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Yep, they really don’t make ‘em like this anymore…this album just SCREAMS “80s” in all the right ways; you’ve got that killer American rock/metal swagger reminiscent of early Riot drunk and looking for a fight, you’ve got the touch of NWOBHM melody and riff construction, you’ve got a singer who has character and aggression and still hits the notes, high as well as low. Shok Paris hail from Cleveland, which was pretty far off the beaten track as far as metal scenes go, but it certainly wasn’t empty, either; see Attaxe for another cool Cleveland heavy metal band from around the same time. Anyway, despite their location, Shok Paris still managed to get a very professional production; the guitar tone isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like, but everything comes across loud and clear, so I can’t really complain. I think it’s pretty safe to say the only thing that doesn’t fit with this band is the name. Seriously, what the hell is “Shok Paris” supposed to mean? Is it talking about the capital of France, or the character from the Iliad? Why would they want to “shok” either one? Perhaps these questions are better left unanswered. Silly name aside, this is great straightforward 80s metal; imagine Omen, but with more rock in the mix, or maybe early Savatage, but catchier and without as much nonsense and excess repetition. Speaking of Savatage, frontman Vic Hix sounds quite a bit like Jon Oliva in his lower register, but when he goes up for a scream he reminds me more of Blitz from Overkill. Maybe throw in a bit of Richard Shayka from Grudge, but without as much rasp. You could probably come up with quite a few other comparisons, as this was a popular style for this kind of heavy metal, but regardless here it is quite well executed. Differentiating him a bit from his fellows, though, is a lot of well-done multi-tracking on the album, which isn’t something you hear a lot from this type. See “Battle Cry” for an example. Speaking of “Battle Cry”…what the hell are the chances they’d put out a song with the same name as Omen’s debut that came out later the same year? Just another of those strange metal coincidences.
Shok Paris are clearly at their best when they “go for the throat” with speedy aggressive numbers. “Battle Cry” would be the best of these; it totally lives up to its name by being epic and aggressive in a way that would make even the mighty Omen proud, and sports great triumphant sing-along lyrics that have “Manowar” written all over them. With a length of three minutes there is absolutely no fucking around, just pure heavy metal with balls. The title track is a bit more mortal, but still very good; that main riff just slays. “Burn it Down” is a bit rockier, not quite as good as the last two, but is still fun as hell; this one really brings Riot to mind. “Chosen Ones” is no slouch either, proving they can pull off a pounding mid-pacer without faltering; this has more of an NWOBHM feel in parts, with some nice double-guitar leads and a moodier attitude. This one is the longest on the album at just over 5 minutes, and tied for second-best of the album along with the title track. “Never Say Why” and “Run but Don’t Hide” bring us back to speedy numbers, only slightly worse than the title track, but still very worthwhile with nice gang choruses. The latter is probably a little better than the former, and works great as the album closer.
Unfortunately, there are some weaker numbers. “On a Wing and a Prayer” is predictably that 80s “hard livin’” kind of song that can’t help but suck. This one isn’t unbearably horrible, and Vic Hix busts out some cool shrieks in it, but you’ve heard this song many times before by many different bands and it wasn’t ever very good. “Caged Tiger” is decent and isn’t much different from the good songs stylistically, but seems to somehow lack something in the songwriting department. A cool main riff and some neat multi-tracking near the end save it from total mediocrity, however. “Can’t Fight the Evil” is a bit of a power ballad, but somehow never quite gets off the ground. I like it, but I can’t shake the feeling that it could be much better with just a bit of tweaking. Apparently Shok Paris missed that class on how to write a killer metal ballad given by Professor Manowar circa 1982.
All in all, this is a solid slab of 80s heavy metal, well worth the price of admission, even taking into account the few clunkers. Very classy and well-polished when at its best, this is the kind of stuff that sticks in your head from first listen and doesn’t let go. If only they hadn’t chosen such a retarded name; if instead they had settled on “Savage Oath” or “Uppercut” or some conventional 80s metal name like that, I’m sure they’d have been much more successful.
Among the majority of specialists in American power metal, the 80’s are considered to be a legendary era, shrouded in fable and magnificence. If one searches real hard into the records that were released during this period, they can uncover remarkable masterpieces. It is true that the ’80’s gave birth to many - forgotten nowadays - diamonds, but we should be more sceptical before automatically glorifying anything that came out within that decade.
Shok Paris are one of the many bands of the 80’s that never got the attention they actually deserved. Most contemporary power metal fans know little of this band from Cleveland. An ardent fan of ’80’s metal, however, will probably remember their name and have something positive to say about them. Shok Paris have gained their cult status mainly because of two factors. The first of these factors is the characteristic, hoarse vocals of singer Vic Hix, while the second is the lyrics of the title track of their second album, “Steel And Starlight”. That particular line “keep the fire burnin’, you’re the steel that never fades away” is still capable of bringing tears of nostalgia to the eyes of the initiated.
Shok Paris’ debut album is called “Go For The Throat” and that title perfectly describes what the record is all about. Raw, aggressive American power metal of the ’80’s that is primarily concerned with captivating the heart, and not the mind of the listener. An album that literally goes for your throat. Shok Paris may not be the best musicians that ever existed, but they make up in passion and enthusiasm what they lack in technique or virtuosity. The production, on its part, does not provide the music of the band with a crystal clear sound, yet this turns out to be a benefit, as it adds to the aggressiveness and rawness of the final result.
After a short and more or less typical instrumental, called “Marsielles De Sade”, the main action starts off with “Battle Cry”. Catchy, not overly complicated guitar riffs, a solid rhythm section, and the characteristic voice of Vic Hix accompanied by backing lines during the refrain. This pattern generally dominates the entire length of the album. Most tracks are of mid tempo speed and not very sophisticated, having the band’s directness as their main asset. There are also some fast moments (“Go For The Throat”, “Run But Don’t Hide”), as well as some more melodic ones (“Never Say Why”, “On A Wing And A Prayer”) and, in the lyrics of the latter, the common “kill - slaughter - eliminate” attitude is substituted with a more existential, philosophical approach. “Caged Tiger”, with its impressive riffs and bestial energy, stands out as the best song of the record, followed closely by “Run But Don’t Hide”, “Burn It Down” and “Chosen Ones”.
Overall, “Go For The Throat”, together with Shok Paris’ second album, “Steel And Starlight”, belong to the category of overlooked and underrated little jewels of American power, where they stand next to albums of bands like Heir Apparent or Savage Grace. Nevertheless, after the recent reunion of Shok Paris, we don’t just need to recollect the glorious days of the past anymore. Instead, we can gaze into the future in hope and joy, with the expectation of new material from this historic band from Cleveland.
“Keep the fire burnin’, you’re the steel that never fades away”.