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The more you listen to something, the more it tends to grow on you. I’ve found this is just as true for bad albums as for good: an album that once was displeasing will often reveal a bit more depth upon extended listening just as a good album can grow to be an absolute favorite with time. Indeed, it’s one of the inexplicable charms of music that with enough listening devoted to it, just about anything at all will increase in value.
Of course, that was before I heard Nitro. A band so superficial and excessive that they make the rest of the glam scene look like a bunch of uptight suburban housewives. A band that rightly deserved to be admonished and all but ignored during their mercifully brief career. A band for which the bottom of the barrel was not low enough; look for a rusted out hole and dig about fifty feet and you’ll find a copy of O.F.R. not far from the skeletons of those that died from laughter after hearing it, the most pitiful excuse for 80’s metal, glam or otherwise, period. A band whose music actually gets exponentially worse with every listen.
Now glam metal is not an intrinsically bad genre. There’s certainly not a lot of depth to it, but that’s because it’s commercial. It’s also prone to cheesiness, but glam was never trying to make a deep philosophical impact on its listeners, it was just trying to have a good time. Since the music was entertainment-based, there’s usually some entertaining qualities to it. O.F.R. (which stands for Out-Fucking-Rageous), after its initial shock value, has none. Everything that could suck about a glam album, the production, the songwriting, the vocals, most assuredly does.
Let’s start with the production, as it’s the first thing I found offensive upon listening to this album. The album kicks off with the first riff of “Freight Train,’ which for a few seconds is not bad in and of itself. Then reality sets in: the guitar sounds terrible. There’s more distortion on the instrument than you’d expect for a glam album, but it sounds as though it’s being played through a low-watt practice amp. There’s no depth, no power behind the rhythm tracks. This is accentuated by the severe lack of bass in the mix (I could only hear it in “Machine Gun Eddie”), leaving the trebly guitars all alone. Of course, the drums and vocals are so egregiously loud that you sometimes can’t even hear the riffs! And when a guitar solo comes around, it’s louder still. “Freight Train” is a good candidate for download if you want to hear how terrible the songs sound.
And as far as songwriting is concerned, “Freight Train” also embodies the general sound of the songs, that of harder edged glam verging on speed metal due to the drumming. Many people feel that the songs are generally solid, only occasionally soiled by the vocals. Don’t believe it: this stuff is as shifty as it gets. Song construction is haphazard at best and borders on thievery at worst. For the former, take a song like “Double Trouble,” which features an extended chorus not just at the end of the song, but before the solo as well. No pre-chorus leads into a chorus properly, as there’s no sense of melodic resolution in the riffs or singer Jim Gillette’s caterwauling. The riffs are all ripped from Metal Riffs 101, such as the “Machine Gun Eddie” riff starting at 1:38 which consists of nothing but single note tremolo riffing, reminiscent of Manowar’s various speed-metal snore fests as well as the imitation thrash of “Bring It Down” which has, as part of its chorus, the line “Bring down the house!” “Machine Gun Eddie” is itself a testament to riff salad; more jumbled ideas exist here than anywhere else. Stupid a cappella intro (think Def Leppard), slow groove part that exists just for the purpose of showing how long Gillette can scream, and a piss-poor attempt at a blast beat are all characteristics of this track, arguably the worst on here. To be fair though, it also has the only good riff on the entire album, occurring right after the vocal intro and again near the end of the song when the drummer starts fucking up the beat. If all the riffs from this album engaged in a drunken brawl with the riffs from any of the decade’s thrash albums, this riff would be the only one from all of O.F.R. to come out alive. Granted, it would probably spend a week in a coma, an additional eighteen months in physical therapy, and its knees would ache whenever it rained for the rest of its life, but it would live. Unless the riffs it faced were from Eternal Nightmare, in which case there would be no survivors. None.
