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Of all of Lizzy Borden's full lengths, Menace to Society took me the longest to fully appreciate, and I can't quite pinpoint why. It makes no sense, really. After all, it's not as if this is some sweeping musical departure from Love You to Pieces that sacrifices that album's accessibility or metallic direction. If anything, this record is a more fine-tuned offering of the band's meatiest material yet, probably their heaviest album aside from the no holds barred guitar showcase that would be Appointment With Death over twenty years afterward. Luckily my initial indifference wore off, and though I don't like it quite as much as the debut or any of the records from the "golden era" through Master of Disguise, it's still one damn fine onslaught of classic Lizzy Borden finesse.
First off, Lizzy sadly introduces his crew with another unintentionally (?) hilarious cover art. Granted, it's not quite as heinous as the rank sleazefest of Love You to Pieces, but the ridiculous tank-junior chainsaw combo sported here doesn't do any favors for the decidedly serious speed/power metal assault behind it, coming off about as menacing as Dennis himself. More of the lyrical content here is focused around power, glory, and generally fucking destroying everything than on just about all the other Lizzy Borden albums put together, so it would have been nice to see that reflected in the skin enveloping the record itself. Well, I suppose you can't have it all.
As I alluded to, Lizzy and company are set to kill here. Whereas later records would focus on social rebellion and not fitting into the status quo, Menace to Society says fuck the status quo, breaks down the barricades, and turns the rules of society on their head as they torch the nation and utterly discount the merit of our empty 9 to 5 occupational lifestyles. Just feel the seething menace of "Terror on the Town," with its incendiary melodies and its ode to rebellious destruction. While the band plays it rather simple and straightforward for most of the playing time, some of the subtle intricacies to be found on later works can first be sighted here in the form of. "Notorious" is one of Lizzy Borden's finest anthems ever, a wickedly glorious NWOBHM riot that goes for the throat with its Caesar-hailing chorus. Sometimes the band can take its militaristic (and cheese-laden) overtones a little far, as is quite clear in the pointless drum intro to "Brass Tactics." Luckily it isn't long before the surgical riff comes into place to relieve us of our brief misery. The album has a searing speed opener with "Generation Aliens," which is basically "Council for the Cauldron" pt. 2 (albeit slightly less memorable).
For an album with as much traditional metal badassery as this, I would have appreciated a more aggressive guitar tone than what is provided here. The production in general is disappointing compared to the debut, which featured a rough around the edges appeal that added a level of shady nightclub charm to the mix. Things are a bit more polished around these parts, but with inklings of the amateurish sound worn well on Love You to Pieces. This doesn't end up mixing particularly well, giving Lizzy's excellent (if a bit unrestrained here) nasal tones a strange and power-diluting effect. This doesn't sink the record, but it certainly doesn't help. Also, while I'm usually a sucker for Lizzy Borden's poignant and unforgettable balladry (see "Love You to Pieces," "Visual Lies," or "Love Is a Crime"), the boring and sappy "Ursa Minor" just didn't do it for me here, probably the only song I could completely do without of the first four albums. They already gave us the similar (and much better) "Bloody Mary" on this very release, anyway.
For their initial 1985-1989 run, Lizzy Borden could do no wrong, and this is certainly no exception. Menace to Society may be a bit frontloaded with its slew of classic material, and I rarely choose to listen to it over either of its nearest neighbors or Master of Disguise, but it's still an essential listen for those who get their kicks from fine USPM and aren't afraid to get their hands a little dirty in the realms of NWOBHM and glam imagery. The commercial element here isn't quite as prevalent as its predecessors, so Menace to Society may be a good jumping off point for those hesitant to embrace the less metallic side of the speed/power metal scene. In any case, take the plunge. HAIL CAESAR!
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Menace to Society might be my least favorite of the 'classic' Lizzy Borden studio efforts in the 80s, but remarkably it still showed some evolutionary growth from Love You to Pieces, and at least half of its tracks belong on any highlight reel of the Californians' career. Let's also admit that in 1986, there was a HELL of a lot to compete against. Thrash and speed were going supernova, and while there still some superb efforts in the field of more traditional or power metal (Somewhere in Time, Awaken the Guardian, and the Fifth Angel debut for example), even the lowly 12 year olds among us could sense that a 'usurper' had arrived, and that metal was going to continue to expand in a more aggressive dimension.
