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Wicked Lester – Better Off Dead (Reissue)

Wicked Lester
Better Off Dead (Reissue)
by Fred “Cage” Bonanno at 15 August 2022, 8:42 PM

“I wanna Rock and Roll all night and party everyday” …. oops, sorry, the WICKED LESTER I am reviewing is not to be confused with that WICKED LESTER that eventually became, oh you’ve probably heard of them, KISS. This WICKED LESTER was formed in Canton, Ohio in 1988 and released the demo “The Resurrection” consisting of four tracks in 1990. After a few line-up changes they privately released the full-length CD “Better off Dead”. Unfortunately, tragedy struck as lead singer Joel Finna passed away from a brain aneurysm before the release and guitarist Angelo Davis died in an automobile accident shortly after the release. These devastating events caused the band to split up and the album to completely disappear. But to the rescue, riding in on a white horse is Arkeyn Steel Records, who tracked down the original drummer Mideo Octavio and arranged to remaster material from the demo and the full-length album and in June 2022 reissued “Better Off Dead”. When a musical career is abruptly cut short by unimaginable circumstances it always leaves you wondering “what could have been”, in this case, I’ll dig in and have a look see.

We start the journey with the title track “Better off Dead”, intriguing beginning with some nice metalcore riffs and melodies mixed with sludgy screaming and gravely vocals, could easily have been on an ALICE COOPER album. “Mad as Hell” is a subdued tempo with a heavy guitar solo midway thru but chunky, fuzzy vocals sidetracked the trajectory of this song. “Rage” is a good rocking beat with a nice metal vocal groove and feel paired with a powerful guitar solo balanced nicely with rhythmic drumming. A spooky, dark feel to “Eyes of the Holy”, nice edgy guitar work but the vocal stylings just doesn’t mesh well.  A vicious intro with pounding drums on “Rock to Ruin” and the vocals have a nice metal swagger, but the chorus has a silly sound that hurts the aura of what could have been a nice rocker, no continuity on the song.
Ending with “…. And the Children Rule” is a slower, ambient song with symphonic vocals by Finna and nicely executed guitar work, this had the potential to be a real good song if they only fine-tuned the composition better.

This reissue compilation has left me a little flummoxed, (thank you, word of the day toilet paper) WICKED LESTER has all the elements to have been a great metal band and released a great metal album, BUT, and we all know what it means when someone says but. Yes, they have some killer, crushing riffs and solos, brazen drum and bass backing, pure undeniable metal vocals complete with screaming and nastiness, but to me, the songs seemed unbalanced, maybe even over produced. Some songs seem to hit on all cylinders but too many just trudged along. They just never distanced themselves from other metal bands of that era, even though the lyrics were pure sex, drugs, and rock n roll. I listened to this album several times hoping to put my finger on why I was disappointed. I came away with the conclusion that WICKED LESTER is missing direction, like they couldn’t find THEIR sound. I admit I am a bit bummed, as I really wanted to love this album especially after all the band has endured.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 5
Production: 3

2 Star Rating

1. Better off Dead
2. Mad as Hell
3. Screaming
4. Restless Souls
5. Rage
6. Firestarter
7. Hate
8. Blinded
9. Eyes of the Holy
10. Far Away
11. Rock to Ruin
12. In the name of Religion
13. Run for your Life
14. …. And the Children Rule
Joel Finna – lead vocals (R.I.P.)
Angelo Davis – lead guitar (R.I.P.)
Larry Dalo – guitar
Guy Bechter – bass guitar
Mideo Octavio – drums
Scott Stenglein – vocals
Tom Eframedes – guitar
Greg Craddock – bass guitar
Record Label: Arkeyn Steel Records


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