BY JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
LIZZY BORDEN – GIVE ‘EM THE AXE (1984)
Released in May 1984 on Metal Blade Records, this EP from Lizzy Borden is a straight forward heavy metal primer for the band. While the band is usually more commonly associated with the hair metal genre because of the theatrics in their live shows, their sound has more in common with what would be considered a traditional heavy metal style while sometimes delivering a kind of power metal style at the same time.
While I’ve been a fan of their 1987 album Visual Lies since its release (and might just be featuring that album in this series down the line), I’d merely only known of this EP and never owned it. I came across it when I visited a store that had just gotten in a huge batch of cassettes from which I could search to my heart’s or wallet’s content.
While there are only five songs on the release, it does a really good job of showcasing the band right from the start. While the production on the EP is raw, it feels more by design than a lack of proper facilities to do a better job. I’m not an audiophile expert or anything but that’s what I thought after listening.
The last song on the release is “Rod Of Iron” which was originally featured on the Metal Blade Records compilation Metal Massacre IV in 1983. It starts out a bit slower than the rest of the material but guns start firing soon after. I thought the track was decent but for me it was actually the lesser of the five songs.
As for the rest of the album, there was no time for syrupy ballads or wimpy intros. Lizzy Borden hits you in the mouth from the start with the title track. “Kiss of Death” and “No Time To Lose” effectively echo that first punch with a follow up 1-2 punch of in your face metal.
If you are a metal fan of long standing, you’ve likely heard the vocal work from Lizzy Borden the singer. He has kind of vocal presence that soars and echoes in your head as the lyrics spill forth. If you’ve heard it, you won’t forget it and you will always instantly recognize his voice.
What really got me a bit extra excited for this album was their cover of the Rainbow song “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”. It isn’t an easy thing to try and do justice to a song sung by Ronnie James Dio and as a rather huge fan of Dio myself, I’m usually extra critical. That said, I thought this cover was largely effective at paying respect to the original while still sounding like it was the band’s own song at the same time. That might sound a bit weird considering the Lizzy Borden version of the track was recorded 34 years ago but looking back is kind of the point of this series, now isn’t it?
Give ‘Em The Axe definitely slipped past me upon its original release. I was basically in my infancy as a rock/metal fan in 1984 so I imagine that is something I could say about a lot of albums released in 1983-1984. Getting to listen to it now came about by pure happenstance (and a large purchase of cassette collection), but I’m sure glad it did because it has kind of relit my interest in the band that I was a fan of but now want to become more invested in their material as a whole.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The band was originally together from 1983-1996. They’ve had two reunions. The first one was in 1999 and ran until 2004. They got together again in 2006 and are still a going concern to this present day. However, despite rumored work on new material, there hasn’t been a new album since 2007’s Appointment With Death.
The Give ‘Em The Axe EP was produced by Brian Slagel, who founded Metal Blade Records in 1982.