“For the Love of Metal”: Dee Snider Is Still Carrying the Flag

deesniderfortheloveofmetalcd

 

By Raph al Guul

Dee Snider is a legend of metal, there are no two ways about it. He’s a legend to the point that if he’d put out a shitty hip hop album today, he would still remain legendary. He was not just the front-man of Twisted Sister, one of the most iconic and influental metal acts from the 1980s, and wrote the most overused song in politics to this day. No, besides making music, he also went before the U.S. Senate to defend it. When the ideologically misguided Tipper Gore was trying to come down hard on heavy metal in 1985, it was Dee Snider who carried the flag into battle – not just for metal, but for music – with perhaps the most memorable testimony of its kind.

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Dee Snider famously made a deliberate effort to look like a stereotypical rocker when he appeared before the U.S. Senate in 1985. (Picture: YouTube)

However, Snider’s biggest accomplishments seem to lie far bImage result for twisted sister farewell tourack in the past. Twisted Sister’s last original record was released in 1987 – unless you count the 2006 album covering Christmas songs – and the band played its final concert in 2016 after drummer AJ Pero had died the year before. Also in 2016, Snider published his second solo record (unless you count the 2012 album covering show tunes), We Are the Ones. It was a palatable album that barely stands out as it is and veritably sank in the sheer sea of excellent records to come out in 2016.* It didn’t help that Snider was using all available means to beg Twisted Sister’s fans to buy his first real solo effort since 2000. It gave the whole affair an air of commerce – perhaps the last thing you’d want to associate with the face of a metal act as unruly as Twisted Sister.

That brings us to July 27, 2018. The sense of commercial desperation has dissipated and Dee Snider is already back with his third record, For the Love of Metal. Compared to 2016, the conditions are much better for Snider: this year has not seen many spectacular releases yet, the hype surrounding the album does not even remotely compare to the previous effort, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the singer has dialed down his pressuring of fans on social media. So, is For the Love of Metal worthy of a legend?

Kicking it up a notch

Off to a promising start, the first thing we heard from the new album were the pounding riffs of “Tomorrow’s No Concern”. The single was released in early June, and it brought the kind of energy that the album’s predecessor was largely lacking in. Snider takes on a slightly heavier style, bordering on aggression – potentially to justify the title of the new album.

For the Love of Metal debuted with its promising first single, “Tomorrow’s No Concern.”

The lyrics of the song come across as fairly simple. In fact, the entire record almost seems to cement the stereotype that rock and metal audiences don’t worry about the words so much. But on “Tomorrow’s No Concern” the keen listener will unmistakably detect that what may sound generic at first is actually Snider engaging with his own status as a legend of heavy metal. There is a similar self-referential, albeit slightly less effective quality to the title track at the end of the record.

And then… disappointment again

Unfortunately, the pleasant surprise that Snider is taking it up that crucial little notch did not linger. Both subsequently revealed songs off the album, “Become the Storm” and “I Am the Hurricane,” sound bland. Not bad, but entirely indistinct. They sound like session thrash and not even Snider’s own vocal performances come across as at all inspired. On top of that, the titles are a clear omen for just how generic the lyrics of these songs are.

“Become The Storm” largely sounds like it was cobbled together by a bunch of disinterested session musicians.

The ratio of one very good song to two okay ones does not seem fair to the album overall, though. Especially hybrid mid-tempo headbangers like “American Made” and “Running Mazes” deliver on a high level. And while some of the singles’ instrumental portions disappoint, there is actually a lot to like in that respect on the rest of the record. “I’m Ready,” bordering on speed metal, even manages to entertain with its solo section, proving that the performers behind Snider didn’t just slap together some production music one afternoon.

Guests are not a boon

Speaking of musicians, what about the numerous guest performers on For the Love of Metal? Unfortunately, unless you’re already a fan of them, they will be unlikely to have a positive influence on this record for you. In the best-case scenario, they’ll barely be noticeable – in the worst case, they’ll be irritating. Particularly Alissa White-Gluz’ vocals on “Dead Hearts (Love Thy Enemy)” are a terrible bore. The song sounds almost entirely superfluous until Snider’s own voice kicks in.

In fact, it should be noted that Snider’s voice is never on trial at all. His vocals are as strong and clear as ever. Sure, he doesn’t soar quite as high as he used to 30 years ago, but on this album, that’s no problem at all. The compositions fit the style of his vocals very well. There is admittedly some variance in how engaging his performance is, which is likely to come down to the songwriting rather than the singing itself.

Dee Snider may be a force of nature, but he’s lacking just a bit of a punch in this particular song.

The classic dilemma of appeal

There is a major problem that might dissuade metal fans from purchasing this competent record, though. Without Snider’s name on it, For the Love of Metal barely distinguishes itself from the crowded space of heavy and particularly thrash metal. A great vocalist, unfortunately, rarely sells records on his own.

On the other hand, with his name come expectations that might not be met. This is because today’s heavy metal has moved on from the 1980s, and so has Snider. It’s even more evident on For the Love of Metal than its predecessor, thanks to the grimy sound of Snider’s latest effort. So the Twisted Sister fan will not be transported back in time by this record. In fact, my most notable reaction to the album was a strong desire to revisit Twisted Sister itself.

Both the classics and this new record are fun, but in very different ways. And I happen to prefer the former kind. So I did actually revisit Twisted Sister – here are my ten favorite songs by the band. Perhaps these help you understand why I have insurmountably high expectations. Feel free to vehemently disagree with my ranking in the comment section.

  1. “Love Is For Suckers”
  2. “Feel Appeal”
  3. “Burn in Hell”
  4. “Stay Hungry”
  5. “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
  6. “One Bad Habit”
  7. “I Wanna Rock”
  8. “Under the Blade”
  9. “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!”
  10. “Kill or Be Killed”

My favorite song Dee Snider ever sang happens to be “Love Is For Suckers” – suck on that.

* Dee Snider actually sang on one of these records – Avantasia’s Ghostlights. Despite how good the album and Snider’s performance are, it adds to the air of commercialism that the man suddenly appeared on a bunch of other people’s albums as a guest vocalist. Most notably, he also featured on German power metal icon Kai Hansen’s first solo album, which had similar problems of standing out in a great year for music, like Snider’s own record. To be fair, “Contract Song”, which features his vocals, is one of the best songs on the disc.

Snider’s contribution to Avantasia’s stellar 2016 record was excellent, yet it also seemed like a strategic move at the time.

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