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One step ahead, two back, it's the Legend shuffle - 73%

Gutterscream, November 15th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1982, 12" vinyl, Workshop Records (Limited edition)

“…the people are butchered, we all stand and watch…”

This is where things kinda went sour.

When I first heard this ep, I would’ve bet serious money it was recorded somewhere between the debut and Death in the Nursery. It’s a perfect amalgam of ‘70s hard rock lost in early metal’s wilderness and the confirmation that something more promising can be heard through the trees – basically the exact, yet gradual limbo one would expect to hear bridging the two releases. Nope. Instead, Frontline throws expectations into a tailspin. The clamp holding the train together is in reality holding the caboose, and unless you were an undying fan of the debut, everything Legend had built up with their follow-up suddenly deflated like a balloon with a whiny leak. Hey, wait a minute, are the band members…?…yep, the same line-up. Damn, can’t even chalk it up to that.

I felt real disappointment with the discovery of this timeline. When it was a mere link to the albums, the ep’s resonance, as late for the dance as it sounded, was a welcome reminder of the group’s early subordination, as well as a calm before the storm. As the band’s final act of vinyl, well, you already know about the balloon. Within moments of the ep’s birth, corruption of the Death in the Nursery-forced momentum is palpable, often sounding akin to average Demon or gentler Crucifixion (UK) that has been molested and strewn naked over half the bands featured on Ebony’s Metal Fatigue sampler. For a refresher course, Hot Wire, Schell Shock, Strontium Dog, and J.D. Band are the mighty groups that barely survive there.

Of all the songs, “Open up the Skies” is most relevant to the second album, bustling along with a choppy, simple rhythm that’s actually pretty bass-heavy, meanwhile Peter Haworth fingertaps his way into one of his many lively solos that have become a high point on these discs. Second in line is the title cut, interestingly stop-gapped like DITN’s wonderful “Choices”, but the main riff charges slowly like a minor Keel riff. Nothing a jolt of needed speed couldn’t cure, but for us there’s no jolt in sight.

The two remaining tracks are by no means on the same page. “Stormers of Heaven” isn’t a bad song with its chorus that soars majestically just out of reach, but is a little too undercover fiscal rock for me to fully enjoy. At the other end, “Sabra & Chatila” stands as a drear-induced ballad completely bereft of love tones. Visions of Dokken’s future casually downcast “Alone Again” groans with lyrics more story-like and brutal (see the blurb at the top) while a brooding solo moans the dirge’s fading finish.

Okay, in truth maybe this poor four-tracker isn’t the most debilitated Legend could’ve sounded. But I’d still like to know…what happened? Why the regression? Why backflip to insecure 1980 when ’83 seemed to foretell a chance to slightly fry Maiden’s buns with their own game? Well, with Death in the Nursery fresh off the cutter, I can only fathom that either contracts somehow weren’t offered or the deals proffered weren’t as glowing as anticipated. And maybe they thought reaching back to their roots for a safer sound would give them label asylum. Well, maybe if hindsight was blind.

The frontline is the easiest place to get your ass shot off, and Legend pretty much waved its butt in the air.