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Searching forever, lost in the music - 68%

EvinJelin, November 16th, 2017

OK. I know I said I didn't like this album very much, but I think it's time to listen to it again and explain my problems (and what I do like about it). I have mellowed out on Meanstreak's only full-length album, so this won't be too much of a ranting review, but I still have some issues with it, and I need some time to explain them.

Because I have a lot to say about this album. It is clearly not a forgettable little record made without any effort. In fact, on a technical level, it's quite good. The production is very clean, though not too much for a metal record. But it's really the guitars and the vocals that stand out. Bettina has this clear and powerful heavy metal type of voice that I really like, and on every song, she's giving all she's got, to makes us believe every emotion expressed by the lyrics. As for the guitars, well, that's something ! Well played, heavy, energetic, some wild solos and some nice riffs, like the thrash metal of "Roadkill" and the metal snake charmer type riff of "Snakepit".

So I'll try to explain what I don't like… Some time ago, I thought I didn't like the rest of the album because it was not like the title track. The somewhat less angry heavy/power metal seemed dull compared to the thrash metal song about accidentally running over someone (if that's what it's about. We'll get to the lyrics later). Now, I'd say that this isn't the main problem anymore, but it does play a part. "Roadkill" isn't just the heaviest song, it's also the most coherently written with the most memorable riff. The rest of the album often sounds like the band isn't sure where they are going. They start with a somewhat promising (or at least, not so dull I immediately want to stop the song) intro, and then do nothing with it, and just mess around with some barely memorable music and overwrought singing.

Speaking of that, it will seems odd to call this a bad thing for a metal album, but I think the songs are too.. loud and obnoxious ? Bad metal can be dull, but it can also be too loud without a purpose or a particularly good melody and coherently written songs. On the album's worst moment (though as I said previously, there are some good moments), there is no memorable music, and you're just left with a song that goes nowhere, lyrics you don't care about and the singer constantly yelling in your ear.

Let's just clarify what I mean by over singing: I usually love heavy metal singers with a big belting voice, I don't consider it over-singing as long as it doesn't bother met. But Bettina's delivery is often so over the top that it becomes a little annoying, not to mention kind of unnatural. The repetitiveness of some choruses (especially on "It Seems to Me") doesn't help.

The songs often have an air of "trying too hard to be edgy". The title track is heavier than the rest, starts with something about finding roadkill, them goes into something incomprehensible about war flashbacks and "mankind's distorted view frying on the grill". "Lost Stranger" is the softest song on the album, and it still includes lines like "I wrap you up in barbed wire" and "I wanna put you in your place, you slapped me in the face". "Snakepit" and "It Seems to Me" also have some forced anger that you don't really understand because there is no context to it. Overall, it tries so hard to be brutal, that it feels a little forced and inauthentic.

And the lyrics sure didn't impress me. Again, the title track isn't a good introduction. It starts with someone who ran over some other person or found some dead animal on the road, it's not clear, and then it becomes the incoherent mess I talked about earlier. The roadkill is supposed to symbolize… I don't even know. I'm not sure if the song is about murder, war, humanity's fascination with violence in general, but I guess it's not a very successful attempt at social commentary. All I understood was these really silly, inexplicable lines like "It's not your mother's chicken dinner lying on your plate" and "It's mankind's distorted view frying on the grill", which I don't even need to comment.

That's not even the only track with questionable lyrics. "Snakepit" and "It Seems to Me" are both about telling someone to get a hold of themselves and stop ruining everything for themselves and others, but you're never told what that person has done, so it just feels like forced anger. It almost feels like the narrator is kicking someone when they're down, and forcing them to listen to that damn "Lost inside, lost inside your mind" chorus. Meanwhile, I couldn't even tell what "The Warning" is about. "Searching Forever" is about being lost and stuck in some place you don't know, where nothing really happens, and it sounds just as boring as this type of situation.

However, not all songs are as incompetently written. "The Congregation" has a good thrash rhythm, and some rather interesting observations about how organized religion manipulates us. It's a good song, that's a shame it comes at the end of the album after so many mediocre tracks. "Lost Stranger" has a good melody and isn't trying too hard to be heavy. I also like the lyrics about a dysfunctional relationship that the narrator sort of accepts, then decides to end. In a way, it almost sounds like an update of an old bluesy song about a messed up relationship.

