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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Album Review: Twisted Sister - Under the Blade Special Edition

Twisted Sister - Under the Blade Special Edition
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Hoo mama, is this going to be considered the be-all Twisted Sister reissue package. As if the 25th anniversary edition of Stay Hungry wasn't enough of an event, Armoury Records, who have been re-releasing Twisted Sister's back catalog, now saves the best for the best.

While Dee Snider and parts of Twisted Sister may not hold the candle for their debut album Under the Blade as high as their fans, it does remain a vital album no hard rock and metal fan should be without. Indisuptably the group's heaviest output from start-to-finish, Under the Blade is a whopper and a chopper of a pure heavy metal record. "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)," "Tear it Loose," "Sin After Sin," "Shoot 'em Down," "Destroyer," put them up against their competitors of 1982 and these booming jams stand tall.

Assumedly every true metal fan knows Under the Blade from each jagged corner, but seldom few own the original Secret label pressing--this writer once did on vinyl and stupidly sold it in a bulk package deal. For the newly-initiated, the quick lowdown about Under the Blade was that it broke Twisted after years of slugging it out in Long Island and northeastern clubs. As much as Dee and the boys hustled every American record label rep into their gigs who would accept the invite, no domestic record deal came to Twisted Sister. Thus they migrated to the UK, laid down a metal classic and instantly sculpted their legacy.

What Armoury Records gives the worldwide SMFs with this special edition of Under the Blade is one of the hottest, fan-conscious products ever conceived. Not only do you get the original artwork for Under the Blade, not only do you get the songs in their original Secret label running order, not only do you get a crisp remaster of this album, you get more. A hell of a lot more.

This CD/DVD combo pack of Under the Blade includes Twisted Sister's very first EP, Rough Cutts. Seldom seen on the market, the four track Rough Cutts, featuring demo versions of "What You Don't Know," "Shoot 'em Down," "Under the Blade" and their Shangi-La's cover, "Leader of the Pack" (which would later re-emerge in another take on Love is For Suckers) presents a historical overview of Twisted Sister when laid out behind Under the Blade.

The real treat of this special edition is the accompanying DVD of Twisted Sister's famous (and infamous) 1982 performance at the Reading Festival. This entire set is your proverbial money shot, because it makes this reissue of Under the Blade an absolute must-get.

Twisted Sister are dolled-up fireballs at the '82 Reading Festival. With makeup so garishly caked they remind you of Darryl Hannah as Pris from Blade Runner, Twisted Sister's blazing energy onstage is enough to behold itself. Watch for trash, fruit, bottles with piss and other debris being hurled at the band during their set. In the interview section following the Reading concert, all the band members note there was even a baggie with fresh excrement being thrown at them. Dee pauses at the end of a number to call out the trash pelters, branding them wimps and inviting them for a dukeout after their set. It's all so ballsy and brash nobody had the testicular fortitude to take Dee up on his challenge. Instead, his incense noticeably bonds him and Twisted to the 30,000 British revelers. While many fans showed up in support of Twisted Sister, the hurtling flotsam (which is later explained as a routine part of English concertgoing at the time) tells the ugly side of the story in the show's first half.

While Twisted are pouring their guts out into "What You Don't Know," "Bad Boys (Of Rock 'n Roll)," "Tear it Loose" and "Under the Blade," it's the finale to their ripping cover of the Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" that helped create their legend. Pete Way, "Fast" Eddie Clarke and Lemmy Kilmister all join Twisted Sister onstage during the tail end of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and it's pretty sick stuff to watch, even in 2011. With Clarke having split from Motorhead at this point in time, to see him and Lemmy reunited onstage with a front-and-center Pete Way bopping just need to see it to wholly appreciate it. Three bassists, Way, Lemmy and Twisted Sister's Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, three guitarists with Clarke next to Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda and Jay Jay French all in a line... Dee Snider going out of his skull onstage with the same fury as the surprised Reading audience... Again, you have to see it.

Followed by 40 minutes of interview segments as all five members of Twisted Sister recount their early years in the UK, the Under the Blade Special Edition is a monster treasure. Learning much of the album was recorded in a barn in proximity to where the Battle of Hastings was fought is definitive information about the band, along with anecdotes on the food and living arrangements Twisted Sister slogged through in the early eighties. To think in a couple quick years from the time Under the Blade was released, Twisted Sister would be free of these salad days (pun intended) and ruling the world.

To sum up the Under the Blade Special Edition in one word: mandatory.

Rating: *****


Crescent Shield said...

GREAT REVIEW. I'm psyched!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Thanks, my friend. Get it and enjoy. Reissue packages seldom get better than this. The DVD alone is a treasure trove. I meant to make mention in the review about the hilarious anecdote of Mark Mendoza's bass giving a cow a case of the unstoppable shits at that farm in Hastings. I was dying.