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Black Alice - Sons of Steel (Reissue)

Black Alice
Sons of Steel (Reissue)
by Dave Nowels at 07 October 2018, 12:33 PM

I’m still not sure. After my first listen through of BLACK ALICE’S “Sons of Steel”, I was 100% convinced this was a parody album. But, now as I’ve researched and listened to cuts from their previous albums, I just don’t know. “Sons of Steel” and indeed, BLACK ALICE themselves border on the edge of ridiculousness. The similarities to the most well known Rock & Roll parody, SPINAL TAP, is undeniable. From the written tales of line-up changes, and misfortune, to the songs themselves, I fully expected to find this in the archives of the DR. DEMENTO website. Yet, I didn’t find it there, and as I stated in my opening, I’m just unsure of what this is. So, without further ado, I’ll focus on the meat and potatoes of the band and this re-issue.

BLACK ALICE is a band hailing from Perth Australia. They formed in 1992, and released their first full-length, “Endangered Species” in 1983. Previously known as GYPSY, and regarded as the premier AC-DC cover band, the band was discovered by Sydney record producer, Gary Keady. The band changed their name to BLACK ALICE, and experienced misfortune after misfortune. As a result, the band split in 1984 after failing to achieve the success they sought. Vocalist Rob Hartley, continued to work with producer Keady, and later in 1984 went on to star in Keady’s film “Knightmare”. The film saw success, and a renewed interest in Hartley’s singing as well. The film also led to another film, this time a sci-fi, Metal themed cult classic “Sons of Steel”. This led to the reforming of BLACK ALICE, with shredder Jamie Page as well as a rhythm section of Andy Cichon on bass and Scott Johnston on drums, though different sources credit different players.

Essentially, “Sons of Steel” is an Australian musical, in the same vein of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, styled to Glam 80’s Metal. And you wonder why I’m having such a difficult time figuring this one out? In full disclosure, I’m not a fan of musicals in any form or fashion, and very selective about my 80’s Glam Metal. Jeez, this thing is like my Kryptonite. “Sons of Steel” is very dated. Perhaps I would have liked it more back in 1984, though I doubt it. The songs all have identity problems to me. It’s Glam Metal trying to incorporate New Wave and other more popular styles of music from the time. The album opens with a cover of Thunderclap Newman’s “Something’s In The Air”, and it’s not too bad. It goes on a bit too long with the repetitive chorus, but this is still likely the high point for me.

From there, the album either takes on the identity of a musical or wallows in puddles of mediocrity. Track 4 is a song titled “Hard Lover”, and if there’s a low point of the album, this has to be it. Displaying the aforementioned dating of the time, “Hard Lover” includes lyrics that would absolutely be construed as misogynist today. Listening to these type of lyrics back in the day, it’s a wonder that any Metal fan was ever able to lose their virginity, much less even get a date. Sadly, for this listener, “Sons of Steel” has few highlights from there on out. Each time I would hear a cool riff, or chord progression, lyrics or campiness would mar it. “Mr. System” was another really tough song for me to wrap my head around and a perfect example that New Wave and Metal shouldn’t mix. I really wanted this to be a parody, and still hope it actually might be. Otherwise I just spent a couple hours listening to a 54 minute train wreck, and that’s time I’ll never get back.

Songwriting: 4
Originality: 5
Memorability: 3
Production: 5

2 Star Rating

1. Something In The Air
2 Sons of Steel
3. There's Hope
4. Hard Lover
5. You And Me
6. Fighting For You
7. Mr. System
8. I'm With You
9. The Burn
10. The Reck
11. Walk In The Blues
12. The Burn (Instrumental) 
Rob Hartley - Vocals
Jamie Page - Guitars
Andy Cichon - Bass
Scott Johnston - Drums
Jeff Dunn - Special Guest Vocals on "The Burn"
Record Label: Karthago Records


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Edited 24 March 2023

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