I was very enthusiastic for this album when it came out in 2011: four copies purchased (to get all the bonus tracks) and a 5/5 star rating. I can hear what I loved about it so much, even if the feelings are faded today. That’s what makes these “Just Listening” writings interesting!
The original Nightmare is still a favourite and always will be. Factors that appealed to me about the sequel album are the musical and lyrical callbacks. These recurring cues unite both albums quite successfully despite the decades that passed. Musical sequels can be a dicey affair (Mindcrime 2, anyone?) but Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin managed to do the near-impossible.
The standard album runs 52 minutes, and that’s just a tad long. Although there are no obvious duds to cut, the original Nightmare was more effective because it was more concise. (You want a longer experience? Adding in all the bonus tracks more than doubles the album’s length!) Regardless of the digital age that most of us inhabit, there is something to be said for the length of a standard LP. It just happens to jive with the natural attention spans of the human mind. The new Nightmare crams 14 tracks into that 52 minutes, and it plays out as a lot to absorb. Especially after giving the album a rest for a few years.
Another way in which the second Nightmare is inferior to the first is the overall tone. Nightmare 2 is far more humorous. A couple tracks (“Ghouls Gone Wild” and “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever”) are there for the laughs. That’s fine — Alice Cooper does humour in music better than 99% of those who try. The original Nightmare had its fun, but the tone of the album was far darker, especially with songs like “Steven” and “Only Women Bleed”. You’re going to have a preference one way or the other too. I prefer the darker original Nightmare to the more comedic sequel.
These are all very fine hairs to split. I still like the album, a lot. I believe it to be Alice’s best from the last two decades. There’s very little wrong with it. I just don’t think it matches the first as much as I once did.