Forgotten Gems-Dr. Know-This Island Earth
Dr. Know formed in California in the early 1980's. Dr. Know were part of the Nardcore scene that came from Silver Strand Beach, Oxnrd, Port Hueneme and also included RKL, Ill Repute, Aggression and other bands.They knocked out some releases on Mystic records. Eventaully they parted ways with vocalist and former child star Brandon Cruz. Guitarist Kyle Toucher stepped into doing vocal duties as well. By the time they signed to Death records (a short lived subsidiary of Metal Blade) they were a trio. In 1986 they released "This Island Earth" on said Death records. They decided to open it with a cover DOA's "The Unknown". Now doing cover songs on an album in 1986 wasn't as commonplace as it has been in say the last almost twenty years. So as I first looked at the album sleeve and before playing the album saw I the cover track was coming. I wasn't hopeful because DOA's version was a great song, but Dr. Know nailed it and added their own touches. After that we get quite a few of the band's old songs that originally featured Brandon Cruz only now they were re-worked. "Plug in Jesus" was up first and it's a good example of what this band did with all their old songs here. It's heavier, tighter and it took seconds for me to realize that Kyle Toucher's vocals added a dimension to this band that they never had when Cruz was the vocalist. Brandon Cruz was adequate but a very typical early 80's hardcore singer where as Kyle Toucher had a sarcastic tone to his voice that worked very well with the band's lyrics. The music here received a much tighter production job than the band had ever had. Also while still a hardcore band they do tend to lean just a little towards a metal edge on this album. I could certainly see this album being considered a crossover album. There may be fans of Dr. Know's earlier work that cringed at this album with it's quirky vocals, heavy drums and more prominent guitar rhythms. I think they began leaning towards a crossover style before this album, but the metal elements were even stronger on this release. I for one definitely think it was their best work and consider it to be a great album even 26 years later. I think Dr. Know and particularly this album never got the attention from metal fans that say COC or DRI did back then, but they should have.
***Unfortunately changes were coming soon for Dr.Know with both their line-up and musical direction. I hope to cover that soon in another Forgotten Gems.