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Battle Queen 1986: The Prequel. - 80%

hells_unicorn, February 19th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1986, CD, Mercenary Records

Though the history of Germany's unsung 80s metal hero project Victory traces its roots back as far as the mid-70s and originally set their sights on the metal world with their eponymous 1985 debut, the true mythology of this third way project in a German heavy metal world dominated by Accept and Scorpions would not wholly manifest itself until a year later when their riveting and commercially successful sophomore outing Don't Get Mad...Get Even first hit store shelves. Though not a total musical dead end with no relevance beyond the arenas of 30 plus years past, the original incarnation of this outfit was more an exercise in retreading 70s orthodoxy as established by AC/DC and Van Halen, dressed up in a post-NWOBHM AOR gloss. This all changed when longtime guitarist from the Fargo days John Lockton exited the fold and was replaced by none other than master head-cutter Herman Frank, fresh off a brief stint with Accept that culminated in their most iconic studio offering Balls To The Wall. With this veritable metallic force on the six-string trading riffs and leads with Tommy Newton and sporting an album cover featuring a gun-toting Amazonian brunette that's a dead-ringer for 90s B-cinema queen Julie Strain, the metal program of this Hannover outfit was poised for a major upgrade.

Naturally the caveat that this is an album that is lyrically stuck in the corniest of 80s glam cliche should be kept in mind, as can be gleaned simply by looking at the song titles. That being said, the collective musical picture is one that leans a bit closer to the early offerings of W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister than the outright Def Leppard meets AC/DC lovefest that was the last album. Most of this lay in the heavier riff set that emerges from behind Charlie Huhn's over-the-top, sleaze-infused vocal gymnastics, having more of a Judas Priest root to the riff work that is undoubtedly the result of Herman Frank's involvement. Naturally there are still some pretty blatant remnants of the previous album on display here that presents sort of a dueling musical paths or fork in the road where most of the album leans towards Frank's Accept days and a sizable minority wants to trade blows with Def Leppard's Pyromania again. This is perhaps best represented in the easy-going semi-ballad "Arsonist Of The Heart", which almost sounds like it's predicting the sound of the aforementioned band's 1987 commercial smash Hysteria, save with fancier lead guitar detailing. The same basic story emerges on the more than a mouthful titled "Seven Days Without You Makes One Week", classic Def Leppard styled, bluesy rocking arena fare to the core, not to mention the almost Boston-like melodic romp "She's Back", which almost sounds like the missing link between Don't Look Back and High 'N' Dry.

All that being said, the rocking side of this album works well despite the cringe-worthy song titles and lyrics, but takes a major backseat to the purely metallic offerings that dominate the race. Kicking things off on a very high note is a sort of corny yet witty rock radio anthem meets a homage to Judas Priest's "You've Got Another Thing Coming" dubbed "The Check's In The Mail", which also served as this band's first stand alone hit single. Another fairly mid-paced yet heavy hitting riff monster emerges in "Not Me" that is maybe a tad less catchy, but is loaded to the brim with iconic Herman Frank styled guitar brilliance that rivals the screaming goodness of Vivian Campbell's run with Dio. But things truly kick into high gear with a trifecta of fast-paced numbers in "Are You Ready" that reminds a fair bit of the W.A.S.P.'s "I Wanna Be Somebody", the double-kick infused nod to Defenders Of The Faith with an Accept edge "Hit And Run", and the aptly titled and menacing cruiser "Running Wild". Even when the band takes a break from the fast-living and loving subjects for an aside to put the censorship police and MTV on notice via the rebellious anthem "Turn It Up", the riff work has a clear Accept vibe to it that melds perfectly with the Def Leppard mannerisms inherent to Huhn's vocals and the massive drum sound.

For the modern neophyte that can't be bothered to differentiate between the metallic edge of W.A.S.P. and the hokey glam rock character of acts like Poison and Cinderella, an album like this may prove musically confusing to an extent, or perhaps even a validation of grouping the former with the rest given that in addition to toting the stereotypical image associated with the latter, the words that hang over the music are all but a dead-ringer for them. This should not cause the old school metal head who may be wary of or otherwise not crazy about the latter day glam rock outfits to pass this album up, as musically it is about as compelling as the iconic early NWOBHM offerings of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Demon and several others. One of the things that ultimately separates the metal world from the sad, talentless black hole of 90s Grunge culture is an ability to focus on the good times as well as the bad, and though this album offers up something that is generally interchangeable with the lyrical pursuits of Scorpions albums of the day, it provides a fairly clear cut musical alternative to both said band and Accept in the musical department where the light-hearted character of the former can coexist with the harder-hitting edge of the latter. One might be tempted to hit the skip button a time or two in order to avoid the outright 80s glam fodder, but overall this is a solid slab of 80s metallic goodness that stands up to the passage of three decades quite well..