And even though I've complained about their lyrics, I still think "Roadkill" and "Snakepit" are among the best songs of the album. The title track is definitely the best written (musically), and "Snakepit" isn't too bad or incoherent either, in addition to having some interesting musical ideas. There are some pretty good songs on this album, but for the rest, I have to admit that I just don't really "get" Meanstreak.

So yeah, I'm probably one of the few people (and there are already not many who have heard of this band) who don't really like Meanstreak. I admit that the band has some talent and there are many good things on this album. It isn't really THAT bad. But there are some problems I can't ignore. Not all the songs are equally good, the band rarely puts the same effort into their songwriting, the lyrics are often too clumsy for their own good and include some outright bad lines. So, listen to the good songs if you're interested, but stay away from the rest.

Lost In The Sky - 89%

HeavenDuff, December 6th, 2012

Meanstreak was a thrash metal band who released one and only one full-length album in the late 80's then a demo in 1989 and another one in 1992. Forgive me if I don't know much about the back story, but it can't see any good reason for a band with such a strong debut album quitting the scene. The same fate hit another great thrash metal band known as Morbid Saint. Both band released masterpieces as their debut album in 1988 and disappeared just as them came. Morbid Saint's Spectrum of Death seems to get all the recognition it deserves. It is praised as one of the best thrash metal albums ever released by quite a few metalheads. Meanstreak's Roadkill kind of stayed of the radars a lot. These girls get a little attention every once in a while because of the relationships between some of the musicians of the band with musicians from Dream Theater and also because it's an all female band. These little trivialities seem to shadow the actual work put on the record. First of, Dream Theater doesn't have anything to do with this record and should therefore never be mentioned when discussing the actual musical content. Second of, the fact that this is an all-women band should in no way affect the listener's perception of the music because these women proves with their musicianship and quality song-writing that they don't rely on sexual factors to be successful. Forming the band with just women in the line-up doesn't feel like a commercial move as what you would find with bands like Kittie.

These trivilialities aside, we can now jump into the music itself. This album is absolutely insane! It's not just great, it's an underrated classic. Which just brings back the same question in my mind : "Why did Morbid Saint stood out so much and not Meanstreak ?" Well, like I said before the fun facts about the band may have shadowed the actual work. The title track kicks in with a solid drumline and tight as fuck guitar riff. Bettina France's vocals set the tone after just a few seconds of what is to come with this record. As the second riff kicks in, the powerful vocals, strong thrash metal guitars, dirty low bass and heavy drums are leading this record 120mph toward a successful record.

The other tracks all follow-up perfectly from there, and with enough uniqueness and creativity in every single one of them to keep the listener interested throughout the whole album. Searching Forever for example is slower-paced track that comes in right after Roadkill. Less focus on the guitars here... they play a cool rhythm riff to support the vocals. Which is great, really. Bettina France's vocals are powerful and do not need much support to shine. Having variety in which musician takes the front of the stage throughout the album makes the album Roadkill even more of a great album.

With the exception of Snake Pit, which I think is the weakest track on the album, the tracks are all memorable enough for me to consider this album a thrash metal classic. Nostradamus, It Seems to Me and the sublime Lost Stranger all have enough hooks, great vocals, great lead and rhythm guitars leading you through hard hitting and well written choruses and verses. The drums keep punching right at the perfect places, bringing great support to the whole album especially during the chorus of It Seems to Me :

"Lost inside - lost inside your mind
When you find yourself you're a million miles away
Lost inside - lost inside your mind
After all these years you know there’s nothing left to say"

The highest point of the album comes with Lost Stranger. A fast-paced and quite short track that pretty makes the listener realise by then that he or she has just found a forgotten gem.

