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And in '82, they were under the gun as well - 88%

Gutterscream, July 9th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1982, 12" vinyl, Secret Records

“…can’t you feel the power, it’s all around and deep down inside…”

Twisted Sister. Great name for a band that would visually portray exactly what they were going for. On stage - a homophobic nightmare…a gaggle of ladyboys…the ‘guys’ anyone’s parents warned you about. On the street - walk away…just walk away, not because you’re afraid they’re gonna hit on ya, but because you’re afraid they’re gonna hit ya. One flip of the jacket tells the enigmatic story, and let’s face it, the music scene back then wasn’t quite as hell-bent on shock n’ savvy as it is today, so you still didn’t know what to make of the whole thing. Blame that goofball Boy George all you want, yet Snider snarling into the photo lens on the front doesn’t exactly inspire any touchy-feely moments in my mind, then or now. On the back you’ve got a nonchalant Pero cracking knuckles and a supra-frizzed Mendoza (an ex-animal of The Dictators) standing his ground (and look at those specs, will ya?). It’s a split-screen montage we had no idea would become the Twisted Sister we know and have come to…dare I say love, or is cherish too girly a word to use here?

The musical terrain on Under the Blade is mostly badlands. Yeah I know, you have to drive through a few neighborhoods of cleanly-mowed lawns where hopeful hit “Bad Boys of Rock n’ Roll”, ill-advertised “Shoot ‘em Down”, and Snoozeville mayor and “Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution/The Jack/Ride On/Night Prowler”-wanna be, “Day of the Rocker”, set up house n’ bore the shit outta their neighbors. A title like “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” may come off kinda gooey, but the ‘Sure Can Hurt You’ is a later bonehead addition that isn’t evident on the original lp (and shoulda stayed that way).

After that, however, it’s as craggy n’ virile as almost anything else released in ’82. ‘Run For Your Life”, third up on the lp, despite its crunchy build-up flashes red with Dion & the Belmonts warning signs - “…and he wonders if she wonders that he wonders about her…” – but those signs find immediate death with the end of the next line, and from there we’re force-fed the Judas Priest handle “Sin After Sin” and its bludgeoningly-alpha male chorus that, y’know, even a badass just can’t fuck with. Still not convinced they’re not out there lookin’ for a hairy-handed date? Okay.

The Kiss-able “Destroyer”, stalking with the menace of a god of thunder of a same-named album six years prior, borne of ‘a grand mistake, a mystical charade’, then streaked with a solo that evolves into a scribble of jagged lightning – for my money (and imagination), some of those laughing doubters in those early ‘Nugent rulz’ crowds who may have admitted these guys weren’t half bad despite tattered rainbow garb would have a hard time dismissing this side two-starting slo-mo sledgehammer. Back this clenched fist with a title track that stares Stay Hungry’s dark bruiser “Burn in Hell” dead in the eye and doesn’t blink, as well as turbulent “Tear it Loose” with its breathless, almost non-stop story arc and you’ve got a trio of tracks that do not beat around heaviness’ bush.

Alas, it’s a shame “Day of the Rocker” ends Under the Blade with the fanfare of something circling the blues drainpipe (even if I do snag a lyrical excerpt to head off this review), however I thank my lucky stars n’ garters my first foray into the Sisterland wasn’t the ’84 Atlantic Records pressing which eye-rollingly precedes “DOTR” with the paltry, sounds-like-a-late-‘50s-Neil Sedaka-cover “I’ll Never Grow Up Now” that hardly anyone gives a crap about even today, and the fact it was written & recorded in ’79 does nuthin’ for my usual musical flexibility.

Yeah, not as long and ape-handled as my usual windbag reviews, but with a flagstone like Under the Blade, it’d be like dragging out the eight zillionth critique of Gone With the Wind. Okay, maybe not GWTW, but certainly The Wizard of Oz…or at least another debut-album-before-they-were-princes like Too Fast For Love.

“…you must open up your eyes before you’re burning deep in hell…”