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The gleam of polished obscurity in daylight - 86%

Gutterscream, March 24th, 2007
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Relentless

“…it’s early morning and the sun begins to rise. I’ve begun to realize love’s passed me by…”

And time did tell. It said, “You, Villain, will be known as a band that will remain unknown regardless of the professionalism you display, the technical aptitude you convey, and how well you play.” It’s a sad story, one that has ‘add band here’ right in the first paragraph, and this band is somewhere around 4,365th on the list.

The California band features escaped Ruffians/fleeing-to-Vicious Rumors vocalist Carl Albert and bassist Tommy Sisco, the former resting in peace since ’95, a singer whose Tate-ish talent is even more deliberate and dazzling compared to his previous work and consequently should’ve blipped on more fans’ sonar than it has, but more about him later. Things are much brighter musically as well. Whereas the Ruffians ep’s perpetual dark spot was its drafty songwriting, this stronger five-piece caulk up the breezy enclosures with an aural penmanship and vitality the other band couldn’t seem to find an ear for. They boast the classiness of any band out there that’s known for refinement and sophistication in its music, but they’re also malleable enough to shake the place without shattering the associated porcelain elements this style can garner.

Songs like “Kamikaze”, “Thrills in the Night”, and “Kids of Crime” aren’t part of that careful ceramic mold, being threshed with handcrafted hardness, yet with those same hands are nimbly dressed and cringe not in the presence of virtuosity. Quite sturdy and meant to energize the room, but to the big wallet in the sky these aren’t the moneymaking specimens for Billboard. “She’ll Make You Fall (in Love)” is pretty backyard Queensryche, most notable when its gentle piano interlude is erupted by a heavier, vocally backed chorus. Meanwhile heartfelt ballad “Just Close Your Eyes”, an exercise that has become mandatory for chic, white collar releases such as these, is right on target with the ep’s vision of marketability that’s more nearsighted for the band than their farsighted obscurity would lead you to believe. It’s during these two tracks that the band’s soulful fertility is at its peak, ready to pollinate the ears of those looking for ‘the next big thing’, commercially speaking of course.

Even if some members of the group somehow fell beneath the axe of some major label suit, at least the voice of the band could’ve found work transplanted into another radio-ready/worthy act - dangerous, but not unheard of, and whispers of loyalty and the vaunted business/personal shtick become louder, but that’s neither here nor there anymore, ‘cause incidentally and stupid to mention, they never made the money, but damn they could have if their distribution wasn’t the size of a hockey puck.

Queen cover “Tie Your Mother Down” is just as spiffy, well done, and platinum smooth as if Slaughter (the one with the hairspray), Stryper or even Salty Dog had pieced it together, but considering the song’s anthemic sponge bath of a chorus, it’s quite the safe (and boring) choice. Frenetic “Stone Cold Crazy” or the coarse “Ogre Battle” would’ve been more challenging, if not interesting, but hey, I wasn’t there.

Yep, you’d need the world’s fingers and toes to count all of the bands that have tumbled into metal’s forgotten, edge-of-the-property well, and despite some full-lengthers in future decades, Villain’s tumbling starts with this so-called ep’s (seven songs, 30+ minutes) scarcity of release, and they’ve never climbed anywhere except into cult collectibility status. More than likely an ‘A’ paper for power/traditionalist fans who don’t mind radio friendliness, but since I’m not a radio’s buddy, it gets a strong B.