Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Samson - Survivors
Samson - Shock Tactics
Samson - Live At Reading '81

Part of a welcome Sanctuary Music reissue frenzy (which includes classics from Marillion, Helloween and the seminal Metal For Muthas NWOBHM comps.), these Samsons comprise the high quality core of Bruce Dickinson's happy-go-stumbly years with one of the NWOBHM's great under-rated acts. Survivors is a little loose-bolted but the songs were strong if a little pubby (Bruce was just joining the band, so lead vocals are by a more than capable Paul Samson). Shock Tactics is a friggin' monster of an album, pretty much one of the best of the genre, Bruce caterwauling up to the level of any Maiden spread, axeman Samson turning in choice traditional riffs which straddle the blues to '70s American metal, an approach more or less unique to him within the rapidly Maiden-cloning scene at the time. Live At Reading '81 is Bruce's last gig with the band and trots out the old chestnuts in the band's celebrated devil-may-care style. One non-LPer makes the grade, an uneventful Kiss-like blue collar track called Gravy Train. It is of note that these particular reissues are not up to expected reissue status, especially that of the label's Marillion spreads, which are pretty much the most resplendent I've ever seen. Here however, no bonus tracks (and this from a band with gorgeous, heavy, highly composed b-sides), no booklets, save for the Bruce interview that had accompanied Live At Reading in previous issues. Rushed to market it seems, much like the Metal For Muthas, which could have at least offered the rare Mutha's Pride EP as additional enticement. Ratings below are for the albums as they exist, and don't reflect this substandard reissue work.
Rating 5, 10, 8

Scorpions - In Trance/Virgin Killer
(Axe Killer)

Following up their Queensryche Operation: mindcrime/Queensryche EP pairing, France's Axe Killer now tackle two crucial, formative Uli-years Scorpions albums from '75 and '76. What you get is this: two discs comprising the two albums, with the bonus tracks being the band's second album, Fly To The Rainbow, spread over the two CDs: a bit messy, but still, you basically get the three bedrock albums (debut Lonesome Crow is a flying pile of crap) under the guise of getting two. The set is housed in a silver-embossed, black hardcover booklet, along with all the lyrics, tons of photos, credits, historical essay, and the selectively-banned naked nubile cover art for Virgin Killer. Of course, through three albums, you get arguably two albums worth of some of the greatest '70s metal anthems to grace the stage, Scorpions vaulting Germany as a metal clime with which to be reckoned. Personally, I think the three records that followed these are the band's best, but peer into this one, and you get modern riff rockers, guitar-slashed production techniques pioneered by Queen and Sweet, histrionic vocals, and a brave eye to variety that unwittingly spawned the idea of the power ballad, these ones fresh-faced, naive, stirring (especially Living And Dying), the band's '80s output, vomit-faced, awfully cheesy and one nine inch nail in the coffin of metal. But let's hail the kicking baby new metal here: Speedy's Coming, Top Of The Bill, Robot Man, Dark Lady, and last but most razor-mad slashing storm-brewed: Virgin Killer. Email fglparis@pratique.fr for more info.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3