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The Wraith - 86%

Tanuki, June 15th, 2017

Let's all don our white sports coats and iridescent aviators, hop into our Chrysler Cordoba, support Pablo Escobar's business endeavors from betwixt a bosom, and listen to some Racer X. 80's to the point of nausea for the uninitiated, Street Lethal is as gnarly as it is dudical, as kickin' as it is the bombdiggety. If none of this is giving you a clear indication of what you're in for, you can view this album as an exhaustive test to see how many fretboard smoldering steroids can be injected into hair metal's buttcheek.

With the power of young guitar prodigy Paul Gilbert behind the wheel, Racer X managed to get off to a flying start. Their rabid fanbase was in awe of Gilbert's extreme shredding, and it wasn't long until he was sharing magazine space with the guitarist who influenced him - none other than Mr. Malmsteen himself. Gilbert acknowledges this influence as unequivocally as the track 'Y.R.O (Yngwie Rip-Off)', but in an amusing case of turnabout, one could argue Street Lethal's brilliant fusing of neoclassical and hair metal would later become the inspiration for Malmsteen's superb Odyssey and Eclipse albums.

So the warp-speed shredder Paul Gilbert is the star of the Racer X show, as you may have guessed from their logo, and as such, he's given ample spotlight. The unadulterated, unmoderated shredding sessions like the aforementioned 'Y.R.O' and 'Frenzy' are a good place to start looking, but it's the title track where Gilbert really shows off his technical precision to its maximum. It's difficult to come across overstatement when regarding the sheer speed of Gibert's squealy pinch harmonics and low tremolo picking.

But as I'm sure Gilbert receives plenty of fan-mail, I'll turn my compliments to the more unsung members of Racer X, particularly the velvety pipes of Jeff Martin. Longtime friend of Rob Halford and backing vocalist for Turbo, of all things, Martin is an extraordinarily underrated singer who can commit to falsetto with ease and reach some impressively high notes in the process. Like the rest of the band, he performs best during the faster tracks like 'Loud and Clear' and the disgustingly catchy 'Rock It'.

Sadly, and perhaps inevitably when considering this band's location, there's the usual dosage of soppy glam filler to wade through. 'Into the Night' is a clutch-depressing downshift after the whirlwind of a title track, and 'Getaway' is an overproduced turd between the curvaceous buttocks 'Dangerous Love' and 'Rock It'. Wholly forgettable and little more than a flirtatious wink toward radio rock, 'Getaway' can be praised only for its brevity.

But Street Lethal still deserves every ounce of its praise, and the cherry on top is its glorious production. Just as one can't exaggerate Paul Gilbert's shredding, Steve Fontano is the patron saint of speed metal who's mixed and engineered almost every single one of my favorite neoclassical shredfests to a level of unprecedented refinement: Perpetual Burn, Infra-Blue, Speed Metal Symphony, I could go on and on. But one album at a time, right?

a real shred-fest - 85%

Superreallycool, October 8th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1990, CD, Roadracer Records

They're called Racer X, implying that it's a band, but really this is Paul Gilbert and his backing band. Not to say this is all about Paul's guitar playing. Although that is the central theme here, there are more than enough moments for the other members, and there are even vocals. This is a guitarist's album disguised as a normal album, if that makes sense.

The songs here are decent enough in composition, and this is more than a bit surprising. Gilbert's shredding is the point of this album, but there are real songs behind that shredding which makes the album appeal to even those who don't play guitar or really appreciate the technical skill Gilbert possesses. That being said, if you DO play guitar you'll enjoy this record much, much more, because you understand the talent and hard work that went into this record. The songs here are mostly guitar showcases, disguised as catchy 80's speed metal. For the most part, it works quite well.

Outside of Gilbert, the rest of the band is fairly average, but they get the job done. Jeff Martin provides vocals, and while not noteworthy, are fine for what this is. Harry Gschoesser provides fairly impressive drums, but not impressive enough to distract from Paul Gilbert. John Alderete is on bass, and there really isn't much I can say about him. He gets the job done, nothing more and nothing less, but I feel that his presence is kinda wasted. If they were going to write real songs, they could have at least made the bass matter a little.

The title track and "Hotter than Fire" are songs that really stuck out to me. They are legitimately catchy and well written, which for an album who's reason to exist is simply to show off Paul Gilbert's fret work, this is a welcome surprise. Neither of them are songs I find myself switching my iPod on and selecting to listen to on their own, but they're good enough I'll hum them for a day or two after listening to the album. In my mind, that's what makes Paul Gil- sorry, Racer X stick out in my mind compared to, let's say, Steve Vai and the many other guitar virtuosos.

