Before the arrival of grunge, the US was awash with sleazy bands sporting huge hairstyles and huge attitudes. Guns N’ Roses would go on to achieve world domination, and MTV made huge stars out of many others, including Ratt, Motley Crue and Poison. For every band that hit the big time, of course, there were many that didn’t achieve quite the same levels of success. Kik Tracee, Tuff, and Jetboy were bands that very much fell into this category, along with LA’s Faster Pussycat, but even these “also rans” gained more than their fifteen minutes of fame at the height of the music television boom.
In 1991, ex-Balance guitarist Bob Kulick teamed up with ex-Rainbow/Alcatrazz vocalist Graham Bonnet, his Alcatrazz mate Jimmy Waldo, Quiet Riot bassist Chuck Wright and sometime W.A.S.P. drummer Frankie Banali and formed metal supergroup Blackthorne. In 1993, the band unleashed ‘Afterlife’, a cliché-ridden debut album that needs to be heard to be believed. Rarely have four such talented musicians come together and produced such a bewildering results. Nevertheless, it was a success in Japan and by by the mid 90s, Blackthorne (minus Wright) had a second album written, demoed and almost ready to go. …And then Bonnet quit. With no band polish up and then promote the recordings, the tapes were shelved by the record company and seemed destined to never see the light of day. On the basis of about half of their debut, that might’ve seemed like a blessing.
In some ways, the idea of grunge as a musical umbrella was a myth; a media invention borne from a lazy journalistic need to pigeonhole everything. Most of the bands that broke through in the early 90s actually had little in common aside from a geographic locale: Nirvana’s Pixies and Wipers obsessions bore little resemblance to Soundgarden’s updating of Black Sabbath’s monolithic riffery, just as that had absolutely nothing in common with Mudhoney’s desire to be Iggy & The Stooges. Yet, they were often lumped together. Also primarily thought of as a “grunge band”, from their inception in the mid-80s right through to their quiet demise approximately fifteen years later, Screaming Trees honed retro sounds of yet a different kind. Here was a band that drew influence from heavy psychedelia. Like the other more popular Washington State bands, their only obvious link came from a love of khaki kecks and heavy plaid shirts.
Following the success of Gary Crowley’s ‘Punk & New Wave’ box set last year in which the legendary DJ explored a variety of great alternative music without presenting the well worn hits, Edsel are set to repeat the formula again this coming March with a Steve Lamacq curated four disc box.
As the 1990s dawned and Iron Maiden entered their second decade as recording artists, their eighth studio album presented the band’s first real misfire. Sure, 1981’s ‘Killers’ may have used of a lot of leftover material but it had a lot of heart, but ‘No Prayer For The Dying’ (released in October 1990) is the first Maiden release that could be considered bad. Maybe that’s harsh. To put it another way: it is one of those albums which sounds solid enough at first, but dig a little deeper and repeated listens show it to be generally unremarkable. And obviously, compared to Maiden’s previous heights – following a decade where the band could barely put a foot wrong – that’s not so good. Since its predecessor ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ offered especially memorable material in ‘Infinite Dreams’, ‘Can I Play With Madness’ and ‘The Evil That Men Do’, it didn’t seem like too much of a leap of faith to expect ‘No Prayer…’ to deliver a similar standard of goods, but most of the album sounds genuinely flat by comparison with any of its forebears.