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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eyes Up!

On Top - Top Heavy
2011 Horror Pain Gore Death Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Rule number one of heavy metal marketing, circa 1986:  bait your audience with an album cover that provokes a purchase without even sampling the contents.  Rule number two, if you get to make a video, load it up with more T&A than a swingers convention.

So many times we metalheads back in the day were suckered by sex.  We were often drawn to albums in the record store for their painstaking artwork--anything by Maiden or Helloween's Walls of Jericho, for example.  Still, most of us back then were horny males who'd duck into the nearest bathroom to rub one out on a typical Saturday night during Headbangers Ball.  Metal had been watered down to the point of despair, but the tradeoff was all of that glorious skin trade MTV peddled before us.  Damn, we were so easy.  Of course, if you actually got away with projecting sleaze on your album cover (as Ratt did with reckless delight on Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy), you were gods for that standard alone.

Leave it to this generation to one-up their hard rocking, tool-projected gods.  There's a more lax code of conduct regarding sex in the media today.  You can't turn on a routine network show without some sexual reference that would've violated a hundred censorship codes two decades ago.   Even Entertainment Tonight at times can be Playboy Light.  Ain't it funny how it is, as Bruce Dickinson would wax.

So naturally a cover such as On Top's Top Heavy would catch immediate hell.  If trying to sneak those heavy Ds into the music world back then, you can bet Tipper Gore and her PMRC hit squad would've had a Parental Advisory sticker slapped across the whumping cleavage, by and large the initial draw to this record.  Or it might've been blacked out altogether, as happened to Overkill's Fuck You EP or most of Poison's Open Up and Say Ahh, the latter offense being a protruded tongue dangling out of a female model dressed as a tigress.  And Gene Simmons has been doing that shit for years, Christ...

If anything, Philadelphia's On Top, who are surely apt pupils of Ted Nugent and Sunset sleaze rock, missed the opportunity of a lifetime to roast the butchery of Poison's cover by blacking out their entire cover save for only the gaping yabbas on Top Heavy.  It would've been brilliant.

But let's move on past the boobs.  You're already here because of those.  What's inside is what counts and for sure, On Top are the audile hellraisers they purport themselves to be.  They may start off with a galloping power metal ode i.e. Armored Saint on "Into the Night," but afterwards, the chains are off and the trio comprising On Top go for broke to win their audience over.  In large part, they accomplish their goal.

The only fault of Top Heavy is its redundancy.  Minus some slower breakdown fills and bridge sections, most of the album keeps to a primarily quick, bang-minded tempo.  It's the sound of desperate dry humping and thirty-second ejaculation upon final consummation.  You know what you're getting with song titles such as "Another Night of Sleaze," "Hot 'n Wet," "Fire Down Below" and "Up To No Good."  Jaron Gulino, Alex Kulick and Danny Piselli are the modern-day replicants of their crotch-hungry elders--or at least, they want to be.  Thus what makes Top Heavy appealing despite its overall repetition is its unapologetic spirit of throwback grind that's easy to grab onto, whether you're in your teens or your forties.

On Top's debut is full frontal, and that's all you can ask for in a safe and tidy music scene that needs a lot more shaking up than it gets.  You'd like to hope Alex Kulick's name is real, even if it conjures up temptation to think of it as an amalgam stage name comprised of Alex Skolnick and Bruce or Bob Kulick.  Yet the younger shredder (who bears a slight resemblence to Dave Mustaine) makes a name for himself on this album.  His guitar solos are gifted and sometimes spectacular.  He also has every dirty bar rock riff stashed within his fingers, while band mastermind Jaron Gulino keeps a tight rhythm unto himself while caterwauling into his mike like he's about to splooge himself.  That's not a rip, either.  You like it when your frontman has chutzpath and raw energy.  Gulino's not really a tight vocalist, but then you're not expecting an impresario to sing about muff diving.  You have the feeling Danny Piselli has more chops to give than what he drives through this album, even though "Too Much" allows him to bring the sweaty-balled chaos to a more tempered and slightly decorative roundup.

For sure On Top has spent more than enough time trolling internet porn as they have practicing the licks of "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang."  Had On Top been given a shot back in the day on Sunset, they might not've enjoyed the success of their statewide brethren Poison, but it wouldn't have been out of the question to see a bill at the Troubadour comprised of L.A. Guns, Smashed Gladys and On Top.  That's the main compliment we can pay these dudes, that they well belong to the era they cater to.

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