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With the band reformed, and Deal With the Devil was released, Lizzy Borden had begun to gig again, and update its 'look' from the frizzy and ridiculous glam overtures of the 80s to a more face painted, menacing variety (still heavy on the U S of A colors) that felt somewhat current. But unfortunately the band's Mk. II momentum was ground to a halt when Alex Nelson, the band's live guitarist who appeared on a number of the 80s recordings like Menace to Society and The Murderess Metal Road Show, was lost to a car accident in 2004. Understandably, the tragedy wore the band's resolve thin, and they dissembled for a few years before inevitably deciding to press on. So, once more, we had a more than reasonable reason for a gap between studio material, but I'm happy to report that, when Lizzy finally released Appointment With Death along with axe slinger Ira Black (who played in Heathen and Vicious Rumors for a few years), it proved worth the wait.
No, this is not greatness the likes of which I attribute to a Visual Lies or Master of Disguise, but at least this time out, the Californian quartet wasn't out to fuck around and dip their toes into other pastures, a procedure which muddled and infected a sizable chunk of Deal With the Devil. This is arguably one of the heavier records, along with Menace to Society, but it's also incredibly consistent. Lizzy himself offers what might be the most professional and seasoned vocal performance of his entire career, his inflection textured and multi tracked to a crystalline clarity that sacrifices none of his youthful range, but perhaps a bit of the wavering, shrill timbre he once dealt out in the formative years of the band. Like the previous record, there were a number of guest musicians involved in this, particularly the lead guitars and keyboards; only more diversified, with bigger names like George Lynch (Dokken), Dave Meniketti (Y&T), Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel) and Corey Beaulieu (Trivium) all contributing seamlessly to the overall style and sound.
Most importantly, though, this is a fairly inspired crop of songs that would have formed a superior natural continuity than did Deal With the Devil, had it been released in, say, 1992 or 93 as the band's fifth full-length. They definitely returned to more of that post-Maiden/Omen melodic riffing that characterized their tracks in the 80s, and many of the vocal lines are kept fresh and memorable, especially in tunes like "The Death of Love" or "Appointment With Death" itself. Choppy, harried dual guitar melodies cut through "Tomorrow Never Comes", and I love the lower, brooding melodies that inaugurate "Somthin' Crawlin'". I realize it probably had a lot to do with the guests, but the leads throughout the record are well-paced and passionate, especially in the song "Under Your Skin". The band even breaks out a series of successful, heavier grooves to support "Bloody Tears" without coming off trite, cheesy or tough guy in that treacherous Pantera aesthetic.
There are still a few tracks that don't hold up for me as well as others, like "Live Forever", "Perfect World (I Don't Wanna Live") or the acoustic bonus rendition of "Tomorrow Never Comes", which I like considerably less than the electric version, but I'd say that in general this album has a solid core of 5-6 pieces well enough conceived to mesh with the band's backlog in their set lists. The production is bright and meticulous, Lizzy stretches himself to a firm, full range of highs and mids, and the guitars are often exquisite. Not enough that I'd recommend this over a Visual Lies or Love You to Pieces for those first visiting the band, nor would I take this over any of the 80s records, really, but it's ample evidence that there's some life left in the old axe murderess. With good fortune and healthy tidings, we won't have to wait another seven years for album #7, but even if we do, I just hope it's as fluent and lively as this.
Lizzy Borden has done something during their lifespan that many people haven’t realized: they’ve never released a bad record. Magnificent CDs like “Master of Disguise” have paved successful roads for this legendary in both mainstream and underground standards, but such a sturdy background couldn’t never slow down America’s heavy metal frontrunners; even after an absence lasting several years. Once Lizzy Borden turned seventeen, each member took some time off to focus on side-projects (mainly Starwood) and other hobbies before they came back with 2007’s “Appointment with Death.” Marking the sixth record under the infamous moniker, “Appointment with Death” firmly exposes the pulsing energy and stellar identity that made Lizzy Borden famous, but with a few interesting twists in the meantime. Don’t look for any trendy feces from these 80s rockers, because everyone’s favorite conceptual faction is still kicking out classic heavy metal the way it was meant to sound: fast and heavy.
On this golden march, Lizzy Borden connects back to their ever-so-memorable traditional metal roots with beefy guitar hooks, rolling bass lines, upbeat attitudes, and catchy-as-heroin choruses. Newcomer Ira Black hunts down redundancy with blasting riffs that acquire an old-school feel while shoving addictive chemicals into your brain. Black’s biggest contribution, however, is the man’s insane soloing show in which his fret is utterly destroyed by quick fingers and flaming chord picking. But of course, Lizzy Borden himself once again has a phenomenal vocal display of wonderful all-around singing, yet such a quality was pretty damn obvious considering how great his voice is on past studio performances.
Now a lot of folks will be expecting a typical retro-laden release, which is correct, but there’s a major instrumental change in the Lizzy Borden camp: increased technicality. In musical terms, Black’s riffs are shown by diversified chord progression rhythms presenting a lot of gallops and crazy licks pleasantly make their way through the sound barrier. Still, it’s important to point out his playing speed demonstrates a clear enlargement from previous efforts due to large amounts of blazing chops and solos; not a relevant factor before, but definitely a nice addition here. Longtime drummer Joey Scott also gives a complex edge to this record by operating nimble patterns, swift fills, and a ton of double bass pedaling over Black’s rapid riffing, which obviously molds a faster impression on the listener. Punching out old-school metal over the course of two decades hasn’t stopped Lizzy Borden from pumping more dynamic attributes into their veins, and the injection process leaves nothing but a slick structure of faster, heavier metal.
“Appointment with Death” isn’t a sign of Lizzy Borden awakening with perfection, but to goodness instead; they just wanted a kickass record, which is exactly what emerges here. This CD marks nearly twenty-five years in the metal business for the prop-wielding crew, and it’s certainly amazing to hear the entire band focusing on technicality and heaviness rather than quasi-Mötley Crüe worship or some other dumb form of rock. Lizzy Borden’s sixth full-length offering acts as an essential collectable to any fan of this timeless squad, yet “Appointment with Death” warmly extends its hand to those curious about one of metal’s most consistent groups; an appointment that shouldn’t be missed by anyone.