To their credit, Lizzy actually followed suit, and thus this one of the more hard hitting records in their canon, taking the hugely melodic tropes of the debut and driving them like a fist into the listener's face with a more heightened, dynamic and violent rhythm section. If the cheesy, Twisted Sister-like cover pose, with the band sporting various woodworking tools and riding a camouflaged military vehicle, was any indicator, they were here to offer us a beating this time, and look cool doing it. I mean, look at these gentlemen. "We're not gonna take it", through and through. Despite the fact that any passing avian might roost and nest in their rigid curls, these were guys I wanted to hang around with as a kid. They looked like they might explode at you out of some shitty 80s horror film, piss in the punchbowl at prom and then take all your girlfriends out back for a 'smoke'. Okay, the chainsaw there is a bit wimpy, and might not even threaten a woodchuck, but at least they 'tried' to look menacing to meet your mom's disapproval.
Musically, they pull no punches at all, and once the escalation of the bass and clean guitars that introduce "Generation Aliens" explodes into full velocity, you know that, as with so many of their records, you are in good hands here. I really dug the production on the vocals here, which seemed more focused than the debut, transforming Lizzy's zephyr shrieks into an air force attack, rising and falling like sleek steel birds in the sky as they drop their payloads and seek a greater altitude to escape the ensuing blast. A metric ton of chops, with a lot of tremolo melodies and other techniques picked through the record, and just a general, muscular tone to the rhythm guitar which pushes it Love You to Pieces in presentation. Bassist Mike Davis was catapulting around the undertow of the music like an acrobatic lit up with kerosene, his lines harried and busy, always presenting an additional layer of atmosphere and entertainment.
"Notorious" is always the song I think of first when reflecting on this record, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. A threatening, imperialistic Roman point of view narrates the tune, yet another example of how the lyrical ambitions of this band so often, vastly exceeded the shallowness of the 'glam' thing they portrayed in their image; but the music rules the roost, loaded with glorious chord sequences, shouts of 'hail Caesar' and an excellent verse/chorus interchange. Others kicking ass include "Ultra Violence" with the Maiden-like trails of the opening guitars, bustling hedgerow of bass and the spikes of shining chords that support the sweltering voice of the front man; the choppy and energetic "Terror on the Town"; and some solid head banging through "Love Kills" and "Menace to Society", the latter of which has a very Saxon feel bisected with a more surgical melodic precision.
I wasn't such a huge proponent for some of the power ballads on the record, like "Bloody Mary" or "Ursa Minor", but they're hardly wimpy; it's just that once the heavier guitars bust out, the riffs all seem rather bland and unstructured compared to the faster pieces on the record. Otherwise, this shit is rock solid. The lyrics are all pretty serious and interesting, covering a wide array of subject material from the personal to the historical, so anyone fearing that they might devolve into a trashy sex/glam metal act where their image and music coincided could rest easy. It's not to pristine as its successor, Visual Lies, one of my favorite albums of the decade, or so compelling as Master of Disguise, but as a strong support that provided the band with more live material and some admittedly great songs to expand their following, Menace to Society more than rose to the occasion. I think much of the target audience was just too busy listening to The Ultimate Sin, Peace Sells... and Master of Puppets to really notice.
Riffs up the fucking ass! That is what you will get with this, and all, Lizzy Borden albums. The guitars for Lizzy Borden are really great. A lot of great harmonizing parts. The riffs and solo's are filled with power and speed. Like for example the inro(after the slow part) of Generation Aliens; blast your ass off riff. They're fast, crued, and well developed. If you've never heard Lizzy Borden than let me try to place what they sound like. Its sort of like Riot and Judas Priest thrown in together. The drumming is well developed as well, a lot of nice 80's traditional sounding fills. Everything flows pretty good on this album, more compact than the other Borden albums. The only thing that can be bad about this album is Lizzy's voice. It is kinda squeely 90% of the time. It's one of those things you either will love to death or hate, which then you will end up hating the band. The lyrics are pretty good, topics ranging from suicide to death! Is that the same thing??? Probably the best song on this album is Notorius, hail Caesar. A lot of these songs are about the youth and how they are so violent. Sweet...more power to us! The idea of these lyrics seem....recycled. But who cares! The riffs are cool, plenty of headbanging to go around! They also use some cool effects, like the beginning to Terror on the Town, you hear a news reporter and hear exploding stuff and screaming people! Sets the mood!