Thursday, November 27, 2008
Exxplorer - Symphonies Of Steel
This stuff is like candy. Exxplorer's unknown classic "Symphonies Of Steel" is filled to the brim with metal goodness. Perhaps maybe a little bit "too full." This album is like those beakers in high school that you filled with water and then tossed a little weight in and watched as the water over flowed. This beaker must be filled with a bizarre liquid, because if my facial expression was the meniscus, I would be frowning at one moment and smiling the next. I go from loving every note that comes from Ed Lavolpe's twittering fingers to hanging my head in shame at other moments as Exxplorer try too hard, make amateur mistakes and / or mock the very song they are so intimately involved with.
While Ed Lavolpe's guitar playing is nothing to frown at, his tone could use a small kick in its bony ass. Fellow axeman Kevin Kennedy is in tow with talent and a general lack of heaviness. The guitars have a vintage sound to them that anyone could enjoy but a slight tonal adjustment would leave one to face a slightly angrier bear. Both rip through a scattering of dual leads and solos across the album. Lenny Rizzo's vocals are decent though varied throughout the album. His vocals in "Going To Hell" are prepubescent. He could be singing this song while having his braces adhered to his front teeth. He makes up for this in the "Objection Overruled" duo where he sounds like Paul DiAnno on the mellow songs on Iron Maiden's self titled. Rizzo's vocals have a natural reverb to them that fills in some of the space they lack. He has the range but the power isn't there at times. Jimmy Gardner's bass playing is fantastic throughout the album and really helps the album matter. He has that 80's bass style down pat. He has a really good tone and is tight throughout the album. Mike Moyer's drums are typical and nothing special but he lays a strong foundation and pounds out some noticeable fills.
The album's songs are generally awesome. Opener "City Streets" is a memorable and standard metal tune with a great solo and those old school riffs that no one can live without. It's got plenty of headbanging moments and will make you want to romp around your room while being careful not to make the phonograph skip. "Run For Tomorrow" is, for me, the album's highlight with a great flow after the intro, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a few measures too long, and a powerful essence which leaves me wishing the song was just slightly longer. The band's namesake track chugs and gallops though never amounts to much - a let down because the opportunities were there. Cool solo though. "Metal Detectors" is stuck in my mind as the finest example of metal's acknowledgment of its own image. It's a song we've all heard before, talking about all those things metal talks about. You know...metal, steel... With lines like these, Manowar can sit proudly and smile at their disciples. "I'm hungry for metal, I'm searchin' for steel" or "The power of metal, is driving you near" and "Our numbers are growing, like a metal storm" And my favorite... "Don't let them tell you that metal is dead, they listen to Springsteen, it's gone to their head." Eric Adams would be enthralled with this track.
The two tracks / segments which form the "Objection Overruled" section of the album are no lackluster pieces of crap. The the first part is mainly slow, raunchy and doomy until the last two minutes. Basically, I would compare this entire track to "Strange World" or "Remember Tomorrow." I also get a hint of Geddy Lee in the vocals along with DiAnno. Rizzo's vocals are on full display here and they are wearing a fucking full patch covered tuxedo (damn I want one of those!). While the track picks up pace in the second half, It still maintains a general mid paced tempo and has the albums best solo section as well. This is as good as any of Fates Warning's B-sides. It ain't "Fata Morgana" or "Guardian" but I like it just as much as "Giant's Lore" or "Orphan Gypsy."
The field has some stumps though. The only-piano second track "Prelusion" is placed terribly and really doesn't prelude anything. It shares a theme that returns at the end of "Run For Tomorrow" though I'm left wondering who had the idea that a four minute piano piece as the second track on the album would help pacing and move the album along. Granted, the piano piece is really good, it just doesn't belong there. Fourth track "World War III" is a ballad. Yeah, they were all the rage at the time and the lyrics really aren't entirely about people dying, machine guns and German bombers dropping their payload on England's Anderson shelters but the song just drags. "Going to Hell" is the album's weakest track by more than a longshot. Rizzo's vocals sound stolen from Jane's Addiction. The song's lacks much drive and though a generally good riff appears once or twice, it is lost amidst awkward chord choices. A skipper if I ever heard one.
Still, of all the traditional metal that came out of New Jersey or the USA in general, for 1985, this was out there and tried to stand apart from the pack of NWOBHM imitators. If you're still skeptical that this is really that good, take note that this was originally released by the same label putting out the classic Manilla Road albums. That should be word enough that this is a worthy forged piece of metal. And Exxplorer are still exxploring! Check these guys out if you get a chance, I have a feeling you will feel like it was 1986 again. Don't forget your denim and leather though, or you won't be allowed to enter.
... or raise your fists in the air and shout "The metal detectors are losing control!!!!"
This Is A