Friday, November 21, 2008

Ladykillers (1986 New Renaissance Records)

New Renaissance Records, the label started by Ann Boleyn of Hellion, put out a lot of compilation albums. In fact, this was their fifth compilation LP, and their sixth LP overall. Unlike the others, however, Ladykillers features exclusively female-fronted artists. Most of them are from California, though a few are from New Jersey and Blacklace is from New York. As someone who really enjoys female vocals in metal, it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite compilations. I’ve chosen to review the cassette version here because it includes two tracks omitted from the vinyl version. All songs are exclusive except where noted.

A second volume was released on CD in 2000.

1. Blacklace – "Speed of Sound": Traditional NY metal, a bit like Riot with tough female vocals. This song is taken from their 1985 Get It While It’s Hot LP. One of the less obscure bands on this compilation.
2. Hellion – "Better Off Dead": Hellion plays a kind of commercial power metal that you often hear from L.A. bands, but with the unique vocals of Ann Boleyn. This was rerecorded for their 1987 Screams in the Night LP.
3. Pantara – "Torn Away": Straight up heavy metal with Ann Wilson like vocals (including an "Ooh" straight out of "Barracuda"). The Ladykillers album was slated to include a second Pantara track called "Nitemares" but I guess it didn’t make the final cut. The all-female quartet would disappear into obscurity again after this.
4. Queen of Hearts – "Sleeping with Dead": Somewhat of a sleazy hard rock song which is saved from mediocrity by a great, catchy chorus.
5. Judy Saiya – "Try Anything": I’ve always loved Stevie Nicks, so it’s great to hear someone with a similar voice singing over something a bit heavier. Only a bit though, as the music is very light hard rock like, say, Femme Fatale.
6. Deep Freeze – "No Last Words": The first of two tracks by Deep Freeze, this was not included on the LP version of Ladykillers. Decent hard rock with some very masculine vocals.
7. The Day After – "Fire": The only real stinker on the album is this lame cover of the Doors’ classic.
8. Syren – "Fight Or Fall": Killer power metal that reminds me of Black Knight with rougher vocals, similar to those of Leather Leone from Chastain. They also had a song called "Danger" on the 1985 California’s Best Metal LP, New Renaissance Records’ third compilation album. Singer Brenda Barboni’s career goes back to the early 70s, but she did not find metal until joining Syren in either 1984 or 1985. Syren later changed their name to Tigershark. Brenda is currently recording a new CD with her much more AOR/hard rock oriented project, BB3. You can hear "Fight Or Fall" on the BB3 MySpace page.
9. High Risk – "I Know What You Want": The beginning of this song might mislead you with its flute and light sounding intro, but it soon reveals itself as epic power metal. Maybe epic isn’t the right word to describe a song that’s only just over 4 minutes long, but it has a great build up and very strong finish. Actually it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite songs, "Troubled Ways" by Lost Horizon (no relation to the famous Swedish band) on Metal Massacre 7. Except there’s a flute. And the singer sounds uncannily like Ann Wilson from Heart. In other words, it rules! According to Blood Sisters they released a 3 song demo in 1987. If anyone can help me get a hold of that demo, I’ll name my next child after you*! High Risk first appeared on Metal Madness compilation with an inferior, male voiced, track.
10. DC Lacroix – "Rip It Up": Formerly a Seattle based band, DC Lacroix is one of the more generic female-fronted acts of the 80s. This song is taken directly from 1986 Crack of Doom LP making it even less interesting. It first appeared on the 1985 Pacific Metal Project compilation LP, but without the brief intro.
11. Jaded Lady – "On the Run": Jaded Lady began as an all-female version of Motley Crue called Obsession who changed their name to Leather Angel, and then to Jaded Lady after both drummer Krissi North and guitarist Debbie Wolf left. They seem to have become more competent since Leather Angel’s 1983 We Came to Kill EP. However, this is still not a song that is worth repeated listens. They would briefly appear on the 1988 film Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years and then break up before releasing anything else other than a few demos.
12. Deep Freeze – "Soft Touch": If you have the LP version of Ladykillers, then you only get this track by Deep Freeze. Presumably that’s because this is a little heavier, but I think "No Last Words" is the better of the two. This band also appeared on the Q100 radio sampler Mega Metal I, though I am not sure if it was one of these tracks or another exclusive one.
13. Hellion – "Put the Hammer Down": The second cassette only track is from Hellion. A different version appears on Screams in the Night.

*If I ever do have another child, I’ll probably have to be institutionalized as well. Three is plenty, thank you!

Available Formats: cassette and vinyl (minus 2 tracks)

Value: $3-5 (cassette), $10-15 (vinyl)