Anyway, as for the latter aspect of their poor song construction, the chorus from “Double Trouble” has the same melody as the Bon Jovi song “Bad Medicine.” The ballad “Long Way From Home” pilfers melodic ideas from Tesla and that main acoustic lick is ripped from Van Halen’s “Drop Dead Legs.” And even the title track’s intro cops AC/DC. That’s right, not only are Nitro bad songwriters, they’re fucking thieves. Even that “Machine Gun Eddie” riff is probably a riff from some arbitrary thrash song I can’t indentify because I’ve heard too many blasted thrash albums. Goddamn, this band is frustrating… but I digress.
The reason that anyone even bothers to give a shit about Nitro these days is the same reason they ever gave a shit about them then: guitarist Michael Angelo Batio. An immensely quick player that is routinely granted the honor of fastest shredder of all time (even twenty years later), he managed to carve out a decent solo career selling albums and instructional videos after Nitro bit the dust. His claim to fame, of course, was the fact that he was ambidextrous and could play his custom two and four necked guitars simultaneously, sweeping and using overhand techniques and shit. This is probably the reason his numerous solo spots on O.F.R. are so goddamn loud; the rest of the band knew that he was one of their key selling points. Unfortunately this backfires, as Michael Angelo is one of the most poignant examples of a musician that, despite having absolute control over his instrument, still fucking sucks. We’ve already established his riffwork as generic, but his solos are even worse. Flurry after flurry of mindless, soulless “linear diarrhea” as Steve Vai would put it; it’s actually embarrassing to listen to. I’d considered granting this release a few points on account of Batio’s technique (though he can’t write for shit, his precision is enviable and virtually unmatched), but that would lessen the impact of my point: there isn’t a memorable solo on the entire album if there’s a single memorable note. What’s the point of refining your technique if you can’t write or convey the slightest inkling of emotion in your playing? As far as I’m concerned, there is none and players like this (looking at you, Alexi Laiho…) need to reexamine why it is they got into music to begin with.
But for all of Michael Angelo’s flaws as a songwriter, there is nothing on this album more completely and irreparably damaging than singer Jim Gillette. Praised for his extended range, sustain, and gravity-defying hair, he is quite possibly the worst singer in heavy metal’s four decade existence. His gravelly low-register is bad, as he channels a third-rate Vince Neil clone, but at his upper registers, he’s fucking Elmo. You know, Elmo? The Sesame Street muppet? It might not be apparent the first time you hear it, since he’s usually gratuitously over-layering his voice like in those profoundly stupid a cappella bits, but once you recognize it, you’ll never be able to take him seriously again. During parts like the one starting at 0:48 of "Fighting Mad," for example, it sounds like he could go “Ha Ha Ha…that tickles!” at any given second. I could care less if a male singer sounds like a woman, but a fucking Muppet? I actually recommend that everyone at least listen to one of these songs so that they know where I’m coming from. Gillette is just the worst.
This album, this band, is so mind-numbingly awful that it actually raises the question “Are these guys fucking joking?” Could anyone honestly take this stuff seriously? Surely these questions were posed back then just as they are now and you know what? It’s a legitimate affair. Perhaps Nitro were the glam equivalent of Spinal Tap. Perhaps they mocked the excesses and ridiculous image of the genre by being more excessive and ridiculous than all of them. Their image actually seems to attest to this, as anyone who’s seen photos of them with their spandex and teased hair (Gillette’s mane appears to rise over a foot above his head, seriously) can surely agree. Even their album cover is excessive, consisting mostly of their obnoxious logo edging out almost all other free space on the sleeve.
