Lizzy Borden - Give em the Axe EP Review
So this will be the beginning of a series of reviews that I will be doing, focusing on Heavy Metal releases that have slipped through the cracks or have been long since forgotten. Along with some classics to flesh it out. I want to explore the nether regions of metal in the way that punk historians explore punk or the way horror fans explore b-films, with an enthusiasm for the raw, bodgy and under sung heroes of the underground. This is in part a reaction to top 10 lists and people ranking albums from best to worst. I don’t care about what's the best anymore, It’s all been talked about enough and we’ve all heard Dark Side of the Moon and Rumours before I want to explore stuff that's not necessarily the best but is interesting nonetheless.
The first review is the debut release of LA Heavy Metal Band Lizzy Borden named after the infamous young girl of the same name who in 1894, (if the myths are to be believed) killed both her parents with an axe, however, she was never convicted and lived in her parents house with the maid for the rest of her days, but the young girl and her cold remorseless expression is burnt into our collective consciousness. The Lizzie Borden story has become an American legend who even has nursery rhymes sung about her.
"Lizzie Borden Took an axe gave her mother forty wacks When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one"
Did she really kill her parents with an axe? I guess it will always remain a mystery!
Anyway, with that in mind, picture the impact on American audiences when Lizzy Borden hit the stage in leather and makeup with an axe in hand screaming "give em the axe." Honestly, this sort of stuff gives me an erection like seeing a church on fire. With the most over the top Heavy Metal Band, he could put together Lizzy Borden was a shocking force to be reckoned with in 1984 when this first EP came out.
The band had been signed to the newly established Metal Blade records and the EP was produced by the company founder Brian Slagel who had worked with Bitch and would go on to work with Slayer, Armoured Saint and Mercyful Fate and many of the albums I will be covering in this series. But apparently, Lizzy hated how it sounded and it was sent off to Ron Fair for the final mix. Ron would work with Brian again on Slayers Hell awaits but he would end up taking a much more conventional career path and went on to produce the soundtracks for many commercial films and produced artists such as Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Carlton, Black Eyed Peas and the Pussycat Dolls. Yes, that's right kids one of the engineers working on Hell Awaits also worked with Pussycat Dolls.
So while the production is not as big as what we expect from metal these days or how Lizzy Borden would end up sounding with a bit more studio experience, it is sturdy and solid enough to get the point across. I love how this record sounds as it has a bit of character. It's bitey without being too harsh and it's got a savage attack to it.
Check out this interview where Lizzy talks about how he hated the recordings originally.
As soon as you hit play you know you’re in for a solid old school metal attack, the opening track is just the kind of music that makes you want to clench your fist and bang your head and maybe even kill your parents. Big head banging riffs over Joey Scott Harges pounding drums that have that perfect balance between metal and rock drumming that I love about 80’s metal. Mike Davis’s bass locks in tightly with the drums for the most part with just a tasteful little fill here and there while Lizzy dances around the beat like a mad jester, just a bit maniacal and on the edge, I kinda like it.
The second song kiss of death opens with a gallop, Gene Allen and Tony Matuzaks dual guitar textures open the song with majesty but are quickly stripped back for the verse to let a subtle lyric melody shine through, it makes you stop and listen to the lyrics more, I dig the vibe of this song and it is very indicative of what Lizzy Borden would go on to sound like on subsequent albums.
No time to lose is a little less memorable than the first two songs for me personally, it does have a faster pace and should kick a bit more ass, but overall it's less dynamic and interesting than the first two songs. The lead section is still very nice, it has pounding drums throughout and lyrically it's a little bit interesting, dealing with betrayal and lust. This feels like an early look at the kind of obsessive lyrical themes Lizzy would go on to be known for.
The final song is a cover of the Rainbow Classic “Long live Rock n’ Roll” Its a good metalized version of the song and sounds very American which is not a bad thing but for me when the chorus kicks in it doesn’t really kick in hard enough and it just makes me wish I was listening to Dio Sing it. It’s not bad, I like it, it’s just a bit of a letdown and kinda unnecessary. It’s interesting too because they’d recorded demo the year before with many of the tracks that would end up on the debut ‘album so they could have put save me, psychopath or American metal on this EP but I guess there was the idea floating around back then that maybe you could get a big hit off a metal cover of a rock classic and there are many examples of that from around this time, some are worse than others. This is not bad, just kinda unnecessary.
All in all, this is a fantastic release from a band starting out, on a label starting out, by producer’s who were starting out that has still held up pretty well and made an impact on heavy metal culture for better or worse. If you're into classic metal this EP is Shay Shay Recommended.