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Twisted Sister

Under the Blade

Review by Scott Prinzing

As the years go by, some things just get better with age.  Others just seem to age.  While there are many albums that can transport one back to a specific time and place in one’s life, not all of them hold up as well after time.  This remastered debut of Twisted Sister’s Under the Blade is one of the latter type.  It’s produced by UFO bassist Pete Way, an early convert to the cause.  While there are a lot of good time rockers here, there aren’t any songs that stand solidly next to TS hits like “I Wanna Rock” or “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  The sound has improved somewhat with the remastering, but Twisted Sister was never really about the dynamics anyway.  Their outrageous stage costumes, makeup and frontman Dee Snider’s brazen stance on stage (and more importantly, on video), were admittedly what set them apart from so many average metal bands of the 1980s.  Fortunately for the dedicated Twisted Sister fan, the bonus material makes this a worthy collection.

Before these New Yorkers made their mark in their homeland, they had a degree of success among headbangers in Europe – particularly in the UK.  They had been well-known regionally and sold out many a venue on the Eastern seaboard of America, but what first got them noticed was their debut EP, Ruff Cutts.  That four-song disc is included here, as well as a live version of “Shoot ‘Em Down” from Reading.  A DVD of that 1982 Reading appearance is the frosting on the cake, though.  They hit the stage in broad daylight with “What You Don’t Know,” dodging the typical barrage of rotten fruit and sundry garbage in the Reading tradition, but win the crowd over before the end of the set.  Snider has the moxie to scold the crowd for throwing things and calls them out to meet the band after the show to tell them, “How much we suck,” to their faces.  Guest appearances by Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clark and Pete Way on the closing version of the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” is all the anointing these finicky punters needed to embrace the “Bad Boys of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  (This was after Clark had left Motorhead, so it was a real treat for fans of that pairing.)  There is also a good deal of interview material that provides a lot of insight into the music and the era during which it was made.  The continual contrast of the band members as they appear today with the metal drag monsters on stage over a quarter of a century earlier makes for very entertaining viewing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
What You Don’t Know

This is a powerful opening track that was also a perfect set opener.  Snider’s delivery evokes Alice Cooper a time or two; a nod to one of their influences.  “Ain’t we a pretty picture? / Ain’t we a lot of fun?”

Bad Boys (Of Rock ‘n’ Roll)

The lead melody line sounds like a preview of things to come.  Every time I hear it, it makes me think of “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  Snider’s philosophy is summed up with, “How bad can a bad boy be if he sets you free?”

Run for Your Life

Like a lot of Twisted Sister’s song titles, this one has been used several times before.  It has a similar theme to the Beatles’ song by the same name, albeit a little bit more misogynistic.

Sin After Sin
The title is perhaps a tribute to Judas Priest, who is another influence on the sound of the band. 
Shoot ‘Em Down
I kept thinking that the bridge to this reminded me of something else, making it less than original in my mind.  Then I realized it was Black ‘N Blue’s “Live It Up,” which came out in ’88.  Jaime St. James did get a lot of Dee Snider comparisons early on (unfairly so, I might add). 
Destroyer
Plodding along like a thrash metal dirge before its time, this song is the sleeper favorite of mine here.  It makes me wonder if Manowar had a copy of this album before they plotted out their sound.  Lyrically, it sounds like a Priest outtake.
Under the Blade

The theme here is similar to Iron Maiden’s “Killers,” with a few allusions to the victim being at the show.

Tear It Loose

This song may have been the precursor of speed metal.  Thematically, it is similar to “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  Fast Eddie Clark lays down a mean solo on this one.

Day of the Rocker

This is a great closing track that practically demands one to pump a fist – or metal horns – in the air.  It’s a perfect choice for the album closer.

What You Don’t Know

The Ruff Cutts version from earlier that year is also the lead track on the album and the concert.

Shoot ‘Em Down
The Ruff Cutts version is a bit rawer, but more than a demo.
Under the Blade

This is the Ruff Cutts version of the title track.

Leader of the Pack

I always thought this was a peculiar choice for a cover song, but they make it work.

Shoot ’Em Down (Live at Reading)

This is a good choice for the live cut, although Snider’s Uzi firing off doesn’t sound as terrifying as it looks on the DVD.

 
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