Friday, September 25, 2009

Hollywood Steel

STEEL PANTHER – “Feel The Steel” CD ’09 (Universal Republic/Island, US) – Let’s be plain here. As far as Hollywood’s STEEL PANTHER is concerned, you’re going to either think they are the biggest pile of unmitigated fly-infested hyped-up horse dung in history or you are going to speak of them in reverential tones, send a letter to the Pope in hopes of their beatification and one to your Congressman suggesting they replace the Presidents on Mount Rushmore. Naw, really if you’re willing to cast aside your Catholic school teachings and any other pesky morals cluttering up the ventromedial area of your brain and embrace STEEL PANTHER for what they are…true and utter gods among men…your reaction is going to be a helluva lot more visceral. Hmm…maybe something like “These sick motherfuckers rawk!” Well, apologies to Dee Snyder, but that’s been my reaction. STEEL PANTHER, you see, arose at some time in the past within the Sunset Strip club scene. Possibly, they have been around forever. It’s quite imaginable that they may have no beginning or end… ‘course, frontman Michael Starr may just have been Ralph Saenz (ex L.A. Guns) in a former life, but no matter. The fact is, this is a band who could very well be the alpha and the omega of everything that is brash LA metal. This is the music of cases of beer, leather pants, industrial sized vats of hairspray and all night orgies with huge-titted blondes. Welcome to the STEEL PANTHER lair….

As you approach your maiden voyage into “Feel The Steel,” another thing should be addressed from the git-go. You are not going to explore the great philosophies of the ages during your 40-odd minutes plowing through this record…and, if you’re easily offended by songs about blatant and detailed sex (except for the couple extolling the virtues of heavy metal), you might as well stop now. Of course, you’ve now activated the “play” button and have been regaled with the first 2+ minutes of utter genius on offer, “Death To All But Metal.” After a cannon volley of razor sharp guitar riffs from Satchel, joined in force by the percussive thunder of Stix Zadinia and the bottom (ok, bass…it’s a guy, afterall!) of Lexxi Foxxx, you are greeted by “Fuck the Goo Goo Dolls, they can suck my balls.” As you’ll see, this is hardly a case of lyricists blowing their wad all at once. It continues…for those 40-odd minutes. Witness the 3rd track, opening with an ‘80’s metal ballad melody that would have heart-strings all aflutter…and your funny-bone(r) hard as a rock with the line: “Cause my heart belongs to you, my love is pure & true, my heart belongs to you…but my cock is community property.” Indeed. And on it goes, as in “The Shocker.” “Two in the pink and one in the stink, that’s called The Shocker.” Short, sweet and to the point. And when Starr concludes his lyrical epistle in “Hell’s On Fire” with the invocation “I wanna party with Bon Scott, Randy Rhoads and John Bonham too,” well, he’s got me onboard his crazy train on the highway to hell and I’m goin’ to California to find out where cats like this come from!

Now, you, like I, may find some of the things I’ve just told you about funny…and they are…but there’s another little thing about STEEL PANTHER that you need to know: these guys can play. While their visual appearances may give you the impression of a 2nd rate Warrant or Slaughter clone, don’t you even go down those cheetah-pattern-scarf-lined avenues. Harmony leads give you pause (paws?) on “Eyes Of A Panther.” The occasional NWOBHM riff makes it’s presence felt among muscular Skid Row-styled rhythms and Satchel’s axe solos are hot, sharp and bad-assed throughout. Same goes for the Halfordian pitch Starr seems effortless in employing as does the rhythm machination of Foxxx (yes, 3 “x’s” is correct – an extra one for “sex!”) and Zadinia, all brought into sharp relief by the sizzling production of Jay Ruston. The whole thing is then augmented in cherry-on-top form by guest appearances by the likes of Scott Ian, Corey Taylor, Justin Hawkins & M. Shadows among others.

Fact is, STEEL PANTHER have the talent and sense of humor to take this thing quite a bit further than the meteoric splash this record is poised to make upon it’s release on October 6. Do they also have the smarts to realize this and be proactive in becoming more than just a blip? That remains to be seen but in the meantime, I for one have already listened to this album about a million times and declare it more fun than a friggin’ barrel of monkeys. Death to all but metal!
All Claws Out

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