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Deep Purple was reactivated 8 years later – ever since its demise in the mid-70’s the rock and metal scene had gone through relevant changes, from the downfall of 70’s classic rock to the explosion of punk and the NWOBHM. Members of the Purple family had been busy meanwhile, taking part in distinct successful projects which confirmed their determination to not get stuck in the past, adapting to the new times and tendencies in the genre (without denying their roots). The band resurrected in an uncertain period for heavy metal, when most of the heroes of the early decade British new wave were selling out, embracing the fashionable standards of US glam. On the contrary, these guys preferred to do what they wanted, ignoring as usual those passing trends without repeating the old schemes that made them famous in the 70’s either. On Perfect Strangers, they reinvented their sound.
Blackmore & co. came up with refreshing ideas and original patterns, offering truly amusing, inspired titles like “Knockin’ At Your Backdoor”, which demonstrates the band hasn’t lost its touch, capable of composing solid structures, setting competent instrumental basis and providing the music of diversity and depth with assorted arrangements, transitions and shifts effortlessly. The opening cut exposes notable sophistication and melody; both Lord & Ritchie’s lines present clean textures and astonishing meticulousness on their execution and progression – generally accompanying Gillan’s verses, though. It ain’t intended to be complex, rather accessible and casual without ignoring the group’s distinctive predilection for extensive instrumental sequences – the track actually reaches 7 minutes easily, adding lengthy pickin’ parts. Deep Purple obey the same scheme on “Mean Streak” and “Nobody’s Home”, delivering more simplistic riffs and hooks that don’t interfere with vocals too much – however, increasing the complication on the stunningly-constructed solos on which the entire potential of these veterans is displayed.
Verses are numerous, there ain’t many catchy choruses but lyrics become the main attraction mostly, including some of the coolest words Glover (the official lyricist of the band) ever conceived. As you might noticed, real aggression and speed is being accented, on those 3 numbers still mixed in harmony and balance with notable melodies but totally unleashed on “Gypsy’s Kiss” and “Under The Gun”, both an energetic exhibition of refined speed metal, incorporating more advanced arrangements, rampaging solos and cutthroat riffs played with taste and control. As always, these guys manage to provide velocity, power and ferocity without eluding their unique discipline as musicians. Intensity and cadence, discovering slower, pounding beats is revealed on the epic title-track and “Hungry Daze”, both constructed by slamming majestic huge riffs of baroque influence, creating an unforgettable climax and strong image, an amazingly cohesive wall of sound.
This is no uninventive revival of 70’s classic rock, Purple never did the same record twice and Perfect Strangers is no exception. The sound has evolved substantially since Who Do We Think We Are, their music still has that charming bluesy and 50’s/60’s rock ‘n’ roll touch, eclipsed on other hand by more metallic, sharper riffs than ever before. Rhythms ain’t as weighty as they used to be (even though the group had always played faster than their 70’s peers, remember “Fireball”?), most tunes introduce quicker beats and notable dynamism – at times going really fast, yet always controlled, serving a purpose and scheme. This is certainly no pompous effort intended to simply impress and show how technical they could play, as the virtuosism of the organ-guitar combo is at the service of music, relegated to serve as complement to Gillan’s verses occasionally to contribute to the continuity of the songs lyrically. That instrumental simplicity is pushed away completely though in those numerous sequences where Ritchie and Jon are given room to do their thing, doing what they do best: playing with immaculate progression and skill those neo-classical pickin’ parts during considerably extensive sections that make songs technically richer without making them excessively overlong. Deep Purple put great attention on the song-writing phase, therefore their music is always focused, systematically designed, the result of a process these guys took really seriously with no place for fragility or scruffiness.
Perfect Strangers remains as one of the most solid comebacks in the history of heavy metal, a refreshing album fans undoubtedly received positively in those times of musical decadence, pop ballads and sexual ambiguity in the subgenre. The chemistry and harmony between the members of Deep Purple is absolute, no matter how many years had passed since the mighty Mark-II line-up rehearsed for the last time back in 1973. They weren’t trying to satisfy the demands of some major record label, only their own determination, unlike most of their equals sadly back in the mid-80’s – they would pay no attention to the success of glam or the changes in the metal scene either; Purple just did what came honestly from them: making good music, timeless music that has aged so well, remaining fresh and unique after all these years.