Supergroups rarely last a long time. The combination of various egos usually leads to burnout pretty quickly. In the case of Blackthorne (featuring Graham Bonnet along with members of Quiet Riot, House of Lords and Skull), there wasn’t really anything you’d call genuine longevity, but their course ran a little longer than most. Formed in 1991, they released their debut ‘Afterlife’ in 1993 which led to some success in Japan. Work on a second album was undertaken in the mid-90s, but the band called it a day before the record was ready for release. The tapes remained unreleased until HNE Recordings unearthed them as part of their extensive (and excellent) Graham Bonnet reissue campaign. It’s a shame Blackthorne’s proposed second album couldn’t be heard in 1995, as at least half of it was an improvement over their first release.
Having already released ‘Afterlife’ with a handful of bonus tracks and finally gettiing ‘Blackthorne II: Don’t Kill The Thrill’ out to the fans in 2016, you’d expect that Cherry Red/HNE Recordings would have nothing more to give from Blackthorne’s all too short career, but this compilation (released in October 2019) actually adds a lot more to the band’s recorded legacy. Not so much a career overview with a few unreleased trinkets, this set is actually a vault of demos and alternate takes, peppered with a few album cuts to give a fairer overview of their short life span. Presented among the 44 tracks in this set are 30 unreleased cuts, a couple of which go right back to the band’s origins when the rhythm section featured White Lion men James Lomenzo and Greg D’Angelo. In other words, there’s a huge amount for fans to get their ears around.
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.
There have been various Dinosaur Jr. reissues over the years – most notably the Rhino CDs from 2010 – but none that have served the band especially well in the age of deluxe editions and lavish box sets for legacy artists. The Rhino reissues were a step in the right direction with each featuring a smattering of bonus materials (save for ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ which managed to be a potential downgrade from the earlier SST CD), but those still didn’t give the big fans too much in terms of unreleased materials or rarities. Luckily, the 2019 campaign from Cherry Red Records puts that right. The period between 1990 and 1997 presents their most commercially successful, but with that came four great albums, an archive of unheard live material and a lot of other stuff that deserves to be shared.
Although Fall fans probably expected reissues of ‘Totale’s Turns (It’s Now Or Never)’, ‘Grotesque (After The Gramme)’ and ‘Slates’ to appear before the end of 2019, this October will actually see something a little further ahead making up volume three of Cherry Red’s extensive Fall Sound Archives reissue series.