Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nitro-Volatile Activity

Blood and Iron Records

Hot on the heels of  2013's "Lethal Dose", Pennsylvania-based heavy metal act Nitro, who (of course) are the only Nitro that matters, offer up the limited-edition*, vinyl-only "Volatile Activity" on Blood and Iron Records. This LP, which will come with a glossy sleeve and color insert featuring biography, lyrics and rare photos, gathers together material that was recorded in 1987 and would have been included on the planned follow-up to Nitro's 1984 twelve-inch release, "Lethal+II". Given the fact that ten out of the eleven tracks on "Volatile Activity" originally came from pre-production tapes, with track number eleven, "Uranium"** (which Nitro previously released as a digital single in 2013), serving as a bonus cut, this release sounds quite remarkable! Of course that just goes to show how far we've come with modern technology as even material like this, which had been (regrettably) sitting around for FAR TOO LONG collecting dust, can be given a nice once over enabling it to take on another life. With that being said, this LP is far from a modern day hard rock/heavy metal release. Or as far as style goes. Even with it's superb mastering, which is excellent make no mistake about it, the material here serves as a fairly accurate snapshot of what was going on in America in the mid-late eighties. While the promo material goes out of it's way in saying how this LP ends up "Sounding like early Twisted Sister, Wild Dogs, early Anvil, The Rods, etc." the reality is "Volatile Activity" (or at least the first ten tracks) has more in common with the L.A. scene of the day. For those of you who already know the score, or have (in other words) had the pleasure of experiencing "Lethal Dose" and/or the original "Lethal+II" an album like this could be construed as shocking (what with the dramatic change of direction/wide left turn that Nitro seems to make a few of these cuts), but there is still PLENTY to enjoy about this LP (especially if you just know where to look!). Let's start with the positives moments since there are plenty of those to go around! Opener "Take Me Higher" starts things off in righteous style. It's a very cool Sweet-like number if, and only if, Sweet had been influenced by early Mötley Crüe (although there is no way in hell that "Walking Dead Corpse" Mick Mars could compete with Nitro's John Hazel in the guitar department!). Meanwhile "Wanted Alive" is seventies hard rock meets nineties alternative (which yes, is weird considering when this was originally recorded and everything!) and shows that Nitro's songwriting abilities were still strong and still sharp! "Faking It" is Ratt meets Mötley Crüe and Guns N' Roses although both "Faking It" and a cut like "Shark Lady2" owe debts to the likes of Kiss. That's not a bad debt to find yourself a slave to though right? One of my personal favorites is the swagger-rock/teaze-metal "Tuff Life" which may or may not have run on the same set of rails as the likes of Poison, Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister, but (and this is a big BUT!) late eighties hair metal/sleaze metal never sounded so well pieced together or "tough"! Yes, that was bad I know. Cheesy pun aside, "Youngblood" (another clear favorite) could have easily been written by Van Halen! It's not the only cut where guitarist John Hazel shows off his stuff (see: "Rule the World"), but seldom does it seem as obvious that the ball was badly dropped on the part of record companies back in the day as it does on "Youngblood"! Lead vocalist Dana Confer shows off the diversity in his voice by offering a bit more grit (as opposed to the absolutely Steven Tyler/Mick Jagger strut that he does on "Tuff Life"!) while the remainder of Nitro (guitarist John Hazel and the severely underrated rhythm section of bass player Brad Gensimore and drummer Tim Wilson) assures future listeners that heavy metal, yes kids, true heavy metal, still pumps through their veins! Here suggestions to the fact that the band sounded like "Twisted Sister, Wild Dogs, early Anvil and The Rods" don't come off as all that absurd. I mean one could easily make that kind of argument if "Youngblood" was blasting it's way out of a good set of stereo speakers! And really this LP would be worth the price of admission for that track alone. Well, that track plus "Tuff Life". Oh, and then there's the fact that the very cool "Uranium" (seriously, this one-time single is awesome heavy metal!) is included here. So yes, I could easily recommend this limited-edition LP based on those few tracks alone. Still, I would be lying if I said every cut here was golden. Take "Boys Will Be Boys" for example. Here's one number that sounds like a leftover Mötley Crüe track! A much better take on this would have to be "Do It". Also, "Pretender" is just a so-so track. It's not bad or anything, but it doesn't exactly light up the hemisphere either. Granted that's only 2-3 tracks out of 11 so this one is most certainly falls more on the side of must-have then pass-up. It's just a case where even if I do love Nitro, and I REALLY DO, not everything they release (or in this case dig up from the past vaults) is going to absolute floor me! If anything it just shows that Nitro are capable of greatness while still having some hiccups/human faults just like the rest of us! Whatever the case "Volatile Activity" still makes for a must-have as stated. Whether we're talking about Nitro fans or heavy metal collectors in general, or for that matter someone who falls into both categories like I do(!), picking up this LP at your earliest convenience is a given! With that there's only one last thing to be said. A release like "Volatile Activity" should  push the door WIDE OPEN for this Penn-based, traditional heavy metal at it's finest,  four-piece to release NEW MATERIAL in 2014! If there is really and truly a GOD OF ROCK N' ROLL then please let something like that! The world is always in need of real heavy metal from real gentlemen of the scene and what better way could there be to make 2014 really awesome then to have a band like Nitro (the only Nitro after all!) release a brand new album? A guy can dream right?

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