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“…demons ride the autumn sky in thunderclouds and rain…”
Every album that comes out can’t be a winner, and the very unremarkable Baptism Under Fire isn’t one on a pedestal wearing a wreath around its neck. Of the five or so albums Metal Blade released in July ’86, this is one that got scissorkicked off the cliff, hurling over the flailing pile of not-so-greats of the second tier and into the black, airless void beyond. Not so simply put, the band tries like hell to inject progression and technicality into their material, but the finished product just rambles on incohesive, flighty, and mostly uneventful.
Along with songwriting that unsuccessfully works up a sweat to be more conspicuous, whatever catchiness found comes off more accidental than calculated, and intensity plays a very brief game of hide n’ seek that one just may catch out of the corner of one’s ear. The property of many bands are the vocals of Harlan Glenns; mid-toned, only semi-harsh, inert, and sometimes even more unattractive yet with a malady of the nasal cavity.
The band tries to go somewhere broad-minded with “Impaler”, attempting to interlace progressivism with some average rhythms, and what little success they manage is killed by a beaten up chorus that bubbles with bass and bludgeons with backing vocals for nothing more than a combative mess. For some reason, they decide this floundering choral route should ornament the one in next song, “Slow Death”. “Rains of Death” possesses a deliberate chorus followed by a solo that’s more like an echoing explosion of feedback than anything else. Hey, do you hear that? Yeah, I do too. In a flash, intensity leaps from behind a nightstand, invigorates “Cut Throat”, and dashes behind the calm, flowing textured curtain of “All Hallow’s Eve”. And that’s the whole game. “Burn Tonight” can only try to be progressive and enlightening, meanwhile “Juggernaut” is an instrumental paced like a train taking forever to accelerate to get out of the way of the line of cars waiting. “Purgatory’s Child”, “Blizzards” and “Cast the First Stone” are all cut from a similar cloth, slow to medium in pace with signs of life just a blip or two on the heart meter. To stick the fork in side two, the listener is then treated to an untitled Christian country tune – remember Mark Wahlberg trying to sing in Boogie Nights? Obviously not a serious song, but still horrid, and if they wanted to send the last nail in the coffin home, they accomplished it like regular morticians.
Baptism Under Fire is like a novel that just drags. Interest wanes easily. You flip pages hoping to find fiery passages only to come across the same damp, snoring stuff. In the mood for third rate Watchtower rejects?