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Lizzy Borden always struck a chord with me and they are one of those bands that surely deserve more fame. Let us be under no illusion, these guys were immersed deep in the glam scene as much as Bon Jovi or Poison when it came to image and over the top theatrics, but unlike those two bands the music was just extremely powerful and moving. I remember picking up "Visual Lies" and wanting to shed a tear because I loved it so much, but I kept telling myself if I was a real man I should redeem myself by playing some Slayer or something. Thankfully I have come to terms with Lizzy Borden, but even if the more "hardcore" metal fans couldn't bring themselves to appreciate this, these guys should still be a lot more appealing to fans who preferred lace and hairspray at the time. At times the music has a kind of atmospheric power feel to it, essentially making Lizzy Borden stand out from much of their peers. The riffs are catchy and the guitar tone captured on this record is quite unique in the sense that it isn't particularly heavy or raw, but still kicks all manner of ass. The songs are just absolutely flawless from beginning to end and this album shows that glam was capable of enhancing heavy metal.
All the songs here are flawless and the vocals are some of the best I have ever heard in metal (no offense Dio and King Diamond!). "Outcast", "Visual Lies", and "Den of Thieves" are tracks I refer to on a regular basis, but like I said the entire album is class. Man I hate writing reviews for great albums because whilst I'm good at dissecting average or terrible albums, I find it hard to reiterate the greatness provided in the greats. It's all in the emotion and how it makes you feel, and this album moves me. With great riffs, vocals, and memorable songs, the entire experience just moves me. I'm not going to lie, I had heard my fair share of thrash and death metal when I first heard this album, but this album just amplifies the feel that can make straight forward metal great rather than hokey anthems drunken regulars sing along to on karaoke night who don't even listen to metal! They also emit a feeling that has no genre boundaries because, while they make Twisted Sister or Dokken suddenly seem average, they seem to creep alongside the likes of Helloween for atmospheric power. After hearing this I now believe the saying "there is always an exception to the rule", because these guys surely are the exception in a scene that was average at best and was fueled by radio play where success was measured by platinum records hanging on some big shot record executive's office wall. I'm not saying Lizzy Borden didn't live the glam metal lifestyle, I mean what the fuck do I know? I'm just stating their music is timeless. This is a masterpiece and just one gaze upon the album cover makes me glad I chose to listen to heavy metal.
There are a few things one has to take into account to avoid an immediate bias against Lizzy Borden. For one, they were 'glam' in the sense that they wore big hair and trashy 80s metal gear like Kiss or Poison. Second, they were a very theatrical band, and they liked their women in leather with hair as big as their own. Third, Lizzy himself, the vocalist, has a voice which can sooth like a crystal scream or wail like a siren, an obstacle for some.
That being said, they are one of the best metal bands ever produced in the United States of America, with a pretty spotless discography. With all that hairspray, I didn't want to believe it either. Sitting at the peak of this body of work, alongside the rock opera of Master of Disguise, is the excellent Visual Lies. This record has a lot in common with Menace to Society or Love You to Pieces, but it's got a cleaner, accessible sound that in no way hinders the marvelous songwriting.
Every track on the album is loaded with memorable riffs and charming vocal melodies. The guitars are expertly crafted: every hook, every melody, every lead, no wasted notes. "Me Against the World" is power metal lite, deriving its energy from the constant, steady thump of its rhythm guitars and big NWOBHM chorus. In fact, Lizzy's entire style is like a beautiful dedication to the masters of NWOBHM who paved the road for 80s hard rock. "Shock" is another another mid paced track with the huge vocal hooks and delicate, memorable guitars. "Outcast" starts with a great riff, and slows for an emotional, acoustic verse. This verse alone has better vocals in it than many bands have on their entire records...and of course, another of those amazing chorus hooks that should have ensured this band would have dominated radio play if the $$ weren't changing hands for other bands to do so. "Den of Thieves" picks up speed at just the right time on the record, and the guitar work during the verse is simply stunning, with some kickass leads to boot. This is one of my hands-down favorite Lizzy tunes, and for the power metal's fans time and money, the one you want to hear the most on this album.
The title track "Visual Lies" uses some gentle melodic picking lines to create an incredible atmosphere before the swollen, glorious vocal hooks that could easily have given Cinderella or Def Leppard a run for their money. "Eyes of a Stranger" may not be the equal to Queensryche's track of the same name, but it's an excellent melodic mid paced fist pumper. "Lord of the Flies" once again picks up the pace for some more extremely memorable speed metal. It's almost a shame that so many of the songs on the album are slower, not that they're bad by any means, but it would have been a pleasure to hear an entire album where Gene Allen and Joe Holmes were allowed to just go off. "Voyeur (I'm Watching You)" also has some delightful licks but based off more of a blues hard rock vibe. The album ends with the great "Visions" and its swinging hooks and rollicking percussion.
Visual Lies is easily the best produced album of 1987, I don't hear many albums in the 21st century that come close to sounding this good. Every note is at the perfect level and no element of the music dominates another. With a vocalist this graceful and talented, that's not an easy feat. The guitarwork deserves an award for both its restraint and the sheer amount of quality found in every track. This album is a major achievement and it's a crime the band doesn't get the credit it deserves. While not as directly heavy, the material is easily as catchy as a Primal Fear or Hammerfall, in fact it's superior.
Lizzy has the voice, no argument here. What he needed was some good ideas to exploit it. I think "Visual Lies" is indeed the peek for his band and his career. The band's previous work was coated with brilliance but here we find it in the largest of amounts. Why? Because Lizzy actually proves that "Hair Metal" or "Glam" or whatever you want to call it can provide some exquisite songs to the heavy metal movement.
I truly cannot name a song that fails to be above medium. The guitar work is awesome, heavy and solid and some of the riffing here is the most memorable anyone could find in any genre. The lyrical themes though emotional and "sensitive" are turning in a revengeful specter. We are victims of love...yes, but we are not gonna take it!
“Me Against the World” is the hymn many would like to have taken credit for but the 'rich kid' Lizzy had what it took to compose it. Simply mesmerizing it makes you start singing from the first verse. “Shock” (without the backing vocals) could have been the epitome of U.S. Metal in those days. “Lord of the Flies” maybe not the catchiest but surely is the best song in this wonderful album and that alone says a lot, just listen to the guitar section of the song. Who can claim a more memorable and uplifting riff? The rest of the songs are varying from superb to excellent and the production is exceptional helping every song to reach its full potential.
Nobody could imagine a better album by a band with lip-gloss and you should have in mind that those were the days of Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P. therefore the competition was great. It seems like there was a theatrical competition between Blackie (in those days he used to drink "blood" from a skull) and Lizzy (he was dismembering with an axe the model of Love You to Pieces album) which pushed them both to the best of their work. The only part of the album that is rather annoying is the melodic parts that fail to add anything more than reasons for debate for the best Lizzy Borden album.
All W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister fans are already familiar with Lizzy Borden those few remaining uninformed check (and worship) them out.