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Asphalt Lips – Video Heroes

Asphalt Lips
Video Heroes
by Kenn Staub at 08 October 2021, 6:54 AM

Video Heroes” (released July 28, 2021), the first album from ASPHALT LIPS, pays homage to the 1980s with lyrics inspired by cult underground VHS movies. The influence JUDAS PRIEST has on the duo from Greece is unmistakable and can be heard all over “Video Heroes.” Unfortunately, this freshman effort, while having its moments, seemingly misses that to which it aspires.

In many respects, “Video Heroes” is what heavy metal would sound like sans the heavy, the bass being all but nonexistent. ASPHALT LIPS need someone like IAN HILL to lay down that no nonsense, foundational low-end upon which PRIEST’s rhythm and melodies are built. I will add, however, that this low-end might have been lost in the album’s production, which is, quite frankly, lacking. For instance, the drums sound as if a starter kit was recorded in my concrete basement by somebody holding up a single microphone (listen to “Freewheel” and “Hooligans”). Further, that mic seems aimed only at the snare, with the bass drum all but ignored or mixed way too low (on “Hell Racer” and “Basketball Star” for example).

That potential of several songs is squandered with the introduction of vocals. John “Stormrider” Skandalis is no ROB HALFORD (but then, who is), his high-pitched excursions grating (“Salto Mortale”), almost comically so. At others times, such as on “The Champion,” “Hooligans,” “Footsteps Of Death,” and “Punks Do Everything,” Skandalis’s vocals sound nothing short of off-key.

Another weakness throughout the album is lack of adherence to or coherence of song structure. Disjointedness and outright structural messiness plague not just part of some tracks (“Salto Mortale” for instance), but often entire songs; “The Champion” (during which it seemed the guitar is trying to play catch-up to the drumming), the speed metal-like “Basketball Star,” “The Cops Sell The Heroin,” and “Footsteps Of Death” (where it doesn’t sound like the instruments are on the same page). On other occasions, either Skandalis’s vocals or Giorgos Liapis’s soloing simply doesn’t fit the melodic context of the song (for example “Hooligans” and “Punks Do Everything”).

I could continue in the above vein, nitpicking my way through the album, but that seems too much like piling on. Instead let me turn my focus on something to like, namely Liapis’s guitar playing (my above comment aside). He can truly crank out attention-grabbing melodic riffs (“Salto Mortale,” “The Champion,” “The Cops Sell The Heroin”). The desolate guitar line that opens “The Cops Sell The Heroin” and quality solos on “Salto Mortale” and “Hell Racer” are proof of his chops.

The highlight track of the album, at least for me, was “Free Wheel” (though “Hell Racer” has a generic appeal). Liapis plays a solid intro and Skandalis’s refrains from any histrionics so that his vocals fit the song. Though the mixing is a tad uneven, the overall track shows ASPHALT LIPS’s potential.

Video Heroes” has its problem, many of which are aurally exacerbated by the atrocious mixing. Listening to the album, I really wanted to like ASPHAL LIPS, as the duo demonstrate intermittent glimmers of being able to make solid, melodically catchy rock songs. As such, rather than write them off, I’m willing to chalk up “Video Heroes” as being somewhere on the lower end of the learning curve; hoping they correct the missteps heard here and produce kick ass music in the future.

Musicianship: 7
Songwriting: 5
Memorability: 5
Production: 4

2 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Salto Mortale
2. Hell Racer
3. The Champion
4. Basketball Star
5. Free Wheel
6. The Cops Sell The Heroin
7. Hooligans
8. Footsteps Of Death
9. Punks Do Everything
Lineup:
John “Stormrider” Skandalis – Vocals
Giorgos Liapis – Guitars, Bass, Drums
Record Label: Cult Metal Classics
     


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