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Despite their ludicrous looks, Icon were truly a remarkable band. They've crafted a self-titled debut album that had some killer songs on it, great enough to rival that of other bands that were around at the time. They did release more albums after that, but they just aren't as good as the first one, for they seem to have lost the luster that it had. Imagine Icon's career as a movie series where the first one is excellent, but as the sequels go on, the movies get worse and worse. Nonetheless, "Night of the Crime", Icon's first sequel, still has some good in it, it's just not a superb record.
First off, some of their songs are more radio friendly than any of the songs on the previous album. Though it did have some radio-friendly material, those songs were more hard rocking and grinding, leading us to actually tolerate and enjoy them. On "Night of the Crime", however, we get songs that are more melodic and pop-like, thus leading the band to become more like their glam-like looks that advertise them. "(Take Another) Shot at My Heart", for example suffers from an incredibly light guitar that plays an extremely generic hook that may or may not be heard in a Cars song. When the guitars do get heavier, they play yet another generic 80's riff. It's one of the low points of the album, and it certainly isn't one of my favorite songs. "Naked Eyes" also has this, and it's laced with synthesizers. But the song that suffers the most from synthesizer noise is "Frozen Tears" a power ballad. Obviously, it's completely overpolished with synthesizers to emulate the whole "frozen" effect, which I find kinda stupid. It's clear that Capitol Records is putting pressure on Icon, especially when there are these songs that only a Bon Jovi fan would drool with anticipation over.
There are, however reasons, as to why I didn't give this album an extremely low rating. One of those reasons is the fact that there are songs that actually stay true to Icon's original style, and one of them is "Raise the Hammer", which is a pretty rocking song. Sure, the melodies that vocalist Stephen Clifford and the backing vocals sing are more melodic and slightly radio-friendly, but that doesn't make the song appalling in the slightest. In fact, they make the song a little better, but not much, as I prefer Icon's more aggressive material, like "Under My Gun" from the previous album. Another example is "Out for Blood" which begins with a cool and creepy intro followed by an aggressive, hard rock sound. Granted, there is a little bit of synthesizer in the intro, but hey, when it gets going, it gets going. Sure the melody of each verse is slightly generic, but that's to be expected in a lot of bands like Icon at least once during their careers. This awesome song is proof that Icon hasn't completely abandoned their roots, unlike Def Leppard, who would eschew them. Who cares if they're more radio-friendly? At least they aren't so glossy and atrocious, like "(Take Another) Shot at My Heart".
"Night of the Crime" is one night on the town that really wasn't the best night of Icon's career. It had some cool stuff, but the cool stuff isn't enough for the album to truly be a masterpiece. The interference from the record label may have contributed to not only this album's downfall, but also the band's. It's a shame, really, knowing that the band actually had some pretty stellar material. The sound like in "Raise the Hammer" should have been the only change in the band's direction, but no, we had to endure another band selling out. Still, it would not prove to be the very worst in Icon's career, but the albums that would come afterword would never eclipse the band's first.
*Written for the 9th MA reviews challenge
Icon is a pretty obscure melodic heavy metal/hard rock act. This album conjures up comparisons with Giuffria, Night Ranger, Europe, Fate, Bonfire, Coney Hatch and Y & T; plenty of bombastic, keyboard infused, catchy choruses, with big vocal harmonies in that true 80’s hard rock style. The sound evident here benefits from some pretty nifty melodic riffage, and great vocals. Awesome choruses are a high point, and these songs will get stuck in your head if you’re anything like me. As I always mention in reviews of this type of stuff, this isn’t for those afraid of a bit of melody in their metal. Having said that though – it’s awesome, and if you aren’t a fan of this style, go get the first 4 Dokken albums, and come back to bands like this and Kuni, and the aforementioned others, and see if you can get into it then.
Anyway, for me tracks like the amazing ‘Danger Calling’ exemplify this style to the hilt. Great production helps the tracks convey their awesome blend of crunchiness with powerful melodies in a perfect mix. This is an example of an exceptional vocal hook in the chorus, sure to win over the pop-rock crowd, and the metalhead alike. Great melodic riffage, though not really ‘tough’ per se, has melodic prowess, and will still get you nodding your head along. A killer track; great songwriting, and amazingly melodic and 80’s. ‘Out for Blood’ is another high point, this time a bit more heavy and furious (the title being a dead giveaway there). Riffage here is great, but of course given the conventions of this style, is mixed down, in favour of a concentration on the superb vocal melodies, and awesome George Lynch-esque guitar solos. You do get a strong whiff of Dokken throughout tracks like this. Killer stuff.
Basically, Icon embodies the perfect blending of 80’s AOR with just the right amount of heaviness. Like Dokken, there’s plenty of guitar mastery, mixed in with some pounding drums, and catchy, extremely melodic, yet powerful vocals. Bonfire is another band who does this blend incredibly well – it’s al about well thought out, massive choruses and powerful hooks – with riffs that have the balls to drive it along. Everything on here is incredibly catchy metal, from the straight forward ‘Raise the Hammer’, with slow paced pounding beat and guitar wizardry solos, to the keyboard infused Toto-esque ballad ‘Frozen Tears’. This album has definitely grown on me, as I didn’t appreciate it as much when I first got it. The caliber of material on here tops many of the straight AOR bands like Autograph and Giuffria, and equals greats like Night Ranger.
A genuinely enjoyable album here, this one will please fans of the aforementioned bands, especially those of you who like Bonfire. The guitars are very strong; well thought out leads that are original enough, and riffs which have some bite. That said though, guitars are sort of taking a back seat it feels, but if you concentrate on em, you can tell they’re badass. In tracks like ‘The Whites of Their Eyes’ you could draw Leatherwolf comparisons, and riffage is tough. Subject matter is definitely metal here. Superbly well thought out metal here making this a very strong effort. Seems like a lot of time went in to prepare these arrangements, and great hooks abound. This is an advisable release for sure, but be prepared for it to grow on you. Check out the track ‘Danger Calling’ online somewhere, and see what you think. If it’s you, then what are you waiting for. Raise your fists! As for the merits of this particular sub-genre of 80’s metal – I think it’s great. I know there’s a lot of people out there who wouldn’t consider it ‘true’ enough or something, but hey – fuck you – this shit’s awesome and it’s totally still metal.