Falling a little short under 35 minutes in length, this album is a little too short. Especially with such aggressive, well-produced, well-written and so fucking well-performed trash metal effort, you are just left there craving for more. Roadkill is the kind of album that makes you want to take out all of your old-school thrash metal and hard rock records and go back in the 70's and the 80's. Meanstreak's girls managed to retain both the great elements of late 70's hard rock and make them fit in with old-school thrash metal riffs. As thrash metal legends Metallica were releasing ...and Justice for All, and Megadeth, So Far, So Good...So What! this little piece of work know as Roadkill went pretty much unnoticed. It sure didn't help that the band only released one full-length album. But it is now time to spread the word so forgotten old-school metal classics can be rediscovered by younger metalheads.

Feminine grit and anger. - 83%

hells_unicorn, February 23rd, 2011

Metal is often derided as being a chauvinistic style of music, despite all of the examples to the contrary going back to its height in popularity in the late 80s. But Meanstreak present the strongest refutation of this false sentiment by going into probably the nearly all men’s sub-genre of thrash metal and actually end up doing it somewhat better than several of their competitors. Their efforts yielded this lone studio offering “Roadkill”, which garnered some short term interest, but had since become an afterthought in the minds of most amid some gradual realignment going on in the genre and the very old school, USPM tendencies it has. But some interest has returned in recent years, which may eventually result in a reissue, we can only hope.

From a purely stylistic perspective, this is heavily informed by the mid 80s sound of Overkill, Flotsam And Jetsam, and to somewhat of a lesser extent, Metal Church. The songs range from being high speed to moderately up tempo with an archaic, melodic sense amongst the riffs and melody that is more informed by the NWOBHM influences still being carried by those bands, as opposed to the extreme chromatic tendencies of Slayer and the gritty punk tendencies of Anthrax (though some comparisons could be made to their first 2 albums). It’s performed quite well in spite of being maybe a year or two behind the cutting edge of the genre’s evolution, and features a quality vocal display that walks a fine line between Belladonna’s squeaky clean approach and Blitz Ellsworth’s maniacal howl.

While a bit old school, the amount of options available in this style are actually a bit greater given a lack of slavishness to speed and sheer aggression, and Meanstreak fully capitalizes on this from one song to the next. The opening title song is a proto-typical speed monster with a few gang choruses here and there, almost as if Anthrax and Overkill got together and decided running down Debbie Gibson fan-girls for a few laughs. “Snake Pit” mixes in some Mid-Eastern influences, including some auspicious guitar references to “The Snake Charmer” melodic that come in and out, and largely grooves at a mid-paced crunch not all that dissimilar from “Shout At The Devil”. There are even some more Iron Maiden-like melodic gallopers in “Nostradamus” and “Searching Forever”, and also a more Motörhead oriented speed rocker in “The Warning” for those who liked the mix approach typical to middle of the road bands in the Metal Church vain.

In spite of a few east coast thrash outfits being able to hold on through the changing musical landscape of the 90s, this band was not able to keep up the their output and disappeared after a couple of demos failed to garner further interest. Today this is a band that is sought after by old school fanatics, but often pigeonholed as being that band that has members married to guys in Dream Theater. While a bit on the short side, this is an album that does more than simply getting the job done, particularly with the impressive lead displays and versatile songwriting. It’s time to start tearing apart those backwater CD exchanges again, and with this quarry will come the added delight of shutting up a few politically correct pansies who think that metal is only for testosterone-heavy teenaged males.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 23, 2011.

Hairspray and hatred, estrogen optional - 72%

autothrall, September 24th, 2010

The first time I heard the debut Roadkill from New York's all female street thrash outfit Meanstreak, I admit I thought that the members of Overkill had stepped through some strange gender bending machine and emerged as lethal vixens, so similar is the sound, but when you really dig deeper, small differences begin to emerge. For example, vocalist Bettina France's style often veers more into the territory of Eric A.K. Knutson of Flotsam & Jetsam, with the exception that she's got a better chance at an effective range. The guitars also take the occasional tangent, as you can hear both a classical and classic rock influence in the playing of Marlene Apuzzo and Rena Sands.

