unlikely that anyone but the most undemanding of 80s metal fans will find anything to get excited about here.