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Italian axe-slinger Alex Masi's Metal Blade debut, released in 1985 as the first of two albums under the Masi name, is probably one of the more obscure entries into the shred-metal canon. Those who remember, remember the times were good if you could play fast. Masi was part of a wave of highly technical neoclassical-inspired players flooding the market, full of sweep arpeggios and hope, looking to cash in on the limited success of Yngwie Malmsteen.
Masi's lineup at the time is only represented on this album, consisting of bassist Chris Marxx, Dave "Skavido" Brown on drums and scratchy Kevin DuBrow wanna-be vocalist Burnie K. The band is undistinguished, but just good enough to carry the majority of this meat-and-potatoes glam-tinged hard rock, infrequently relied upon to handle a more interesting passage or changeup here and there. Checking off the requisite tough-guy posturing, sensitive ballad and party anthems, these primitive songs feel very much like hastily-written vehicles for Masi's perfectly acceptable solos, though occasionally the band mixes up the arrangements to good effect, like the speedy Daybreak. The majority of these sleaze anthems though are fossilized in eighties amber, lyrically dumber than a bag of rocks, and are not well-served by the thin, almost demo-like quality of the production, stiff beats, or faceless vocals.
And then once you think you have this thing figured out, here comes none other than Quiet Riot alum Frankie Benali to man the kit on the classy, acoustic-tinged progressive fusion of Movements. The instrumental album-closer sounds far out of place with the rest of the cock-rock here, outperforming everything else on the album by a nautical mile. It perfectly encapsulates the original aspects of Masi's style that he would develop on later albums. Banali especially shows a side to his playing most of us probably never knew existed, delivering the kind of highly technical, nuanced performance demanded by Masi's suddenly nimble compositional pen. The effect is jarring, like someone appending a Weather Report B-side to the end of a Sleez Beez demo tape and expecting us to believe its the work of the same band. In any event it's a hell of a better way to raise eyebrows than oh, say, hiring Graham Bonnet and covering Somewhere Over the Rainbow. (We're looking at you, Chris Impellitteri. Looking at you very disapprovingly.)
As his career progressed, so did the player, and his later recordings bring a welcome dose of compositional adventure and an unmistakable influence of Alan Holdsworth. The immortal British guitarist even graced Masi's excellent 1989 solo album Attack of the Neon Shark, but Fire In The Rain bears little of those jazz leanings, nor for that matter even deigns to bite Malmsteen's distinctive goth and fantasy touches like a Chastain or a Cacophony. While the young shredder had developed the needed chops to compete by the time this was recorded, the subpar material doesn't serve his skillset very well. The album fails to establish a coherent direction, being mostly not technical or speedy enough to compete with the numerous shred metal bands in the Shrapnel stable, and not charismatic enough to compete with the tough LA-style glam metal much of the writing here is seemingly modeled after. The overall effect is like a scab version of Steeler, only with less of the raw charm. The lack of quality material here makes it hard to recommend this album unless you're a genre archaeologist, or hardcore Masi fan curious to hear these formative recordings. That said, Masi would survive and learn from his missteps here, and on later albums would deliver a more satisfying balance of his hard rock songwriting and more progressive material.
This album has 80's Glam written all over it. The vocals, the guitar's tone, the riffs...all aspects of this album are pure 80's rock n roll. Masi came all the way from Italy to California just so he could do work on this album (and the ones that follow) for Metal Blade with the band Wall Of Sound, I believe thats the correct name.
The package is pretty simple, and the cover for that matter, but it only stands as contrast to the greatness that awaits a spin on your record player. The lyrics arent exactly greatest, but hey they out do Slaughter, Poison, and most of the famous glam bands even if that isnt saying much.
This being the debut album by this Italian shredder, and it really is pretty damn good. Albums like this put the "metal" in glam. Hard hitting Rock 'n' Roll with an endless abundance of runs, leads, and solos. Bernie K. does some real great vocals on here, and even wrote some songs (Fire In The Rain, and Rock Your Soul). His voice maintains a fairly medium range, but does have some power behind it that help it to really stand out. Obviously the highlight is Alex Masi who combines a bluesy, classical, heavy metal, and straight out hard rock back ground to create one hell of a great album. He kinda has his own style, those familiar with his work would agree, and he uses lots arpegiated rythms very nicely, mixing harmonics, sweeps, pulls, and lots of other guitar techniques extremely well. To say this man is talented is an understatement. Another highlight is that Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot, WASP) appears on here for one song (Movements) which is an instrumental piece that really is very original, and one kickass boundless web of melody and technical ability wound up in one highly entertaining tune. Songs like Daybreak which are basically speed metal in some parts, and then go into a very up tempo hard rock sound (some what remniscent of Dokkens heavier work, but with more emphasis on speed and technical ability) are yet another reason this album is a classic.
Classical (sometimes bluesy) acoustic passages, insane technical ability, runs that never stop, solos that are original and fresh enough to put Mr. Malmsteen in his pompus place, heavy rythms that pound out 80's rockin metal, and overall a band that out does many other much more famous bands of the time (and even today) to a degree that is a damn shame more people arent familiar with this band/man.
There are many different songs on here that make this album great to hear many times over. There are the heavy ones (Day Break), the anthem ballads (Fire In The Rain), the heavy ballads (Fallen Agel), the classic 80's ones (I'm A Liar), and the odd ones (Movements). Yet another highly enjoyable Masi album, which in ways is very much in the same vein as the following album Downtown Dreamers. If you like 80's Glam Metal, and dont own any Masi, well go and get some of the best stuff that has been sadly overlooked by many.