Ever the underrated band, even in their heyday California’s LIZZY BORDEN were, for the most part, denied their deserved respect. Much like fellow West Coasters, WASP, LIZZY BORDEN were far too heavy and brazen for the Hair/Glam Metal scene, but too catchy and commercial to be accepted by the bay area thrashers. However, also like Blackie Lawless and co., LIZZY BORDEN won over a cult following with a stream of quality releases, highlighted by 1986’s “Menace To Society”, and a bloody and theatrical stage show that rivaled the likes of ALICE COOPER, and, well, once again, WASP.
As the 80s faded out and Grunge plunged a dagger into the heart of the commercial Metal world, LIZZY BORDEN faded from the scene. Enter the year 2000, and a whole new line-up of LIZZY reemerged with the enjoyable, if inconsistent “Deal With The Devil”. Now, some seven years later, the band is back with yet a new line-up, featuring outstanding six-string talent, Ira Black (HEATHEN, VICIOUS RUMORS, CHRIS CAFFERY and others), and a whole new platter of splatter titled “Appointment With Death”. And again, just like “Deal With The Devil”, “Appointment With Death” is enjoyable, but inconsistent in its songwriting.
On one hand, two things are consistant throughout “Appointment With Death”, those being the voice of Lizzy, himself, and the outstanding work of Ira Black. First, Lizzy has a unique and powerful voice that should be held in the same regard as the Halford’s and Dickenson’s of the world. He has the ability to carry a song on his voice alone. Second, Black is possibly the best guitarist to hold the spot in LIZZY BORDEN. His riffs, leads and solos are melodic and aggressive, and add a certain character to the album. While the songwriting itself isn’t always up to snuff, the vocals and guitar playing are enjoyable throughout. The bass and drums are there also, of course, but tend to take a back seat.
Now for the songwriting. If we could base the album on just four songs, this would be the greatest album LIZZY BORDEN has ever released. “(We Are) The Only Ones”, “Abnormal”, “Appointment With Death”, and “Bloody Tears” are all fast and aggressive, with soaring vocals, buzz-saw riffs and catchy choruses. Each of those songs would stand up against LIZZY’s best. But unfortunately, just like “Deal With The Devil”, the fast start on “Appointment With Death” (three of the best songs are in the first four tracks), only sets up the listener for disappointment as the album roles on. Starting with track five, “The Death Of Love”, the band take a more mid-paced approach, even throwing in a ballad along the way. It’s not until “(We Are) The Only Ones” rolls around that the band picks up the speed again (although “Tomorrow Never Comes” is somewhat speedier), but by then it’s too late, as the momentum is lost.
So on the merit of four songs, I would be inclined to think I had top 10 material in my hands (it may end up there anyway, who knows), but four out of eleven songs just doesn’t cut it in today’s overcrowded Metal market. That’s not to say that the other seven songs aren’t any good, they simply don’t stand up to the other four. Sure the production is stellar, Lizzy’s voice is still in top form, and Ira Black is a guitarist to watch out for, but there are lots of albums that sport great sound, great vocals and great guitar playing, but that also have the songwriting to match it. Maybe next time LIZZY BORDEN should think about releasing an EP instead of a full-length.
(To justify my rating of “7”, let me reiterate that those four songs are really, really good, and as a big LIZZY BORDEN fan that can’t be overlooked.)
(Online November 5, 2007)