Jeff Hately

REVIEW: Wolfsbane – Live Fast, Die Fast (1989 cassette)

WOLFSBANE – Live Fast, Die Fast (1989 Def American cassette)

Blaze Bayley did not emerge from out of nowhere when he joined Iron Maiden.  Six years before The X Factor, Bayley released his debut album with Wolfsbane, produced by Rick frickin’ Rubin of all people.  Presumably this means Rick laid on a couch and didn’t wear shoes.  Let’s have a listen, then.

“Man Hunt” is Van Halen meets Iron Maiden; as bizarre as that concoction may sound is half as much as it is good!  It’s EVH and DLR, “Back in the Village”, hunting for painted ladies.  Blaze shows off some impressive pipes, but guitarist Jase Edwards showcases all the good things you can do with a speedily-played six-string.  Dirty Blaze must have hooked up with a bird according to “Shakin'”, which takes the sound back into the pocket.  A Dokken/Halen hybrid with a touch of sleaze, and certainly harder edged than what most American bands were doing in 1989.  “Killing Machine” sounds a bit like a lost Van Halen demo from 1977 but with a 1980s heavy metal drummer instead of Big Al.  There’s no break between it and “Fell Out of Heaven”, acting like one big multi-parted song.  Blaze is on the make again, sounding like a big dirty Ian Astbury.  Add in the absolutely blitz of “Money to Burn” and you have a definitive “lust” trilogy.

Side two opens with a punchy tune called “Greasy”, possessing an unholy scream that you wish they would have utilized in Maiden.  “I Like It Hot” is the funny summer cruisin’ tune, one the most commercial song on the album that is decidedly not commercial.  You can sing along to the terrific chorus on “All Or Nothing” but the blitzkrieg speed makes it clearly radio unfriendly.  The only power ballad “Tears From a Fool” is harder edged with a long solo, uncompromised and remote.  And with not even a breath’s break, “Pretty Baby” concludes this album-length treatise on picking up chicks in an accelerated manor.

The sonics of this Rick Rubin production are typically dry and crisp, but with an annoying snare drum sound that makes you question his hearing.  He arranged some cool gang vocals with both melody and rawness, but Live Fast, Die Fast doesn’t have any special sonic qualities that scream “Rubin”.

Wolfsbane happened an interesting niche here.  They blended the best aspects of American hard rock, tossed it with some heavy fucking metal, and a singer who didn’t sound like everyone else (with a dirty mind).  It was dangerous and it was different.

Was it good?  Yeah!  To quote the Heavy Metal Overlord, even Rick Rubin couldn’t fuck it up.

4/5 stars.

REVIEW: Wolfsbane – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990)

Welcome back to the Week of EPs! Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure.

MONDAY: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990)
WOLFSBANE_0001WOLFSBANE – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990 Def American)

I only own one Wolfsbane release on CD, and it’s this EP.  I remember that their Rubin-produced debut Live Fast, Die Fast didn’t sound as good as a Rubin production should.  This follow-up EP was produced by someone named Brenden O’Brian, who is presumably a different producer than the famed Bredan O’Brien.  Whoever it is, there’s little wrong with the production here.  It has guts and clarity.  The drums could use some more oomph.

The opening track “Steel” is one that I remember from Blaze Bayley’s live album.  Hearing it again, it’s fucking awesome!  “Tough as steel!” repeats the chorus which is appropriate for this razor sharp attack.  The guitars by Jase Edwards are choppy and aggressive, and they really sell the song.  I like when the rhythm guitar drops out during the solo, and all you have is bass and drums — just like it would be live.

“Paint the Town Red” is good time hard rock.  It still has a toughness to it, because of the basic guitar-based production.  There’s a radio-ready chorus and plenty of rocking melody, so if you had to pick one song as a potential hit, it’s “Paint the Town Red”.  Then it’s on to the ridiculously over the top “Loco”.  This time the guitars are almost a parody of shredding, so insane are they.  I can’t say I’m overly fond of “Loco”, but it sure does rip.

In 1990, you had to have an accessible song with acoustic guitars on your CD.  “Hey Babe” is that song.  Blaze’s flat vocals lend it some character, but otherwise it’s a pretty standard sounding 1990 rock ballad.  The dry guitars are very tasteful, the highlight of the track.  “Totally Nude” is a pretty dumb title, but it’s actually a pretty good hard rocker.  As the guitars blaze up and down the fretboard, song works its way into your head.

“Kathy Wilson” is a little bit of a mini-epic.  Based on the classic film Invaders From Mars, it’s a little corny but absolutely cool at the same time.  Blaze acts out some of the movie lines in spoken-word segments, but wails away on the choruses.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this is an impressive little track.  It’s a little more complex than the standard rockers, but has the same blitzkrieg drive.

Consider picking up All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! at a reasonable price for a nice brief addition to your metal and Iron Maiden collections.

3.5/5 stars