Bought in Taranna at Kops for $2.50!
When Triumph split in ’87, Rik Emmett went off in a pop direction leaving his two bandmates with no singer/guitar player, and without their most recognizable member. As bassist Mike Levine said in M.E.A.T Magazine, “We couldn’t just be Duo-umph”. Since Triumph always had two lead singers in Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore, this time Gil simply stepped up and sang everything. Then they needed a guitar player. Gil and Mike Levine wrote and recorded most of Edge of Excess with Mladen Zarron in Toronto, before hiring ex-Frozen Ghost (current Bon Jovi) shredder Phil X. Five years after the split, the new Triumph emerged with a heavier and darker album, Edge of Excess.
Triumph boldly opened the album with a whole minute of nothing but bluesy guitar noise. If there was a stronger way to say “We don’t need Rik,” I don’t know what that would be. This guitar noise serves as an intro to the first Triumph song without Emmett, “Child of the City”, a harder edged Triumph song with the same kind of hooks. It’s hard to determine who is playing lead guitar, Mladen or Phil X, but rest assured that whoever it is has laid waste to the land. Rik Emmett wasn’t just a shredder, but a talented player who composed his solos with class and ability. Mladen and Phil have done the same, but without emulating Rik. (Phil’s going to have his work cut out for him in Bon Jovi, though.)
The rip-roaring “Troublemaker”, easily the fastest and heaviest Triumph track to date, was featured on the soundtrack to Hellraiser III, and it’s easy to see why. It’s as close to speed metal as Triumph have been, and I shouldn’t need to tell you that again the solos shred. Who’s playing? Fucked if I know, there are three guys credited on the song. The song is actually very close to high-octane Whitesnake and it would be easy to imagine Coverdale’s crew doing it.
Lest you think that ballads were a thing of Triumph’s past, “It’s Over” has a country & western feel. Unfortunately of the two singers, Moore had the less commercial voice. This is where Gil’s voice reveals its limitations. On backing vocals, some big names are on hand such as Fred Coury of Cinderella and Steve DeMarchi of Sheriff, to help beef up the big chorus. It’s not enough to make a memorable song. They cook up some groove on the title track, tapping the vein of Van Hagar. But without Rik Emmett, Triumph lost part of what made their unique sound. On Edge of Excess it’s too easy to compare them to contemporaries. “Turn My Back on Love” is better, occupying a dirty mid-tempo groove, and with Phil X handling all the guitars himself. The big chorus is the closest thing to old Triumph on the album.
That’s the side; the second one opens with “Ridin’ High Again”, a sleezy rocker that sounds like Don Dokken emigrating to Canada. Phil X really can shred though, and anyone who’s curious what he can do should check it out. I don’t think Phil will be able to play to his strengths in his new band, so give this a listen and hear the guy blaze like Vai meets Van Halen. “Black Sheep” starts as a total surprise; a blues right in the middle of the album. No drums, just claps. Sadly instead of sticking with this, it transforms into a stock hard rocker. “Boy’s Nite Out” has a grammatically incorrect title: The lyrics are clear that it is not a boy’s night out, but “the boys”, plural. It should therefore be called “Boys’ Nite Out”. Here I am bitching about the grammar and not the word “Nite”…anyway, back to the song. Standard rocker. Plenty of great shreds, but this album is far too burdened by generic rockers. Rik Emmett used to bring a variety of influences to the table, and their albums with him may have had their weaknesses, but they were more diverse than Edge of Excess. Without enough identity, Triumph forged a batch of largely forgettable bluesy hard rock songs. Lots of crunch, not enough stick-to-your-brain hooks.
Fortunately the classy power ballad “Somewhere Tonight” helps wind things up properly. Identity is still a problem, but at least this is a break in the rut the album had been in. Right back into the rut for “Love in a Minute”, the last in a batch of heavily generic rock songs that sound like about a dozen bands…none of them Triumph.
Like any fan, I was pleased that Triumph kept going despite such a huge setback as losing your main guy. Unfortunately the album they produced in ’92 was not up to par, and I guess that’s why it took me 23 years to finally buy it! A couple good songs early in the album, but not much more.