Light From Above
posted on 3/2008 By:
DISCLAIMER: If any combination of the following words upsets you in any way, then please stop reading now: trivium, avenged, sevenfold, hair, metal, killer, dwarfs. Thank you.
About two weeks ago, my girlfriend brought me her iPod Shuffle and asked me to listen to a track that had come up on random. (The downside of the Shuffle is that you never know exactly what you're listening to--there's no display. It drives me crazy.) She downloads all the free iTunes tracks every week and sometimes doesn’t know what she has. She said, "It's some 80s band," and so here’s the part where I have to make a confession: I grew up in the 80s. I was weaned on Cinderella and Faster Pussycat, and I will admit to liking both. So, with my extensive collection of records by ridiculously coiffed 'Where Are They Now?' candidates, I am naturally the person to ask when it comes to guitar-driven cheesy whowuzzits. And so I listened, but I was stumped, because the band in question wasn't some bunch of two-hand-tapping sleaze rockers from yesteryear, but was, in fact, a new band.
And so it's true that everything that's old is new again. Along with the thrash revival, we're getting the other half of 80s metal, the guitar-driven-but-not-heavy side of things that my friends call "metal," but that I consider hard rock. (I'm not trying to be an elitist here--I like Shotgun Messiah, for God's sake. But they're not metal. LA Guns, not metal. Ozzy, metal. Motley Crue, not metal, except for possibly Shout At The Devil. Iron Maiden, metal. It's a fine line, and it's my line, but it's a line. The rest are hard rock, and there's no shame in that. I'm just calling an ace of spades a spade and all.)
Miami's Black Tide is a guitar-heavy not-heavy band, melodic and slick, with soaring vocals courtesy of a fifteen-year-old named Gabriel Garcia. When I say this is hard rock, I should say that it’s pushing against the metallic side of that, between the likes of Dokken or Skid Row and Risk-era Megadeth. The promo material claims this as influenced by classic thrash, and maybe it is, but at its hardest, Light From Above is Armored Saint-esque traditional metal, filled with lightning-fast riffs, Sebastian Bach-ranged vocals, and a mid-80s permed-and-fat Ozzy sensibility. Nowhere on this is there any semblance of core, which is somewhat refreshing.
As far as the performances go, they’re actually remarkable, especially considering the average age of the band members. Garcia has a powerful voice, rangy and full, but with an occasional raspy nasal tone that reminds me of M. Shadow of Avenged Sevenfold meets Russ Dwarf of the Killer Dwarfs. The guitar work is fast and constant, definitely bowing to the throne of EVH. A la Avenged, the shredding is intensely practiced, with hammer-ons and whammy-bar divebombs galore. The songwriting is stadium-sized, and the production is polished to a sheen, with no trace of grit or grime. With the soaring choruses and the shameless commercial production, Black Tide is not dangerous in the least, and I’ve always felt that metal needed to have some kind of aggression, some kind of, pardon the sexism, balls. Even the unnecessary cover of Metallica’s “Hit The Lights” doesn’t give this metal credibility—in fact, it does the opposite. It makes the presence of that song look like grab for some new-thrash marketing angle.
Metal or not, there are two things that irritate me with Light From Above. The first is also applicable to most of the bands I’ve compared this to, and that is that these songs are ridiculously lame. “I’m a shockwave and I’ll take your fucking life…” C’mon, really? At least, in the 80s, we didn’t know how stupid that kind of shit sounded. By now, we’ve figured it out. The other irritant is that this is just a hodge-podge of riffs and records I’ve heard before, over and over for twenty years. You’ve got your Trivium “whoa’s” and a bunch of silly radio-ready tunes like “Warriors Of Time,” which reminds me of Warlock, and “Live Fast Die Young,” which reminds me of Ratt, and so it goes throughout the record, from track to track. There’s nothing new to be found, nothing that will put Black Tide in line to become the next [insert name of successful band].
If you like 80s metal, well, then: at best, this will garner some wistfully nostalgic interest. Ultimately, I’d say it’ll just remind you that you really should spin Tooth And Nail or Bark At The Moon or March Of The Saints a little bit more. If you hate 80s metal, then you have no business listening to Black Tide at all because this will just piss you off. And if you’re new to the whole thing, if you’re the kid in the A7x shirt that’s just sorting out the good from bad, then know this: this is well-played radio fodder, brought to you by a bunch of talented youngsters who could one day make a metal record, but it’s neither metal nor original. It’s hard rock, and it’s borrowed, and Dokken and Skid Row and even the Killer Dwarfs did it first and did it better.
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