It's not the Blood on the Track of guitar virtuoso music, but it's a nice slab of good song writing and immense skill. If you like metal and you find this album for cheap, I totally recommend picking it up. But if you're an aspiring guitarist, this album is a near mandatory listen.

A Mandatory Shred-fest - 73%

DawnoftheShred, October 28th, 2008

Anybody who plays guitar in a serious metal band should know who Paul Gilbert is. One of the many shredders that emerged in the late 80’s post-Malmsteen rock/metal world, Gilbert’s ridiculous displays of technique have kept him revered to this day, alongside such master-class guitarists as Michael Angelo Batio and Jason Becker. Before going solo his band was Racer X. Street Lethal was their debut. This is my review of it.

Fans of impressive guitar technique can stop reading right now and just go out and buy the damn thing, because Gilbert’s playing is not at all overrated. Recorded when he was just 19 years old, Street Lethal is filled to the brim with outrageous displays of two-handed tapping, speed picking, legato runs, and sweep arpeggios, not to mention string-skipping (a maneuver Gilbert is widely credited with pioneering). His playing often calls to mind Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen: both in his actual lick predilection and the endless imitators he’s spawned. George Lynch, Reb Beach, etc etc etc. Those hacks never even approached the pedestal.

But one thing his pop-metal imitators did occasionally manage to do was to put together an actual catchy song or two. After all, an album of just shredding would get pretty old pretty fast. So it’s a damn good thing that Street Lethal isn’t just the Paul Gilbert show. Though he takes the spotlight more often than not, there are still other things going on, notably the Racer X rhythm section of Harry Gschoesser on drums and the occasionally brilliant bass of John Alderete. The overall sound is a cross between the energetic power metal of early Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and the straightforward songs that a band like Loudness would crank out. Few really stand out due to vocalist Jeff Martin’s generic delivery, but you won’t find anything offensive on this record either. The Van Halen-esque “Rock It” is probably my favorite tune of the bunch, though there are other worthy moments ("Y.R.O." (Yngwie Rip Off) is pretty impressive).

If you listen to 80’s metal, you’ve probably heard plenty of songs like these before, but probably not coupled with the lead work that Street Lethal sports. And hey, if you like anything from Dokken, Loudness, Accept, Riot, or Ratt, you’ll probably like this as well.

Hotter than fire, and on the loose - 93%

Danthrax_Nasty, February 8th, 2005

First off, this isnt just another album, this is 80's-ed out Paul Gilbert playing some fucking great tunes, seemingly structured perfectly around this mans ability to shred his fingers bloody (so to say), and loaded with great leads, harmonies, runs, and solos. Now I'm not saying that the other members arent talented, take the singer for instance (who was/is in bands such as Leather Wolf, and Surgical Steel, both very competant bands by the way) whom fills each track with awesome harmonized chorus', and glass shattering (well maybe not that high pitched, but you get the point) high wails.

There seems to be a good variety of songs here, rangeing from speed metal riffs, to those Rockingly awesome 80's heavy metal tracks, to thrash metal, and just lots of other similiar type musical ideas. The guitars, on nearly every song, seem to have great tone, and production values, but I guess you gotta expect that from a true guitar virtuoso. Now, one complaint might be that the guitar tone, distortion, and such dont really change up much ( i.e. not giving each song a fully independent feel), but I dont find a problem with that at all, as I think it helps keep a good solid level of continuity through out, ... some might not though.

The lyrics are interesting enough, some better then others, but overall each song was layed out very well, and everything is tight, and clear. Great production, especially the back up vocals, and vocal effects, everything seems to me to be layered perfectly. Also should note that the singers voice is just great, and very powerfull, leading each verse, and chorus in a way only heard in the times it was done (for the most part anyhow).

Not a whole to be said of the bass, all the parts sound good, and everything played extremely tight, so no complaints here at all. The drums though, are just fucking awesome. Some might know him (Harry Gschoesser) from the Austrian heavy metal band No Bros. A very fluid player, just right there on all the fills, and crashes. Really just an awesome drummer ,... period.

Overall, if you like 80's metal in the slightly cheesey, rebelious vein, that also has nothing shy of supperior guitar musicianship, and form then this is for you.