For the most part, though, the initial half of the record bounces between two poles: Overkill and Flotsam & Jetsam. The album's title track opener sounds like it could have appeared on Taking Over, with a savage burst of violent speed, France's vocals just as much reminiscent of an asylum escapee as Bobby Blitz. The guitars pack in some decent fills, and though the bridge at times seems sloppy, the lead itself is magnificent while it lasts. "Searching Forever" strides down a mid-paced power metal path, drawing slight comparisons to an Omen or Fates Warning, while "Snake Pit", despite the occasional unwanted clutter, reminds one of "Hard On You" or some other rock influences piece from Flotsam's "No Place for Disgrace". "Nostradamus" teases at some sorry ballad, but then turns around and delivers another solid, pumping power metal atmosphere with some thrash breaks.

After this, Meanstreak suddenly begin to broaden their horizons. "It Seems to Me" brings in a Maiden influence, especially the verses that dance in and out of the initial, melodic thrust, whereas "Lost Stranger" is almost pure Judas Priest or Steppenwolf worship, with a rock groove in the verse and extremely basic chord composition. "The Warning" dives back into the power/thrash mayhem, fusing it with a straight up metal attitude. The rhythm section works hard here, the bass of Lisa Martens Pace popping off and Diane Keyser's fills a real highlight. Closer "The Congretation" takes yet another turn, opening with a volley of technical thrash and then surging to what might be the most aggressive riff on the entire album. The middle of the track slows to some grooves and unusual percussion like gongs and woodblocks, and judging by the 7 minute length, this was obviously the 'epic' of the record.

Meanstreak is rarely spoken of anymore, despite the buzz they once had here on the East Coast as perhaps the first 'serious' all girl thrash metal band. Obviously the gender played into their popularity, since the genre was so male-dominated (always has been), but let's make no mistake about it, this is no gimmick band. Girls can give the thrash as good as they've gotten it, and Roadkill is but one shred of evidence. The debut isn't perfect, and in truth it can feel a little scatterbrained. It's also pissed off, serious and shows a wealth of potential despite the obvious sources that have influenced the style. Sadly, the band is best known now for the three members that married guys from Dream Theater. Judging by how wussy they make their husbands' music seem by comparison, I think we all know who is on top wearing the pants.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

An intriguing little footnote - 85%

kapitankraut, September 3rd, 2008

On the surface, "Roadkill" could so easily be another entry in the seemingly never-ending list of American thrash albums that made a bit of an impression before seeing the band go nowhere. After all, Meanstreak disbanded after this album and a bit more. Of course, that's only the surface. As with so much in this world, it's what you don't see at first that's quite interesting.

Firstly, all the members of Meanstreak were women. In this day and age, that's perhaps not so surprising, with no end of women fronting metal acts and plodding away on keyboards behind them. In terms of 80s thrash, though, it's a point of reasonable difference, as female singers or musicians tended to be used more as gimmicks than as legitimate musicians or singers at the time (plus ca change, I'm sure some of you are thinking right now). The key difference here, though, is that these girls were actually talented at what they did, rather than simply being thrown together because they could bash out a few riffs and didn't look too bad in a pair of tight jeans.

The second interesting point - and for me, at least, the reason I hunted this album out in the first place - is that three of these girls went on to marry members of Dream Theater. Indeed, Meanstreak apparently supported Dream Theater way back when, which I'm sure would have made for quite an interesting concert experience for fans of either straight-up thrash or prog. It's quite an unusual experience to be able to hear both halves of a musical marriage - and since I have the deepest respect for the husbands in these partnerships, I had to at least give the wives a listen.

So what's the album itself like? Well, as I said earlier, it's straight-up thrash metal with a good helping of melody and occasional (as another reviewer has suggested) NWOBHM influences. In short, every track has moments of being catchy as hell, and the overwhelming majority of the riffs are nicely-crafted ones. Listen for "Snake Pit", which begins with that memorable melody that every single film uses when the action is taking place anywhere from about Egypt to Bangladesh.

The only real drawback is that the songs are all (with the exception of "Congregation", which becomes ever so slightly an NWOBHM mini-epic) very short, generally around the 3-minute mark. On the one hand, this means nothing on this disc outstays its welcome, which is something of a lost art these days. Of course, on the other hand, with tracks this catchy, it's a real shame that we only have about 30 minutes of music to enjoy.

This is, I'm told, one of the rare gems of the 1980s. I can safely add my voice to those calling it that - if you find it, get your hands on it.