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A major step down - 60%

failsafeman, February 7th, 2008

Well, for me this album was a big disappointment. Elixir’s previous album, Son of Odin, was in my opinion a minor classic, but this is just mediocre. Clive Burr of Iron Maiden plays on this album; I don’t want to lay the blame at his feet, but I can’t help but think that somehow he had something to do with the dip in quality. Maybe now with a fairly well-known member, Elixir (or their label) thought they could gain a larger audience if they dumbed themselves down a bit? It’s certainly possible. In any case, the band’s sound on this album is very much watered-down from their previous one. You can tell right away from the guitar tone; on Son of Odin it was mean and sharp and up front, while on Lethal Potion it’s much more in the background and quite a bit duller. They really ripped the nuts out of the poor guitar. That alone is enough to turn me off, as the production was pretty much perfect on Elixir’s first album; why did they have to mess with a good thing? Apparently there was label pressure, but more on that later.

Now, it would be very easy for me to just say “they sold out” and leave it at that, but it’s not completely true. Sure, as you can probably guess, “She’s Got It” is a crappy hard rock song, and quite possibly a single attempt. Unsurprisingly, it sucks. “Louise”, “All Together Again” and “Light in Your Heart” suck for much the same reasons, though not quite so much. Basta!

With that crap out of the way, “Sovereign Remedy” is pretty good. At first you can tell they rely on a lot of repeated-note riffing, like you might hear on a speed metal album (albeit slower), which wasn’t present on their previous album at all. Aside from that bit of possible modernization, their style here is still much the same NWOBHM plus US heavy metal from the previous album. Paul Taylor’s still a great mid-range singer, and he at least wasn’t castrated by the production. The vocal melodies and leads are quite good, even if the riffing is a bit lackluster, and the slight otherworldly atmosphere works well. “Llagaeran” starts out with a cool slow intro, and then speeds up nicely into a decent song. Not quite as good as the previous one, but alright. On a good album, it would’ve been filler; here, unfortunately, it’s a highlight. “Shadows of the Night” is better, and easily one of the best on the album. That main riff is repeated a bit too much, but it’s good, and on an album like this, beggars can’t be choosers. Taylor really does belt out some cool vocal lines, though. That track alone makes the album worth at least a cursory listen. “Visions of Darkness” is about the same as “Llagaeran”, in that it’s decent but unspectacular; worth listening to but nothing to write home about. The thing about Elixir is that they’re a fairly simple band, so you can bet if you hear a riff or vocal melody once, you’ll hear it quite a lot throughout the rest of the song. Sometimes, when the riffs and melodies are excellent, that can equal a good song (see just about any track from their previous album); in cases like this, the riffs are good-but-not-great to start out with, and that will equal a merely decent song. And then we come to “Edge of Sanity”, where it’s been crafted out of mediocre riffs and melodies; by the time the song ends, they’ve been repeated until we’re totally sick of them. Well, at least it’s not more hard rock schlock.

That brings us to the final track, and I praise Satan and Odin and Crom and all the other metal deities that they at least managed to end the album with a good track. It’s certainly no great closer like “Son of Odin”, but on this album, what is? “Last Rays of the Sun” is definitely going for that same “metal ballad” type of thing, where it’s slower and more melodic, but still majestic and heavy. The riffing ranges from mediocre to decent, but the vocal melodies really pull this one through. OH, OH, IN THE LAST RAYS OF THE SUN! The guitar leads are pretty good, too.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, there was apparently label meddling here; I’ve heard they messed with the mix, which is something I could believe. 1990 certainly wasn’t a good year for this kind of metal. Also, they supposedly fucked with the album title (it was originally supposed to be “Sovereign Remedy”) and the track order, and even cut a few tracks out. There was a re-release of the album in 2006, which fixes a lot of these problems, but I don’t have it and that wasn’t what I reviewed here. Frankly, I’m leery of shelling out money for something I’m not even sure is significantly better. In any case, unless the new songs are simply amazing and the guitars are really beefed up, I doubt it would affect my score by more than 10 points or so. After all, better production or no, the crappy tracks are still there and will still suck.

All in all, I really hated to give this album a bad score, but though the five good tracks are worth listening to again, the other five are simply not. The band broke up after this album, and it’s not hard to see why, especially if the label got their grubby mitts all over it.