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.
VICIOUS RUMORS – WELCOME TO THE BALL (1991)
You know how there are those bands that you’ve always been aware of, but never actually listened to any of their music? Well, let me introduce you to one of those bands on my list…Vicious Rumors.
As embarrassing as it is to think about considering their metal bonafides over the years, I’ve never gotten around to checking out anything the band had recorded. So when Welcome To The Ball dropped into my lap from the box of cassettes I have waiting to be listened to and written about, I figured it was about darn time I changed the band’s status with me.
This was the band’s fourth album and much like the ones that came before this is mostly burn your house down fast paced heavy metal. Musically the album is pretty interesting. Guitarists Geoff Thorpe and Mark McGee burn up their fretboards one every song. Both men co-wrote all the songs, in varying combinations, with singer Carl Albert and there is a definite sense of cohesion to the 11 tracks on the album.
While fiery guitar licks and a thumping rhythm from bassist David Starr and drummer Larry Howe cry out from each song, there’s many a varying style within that framework so that there isn’t a feeling of sameness to the material.
I was keenly interested in hearing the vocal work from Carl Albert, but things did not get off to a good start for me on that front. The effects employed on his vocal track for the opening song “Abandoned” was rather off-putting. That was quickly offset with the very next song, “You Only Live Twice”, which was far more straightforward (if even more aggressively paced) and that includes how the vocals were streamlined into the song.
The band did get a little topical in their lyrical subject matter on the first side of the album with both “Savior From Anger” and “Children”. They managed to go even further with that on Side Two’s “Mastermind” which manages to still resonate today, lyrically speaking, as it rails against the increased computerization in our daily lives.
Side one closes out with “Dust To Dust”, another fast paced rocker complete with a draw you in chorus. Albert’s vocal is impeccably delivered here.
The second half of the album has a couple of problematic songs in the aforementioned “Mastermind” and “Raise Your Hands”. Both tracks have their moments, but get otherwise ruined by ineffectual chorus that are just criminally lame in both construction and delivery.
But it wasn’t all for naught because the darkly twisted “Six Stepsisters” flows spectacularly well. It’s definitely a killer song that somehow manages to make me smile despite its thematic darkness.
The album closes with a crushing blaze of glory in “Ends Of The Earth” but the biggest surprise for me on Welcome To The Ball was the band’s one moment of stepping on the brake. What can only be referred to as a ballad with a big brass set of balls, “When Love Comes Down” is a surprisingly effective song. Musically, it is still pretty heavy and while the lyrics might be something like you would expect out of any ballad from this particular musical era, Carl Albert’s vocal embodying of the lyrics really sells the song.
After listening to the full album, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Vicious Rumors. They certainly have some great songs on this release, but they also have some songs that completely missed with me. However, I definitely am intrigued by that which I did like. This may have been my “welcome” to the band, but now I want to take off my jacket and sit a spell as I dig more in-depth into the Vicious Rumors back catalog.
NOTES OF INTEREST – Despite a myriad of lineup changes, the band is still going strong to this day. They recently announced a 30th anniversary tour for their 1988 album Digital Dictator.
The band’s first album was 1985’s Soldiers of the Night and featured guitar maestro Vinnie Moore.
The copy of the cassette in my possession might be a slight collector’s item as the cassette booklet appears to have been signed by singer Carl Albert. Sadly, he passed away in 1995 after a car accident.