So let’s assume for a moment that the album is a farce, nothing more than a joke by prankster musicians with too much time on their hands. Does it really gain any value? Is it worth listening to 40 minutes of intentional musical ineptitude just for a chuckle? No, I really don’t think it could be, but I’ll never have to wonder in Nitro’s case, because they most assuredly are not a joke (well, at least not an intentional one). While glam parodies are not uncommon nowadays (a little time spent on Myspace will uncover a few gems), this album was released in 1989, when any hair band not yet aboard the gravy train tried to hitch a ride before the whole thing derailed. Competition was fierce, musicians were becoming more competent, and acts were becoming more outlandish. Nitro weren’t out-fucking-rageous because they were commenting on the state of the scene: they did it because they thought that’s what people wanted to see and hear. And they went so over-the-top that they ended up on the bottom. Kind of the inverse of the “it’s-so-bad-it’s-good” mantra of cult enthusiasts, except this is so bad that’s it still really, really bad.
Listening to the album in this light reveals proof of a boastful nature, exposing Nitro as an insecure band that uses their ridiculousness not as a complement to their music, but as its sole selling point. Allow me to paint you a picture from my mind:
“Oh, so you’ve heard good drummers? Well our guy plays fucking thrash and blast beats. Top that.”
“Some bands wear a little makeup? Well it took ten hours for us to look as fucking gay as we do. Your move, motherfucker.”
“You have high-pitched vocals? Well, our guy can sing so high, you’d have to be of another species to fully grasp his talent. And he can hold a scream for eight minutes if he wanted to. He just doesn’t want to. His restraint is out-fucking-rageous!”
“Your bassist couldn’t give less of a shit about writing good lines? We don’t even fucking know what a bass is. And even if we did, we wouldn’t even fucking mix it right. Our ignorance is….c’mon, everybody say it….OUT….FUCKING…RAGEOUS!”
“And don’t even fucking start with your duel guitar solos. We’ve got a motherfucking guitarist who plays FOUR FUCKING NECKS AT ONCE! FOUR FUCKING NECKS! AT ONCE! BECAUSE WE”RE OUT-FUCKIN …hey, where are you going?”
In a word: horrid. Everything that’s wrong with glam and more. And I’m going to listen to something else.
If there was ever a glam band worthy of being on the archives, it's this one. Apparently recorded as an experiment in how insane the genre can get, Nitro's debut has enjoyed a sort of pseudo-fame to this very day. I mean, just one look at the cover inset (which shows the band members posed suggestively like drag queens, each with hair the size of Mount Everest) and you know this isn't going to be an exercise in modesty and restraint.
At the core of the band is a pair of musicians who are nothing short of geniuses: vocalist Jim Gillette and guitarist Michael Angelo Batio. Jim has an unbelievable six octave range, and his screams at times seem to enter the whistle register. And Mike plays that guitar like it's his bitch, shredding so fast that his solos are just a blur of notes.
As is the case with most LA scene bands (hello Motley Crue!) the songwriting is a bit weak at times. The band has talent, but doesn't seem to be able to channel it into good songs consistently. O.F.R opens with one truly kickass song, "Freight Train", and then settles into a sort of rhythm of midtempo glam songs with trebly choruses that aren't really interesting. "Double Trouble" starts out with this cool Anthrax riff, but dies as soon as Jim's vocals enter the song. "Nasty Reputation" and "Fighting Mad" are also pretty weak.
Moving on, "Long Way From Home" is a disposable attempt at a power ballad. I love the 80s, but one of the holdovers from that period I do not like is the power ballad. Poison hit it big with "Every Rose Has It's Thorn", Crue hit it big with "Without You" and the legacy is still with us today, with every band from Megadeth to DragonForce feeling the need to shove contrived, obnoxious, "emotional" songs on to their albums. Oh well, Nitro can't be blamed for that I suppose.
Still, it's not all bad. "Shot Heard 'Round the World" is a great song, and "Machine Gunn Eddie" (which has a 30 second scream from Gillette) is worth a few listens. "Bring it Down" is the heaviest glam song I've ever heard, rivalling most thrash metal in its speed and double-bass fury.
And did I mention this album has amazing guitar solos? MAB is fast as hell, but he also has Randy Rhoads' talent for writing catchy solos that stick in the mind. In many of these songs, the solos are more memorable than the choruses.
