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Up from the depths (in a very cliched way) - 65%

Brainded Binky, February 19th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1983, 12" vinyl, Music for Nations

Hellion is one of many female-fronted bands that came out of the U.S. in the 80's, and one of the first to come out of California. The only founding member being its female singer, Ann Boleyn, it released a self-titled debut EP that is a mishmash of good songs, and at least one song that's incredibly cliched.

I'll get said cliched song out of the way first. "Looking for a Good Time". What. A. Stupid. Stupid. Song. I get that we could expect some metal bands at that time to produce songs like this, but I just can't seem to ignore the peppy and upbeat atmosphere it conveys. It's also the first track on the B side of the record, so if you put it on the turntable on that side without looking at the label hoping to hear some pretty ripping sounds, you'd be horrified to hear something that you'd think would be more appropriate for a "Back to the 80's" party that your mom's book club is hosting. Ann Boleyn has more of a growling, aggressive voice, so it doesn't quite fit well with the song. The only good thing about it is that there's no synthesizers on it, so at least that will make it a lot easier to listen to. Still, that sing-along chorus that expects us to sing along with it only pours salt into the wounds of those who want something like a much better song on this EP, like "Backstabber".

That song, despite being somewhat cliched like "Looking for a Good Time", actually has more of an aggressive edge to it. That's the kind of song that I'd expect the abrasiveness of Boleyn's vocals to go well with. It's also kinda speedy in the sense that it carries a semi-aggressive pace. I guess it's the best track on the EP, for the other songs are good, but they can't get anywhere close to being as good as "Backstabber". "Don't Take No (For an Answer)" kinda has that aggressive edge that "Backstabber" has, but it's at a more commercial-sounding tempo, thus dulling its edge. I gotta be a little critical on the backing vocals, though. I mean they sound like a bunch of drunken bachelors singing karaoke, and when they sing the chorus of "Don't Take No (for an Answer)", they sound a lot less energetic than Boleyn's more powerful pipes. "Driving Hard (for You)" is supposed to be a ballad, but it kinda falls flat, since it seems to be extremely boring. It's basically the same style of aggression that the other songs have, but the guitars are somewhat lighter. It's music great to be used as a sleep aid, if anything.

To be fair, Hellion had just gotten started, and the very, very first release unto the general public is bound to have some glaring flaws. Such is the case with this EP. Hellion actually did improve in their music, as their subsequent releases have been very, very powerful, if not more commercial in some respects. This EP, however, is to be expected from a band of newbies, which is pretty much what Hellion was at that time.

Nothing says 'wake me when it's over' like cliches - 24%

Gutterscream, June 16th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1983, 12" vinyl, Bongus Lodus

Ann Boleyn has a few claims to fame - deejaying for KROQ FM, Hellion, New Renaissance Records, and being a be'otch (the last having been confirmed by many). Despite the last comment, she’s contributed quite a bit to the scene, enough so that it’d be difficult (and kinda ignorant) to leave her off a list of people who’re almost hall ‘o fame material…quite almost. Sure, New Renaissance never claimed that stratospherically adored band and Hellion barely got a hundred feet off the ground, but when compared to all the people in the scene who couldn’t (and didn't) dent balsa wood with a bazooka with their offerings, it could be said she took the bull by the horns.

I don’t know if Hellion ever actually lived up to its moniker. A song like “Amnesia” off ‘91’s The Black Book is ten times more unruly and rakish than any single song born on this ep, and combining all their might probably couldn’t uproot it from the spot, but we’re talking eight years here. Eight years to witness metal’s miraculous growth in savage strength that in ’83 may have seemed like an enraged pie fight made frightening by a few extra-ornery bands marauding with baseball bats. Eight years or no, these songs are indeed lemon marang.

Paced with light rock appeal, lustless and limp “Don’t Take No (for an Answer)”, pop-scented “Lookin’ for a Good Time”, and head-lilting “Driving Hard” have quite a bit of AOR presence, the whole affair almost twirling around the cotton candy wind machine if the guy at the cart doesn’t fall asleep first, and are saved to a point by “Backstabber” and its narrowly dynamic, fairly energetic “Live Wire”/Crue streak of light speed. By this date, all this including “Backstabber” had been done to fermentation – the anthem-y, open air rock riffs, rhythmic structures already slaughtered by ’79, tired-eyed backing vocals that would've sounded more comfortable on a Bad Company record, uninteresting lyrical sleaze – a barrage of clichés running amok. ‘Queen’ Boleyn herself isn’t anything to write home about, underpowered and under produced compared to loudmouths Wendy O Williams, Betsy Bitch and even Jody Turner over in Rock Goddess. She’d jazz things up over time, though.

As quite a bit of time ticked by between this s/t opus and the more capable Screams in the Night, most people lost track of Hellion and their four-tracker that barely brushes against the getting winded second British invasion, probably the only half-mast salute I can throw this yawner even if it may have moistened this dry piece of meat. Music For Nations would re-release this in the same year with two extra tracks, a pair of tunes I never bothered to check out. I'm sure I'm not missing much.