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It’s difficult to refer to the early metal classics that dominated the first couple years of the 80s without also uttering that timeless cliché of “they don’t make them like they used to”. In those good old days, bands earned their keep on the road for several years before hitting the studio and being morphed into a recording studio beast. There is no more obvious epitome of a band paying their dues before getting established as a studio band than that of Twisted Sister, a band that existed in some incarnation or another a good 10 years before “Under The Blade” would mount an American challenge to the exploding NWOBHM scene. The sheer intensity and prowess on display in this remarkable debut cannot be over-emphasized, even by making the lofty comparison that it shares just as much responsibility for helping to push the speed/thrash sound as Judas Priest’s, Satan’s or Motorhead’s seminal releases did, which is an arguable point.
The chief influence at play here is definitely of a Judas Priest persuasion, so much so that even Dee Snider’s normally gritty yell has more of a polished, British edge to it on here. It presents itself more along the lines of a slightly crunchier answer to “British Steel”, but with a guitar sound more conducive to that of “Screaming For Vengeance”. At times the party hearty character that would become this band’s staple shines through on such noteworthy anthems as “Bad Boys (Of Rock N’ Roll)” and “Day Of The Rocker”, as well as the bonus song for the rerelease “I’ll Never Grow Up” (originally released as a single way back in 1979), exuding those repetitive yet highly infectious chorus lines that have been commanding the legions of 80s metallic faithful to sing along en masse. But in stark contrast to later efforts, “Under The Blade” is more along the lines of a cruising speed metal fest along the lines of what Metal Church would come to be known for, albeit with a somewhat more archaic riff and lead guitar approach and a very different lyrical character.
Levels of intensity tend to vary from one chapter to the next, but the overall feel of this album definitely leans a bit more towards the extreme than one would expect from the band’s better known opus “Stay Hungry”. The crushing opener “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” punches through with a vengeance, delivering up a degree of heavy hitting brilliance that could cut heads with the faster parts of Manowar’s “Battle Hymns” any day and delivering yet another unforgettable sing along chorus to boot. “Sin After Sin”, which auspiciously carries the same title as the famed Judas Priest album, also listens a hell of a lot like a compositional homage to the same band, and all but perfectly predicts what would become the better elements of “Defenders Of The Faith”. The title song also offers up a pretty impressive dose of Judas Priest brilliance, though it takes the back seat to “Tear It Loose”, which packs all the same fury and speed as a studio remake of “Exciter” with a grittier voice and a heavier guitar tone.
When comprehending the level of aggression on display here, coupled with its hyper-catchy formula and early entry into the metal world, it’s impossible to regard this as anything other than a true classic along the same lines as “Battle Hymns” and “Screaming For Vengeance”. It stands as the most metallic offering that Twisted Sister ever put out, even when compared to the overshadowing popularity of “Stay Hungry”, itself an aggressive offering with a greater degree of rock sensibilities. Say what one will about the over-the-top image that this band held over from their 70s glam rock days, this is a band that plays hard, long hair and mascara or not. No self-respecting metal head who has interest in the pre-thrash days of the genre should be unaware of this album, but given the addition of one of their early classic songs and a much stronger production, the 1999 re-master is far preferable to the original, though the recent 2011 re-release with the entire “Ruff Cutts” EP and all the other additional material is the most available for purchase. Even when considering the vintage nature of those days, most bands have rightfully acknowledged that the limitations of the technology of those days hampered their efforts to create a more dangerous sound, and when experiencing Twisted Sister, the more dangerous it sounds the better.