Nitro's debut stops way, way short of being a certified classic, but it's an important piece of glam history and is worth checking out. And people, get over the vocals. I know he sounds like a girl. That's the whole point!
You like out fucking rageous solos? You like out fucking rageous vocals? You like out fucking rageous 80's Metal? This is right up your alley. Don't let the band picture sway you. These guys can kick fucking ass and some of this album is just insane in it's sound.
For starters the guitar maestro here, Michael Angelo, must be from another planet. The soloing here is some of the best and "out there" I've heard. Especially on the first 3 tracks. This guy plays the guitar like he came out of the womb playing it. It's the most outstanding feature of this album and the band.
The downside to the album? The singer, Jim Gilette. Imagine a very cheesy version of King Diamond who when he alternates into his low ranty style turns into a poorly produced Vince Neil. This is coming from a guy who likes high pitched vocals but it takes a lot of getting used to here. He overdoes the falsetto and when he's not singing like that he sounds glam as fuck.
If you're used to high vocals and you can stand the singing you've won the battle of being able to enjoy the rest of the music....and if you're into 80's metal this can be heaven at times. Especially on the crown jewel of the album.....Machine Gun Eddie! What a blast! Lots of tempo changes, great riffs, great chorus..."Machiiiiiiiineee Guuuuuunn...EDDIE!" and Michael Angelo's superb soloing. Awesome stuff.
Other highlights would be the opener "Freight Train" & "Bring It Down". Theres a couple of silly rocker tunes here like on all "80's metal" albums and the ballad "Long Way From Home" is just boring but most of the stuff is all pretty decent.
I'll reiterate that the vocals take getting used to. They're HORRIBLE half the time but stomach them and you can bang your head like it's 1989 again. Death To Modern Bullshit!!
After seeing Michael Angelo's Speed Kills and the Nitro music video clip with the outrageously large hair -- it rivals X-Japan's -- and the QUAD-AXE guitar solo, I had to find this album. And wow, it sucks, save for the solos!
In the whole scope of it, most of it is total glam rock -- weak imitations of Motley Crue, Poison, Tesla, etc but not quite as enjoyable to listen to in the same twisted way. The riffs are usually weak, though there are two songs I would actually consider close to metal on here - Machine Gun Eddie and Bring it Down, both of which have some pretty good fast riffing and drumming. The closest comparison I can think for is Manowar's Wheels of Fire. The drumming and the bass are usually weak, as well, and the cock rock lyrics are outright stupid.
Jim Gilette can supposedly shatter glass with his voice, but most of the time, it sounds like he's trying to sound like Vince Neil with his nose pinched, or like a weak falsetto imitation of King Diamond. Whereas King Diamond made you laugh at first and then grew on you, Gilette is annoying, and still annoying later. Occasionally, he'll impressively hit a really high note, but he also he does some kind of possibly distorted low voice that also sounds rather dumb.
However, the solos are nothing short of amazing. Watch Michael Angelo's Speed Kills for an idea of how fast this guy can shred. He is not human. He is a cyborg. This guy can play 2-4 guitars at once, and does sweep picking arpeggios upside down, left-handed, and then does complex tapping while alternating his hands over and under the neck at lightning speed. He leaves Yngwie Malmsteen and just about any other guitarist in the dust with his speed, and probably a lot of master pianists, too. The solos in Freight Train at 2:18, Double Trouble at 2:36, 4:25 in Machine Gun Eddie, and so on are just out fucking rageous.
If you want to hear Michael Angelo and his inhuman shredding, I'd recommend his video, Speed Kills, first, and then either his solo albums or C4's A Call to Arms. This one has a lot of glam/cock rock crap mixed in, and is only worth anything for the inhuman shredding and possibly Machine Gun Eddie and Bring it Down, depending on your taste.