Hard Reviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Penny Black - Penny Black
(Cordoozle)

Named for the world's first postage stamp (the party line for the reason being that that event ushered in the era of modern communication; nice idea), Penny Black is essentially a solo project from the Killer Dwarfs' Russ Dwarf (now Graham), also featuring Goddo's Gino Scarpelli on guitar, although if these Ontarians tour, Gino obviously wouldn't be around, given Goddo's considerable resurgence in Canada. The album opens up with chording reminiscent of The Boys Are Back In Town, and then performs a relaxed walk through an oddly simple, very average batch of songs, a little like heavy-ish '70s glam or pop, a bit of a hair band sound, interesting tinges of the blues and even country, very non-confrontational, like middle of the road Bon Jovi, not heavy, not light, production job, er, average, instrumentation, average, with heavy songs lightened with a little acoustic drumming, ballads toughened with a little electric. Don't know how to take this. Can't say the hooks are there, but there are these rock starry tones that sound like mellow GN'R, maybe L.A. Guns, old Helix, everything - I mean everything (as well as the best song on the album, called Everything) - shooting for, and often achieving, under-stated, tasteful, traditional invisibility, save for Russ' quite distinct pipes, again, reminding me of a cross between early '70s glam and late '80s glam. For those who opine the value of an extremely modest, unshowy version of the Killer Dwarfs. Contact www.pennyblack.net for more info.
Rating 5.5

Breaker - Get Tough!
(Auburn)

Bloody 'ell, now that's the way to do a reissue. I mean, first you start with something worthy of reissue, this emphatically filling that criterion in heavy metal spades. Cleveland's Breaker originally put out Get Tough! in 1987, and the sounds enclosed were an accomplished, powerful mix between the power metal you hear today and the best traditional songwriting from those raised on Accept albums like, er, Breaker. One thinks Vicious Rumors perhaps, the very best from Flotsam, Breaker finding ways to drive a blue collar chug through yer head with a melody and a smile, wrapping many metal worlds in the barbed wire of a good earthy riff, topping it with very professional vocal melodies. But man, that's just disc one. Disc two offers all sorts of demos, live material, tracks from comps., unreleased post-LP tracks, and even one new song called Standing In The Light (very unique and emotional: a masterpiece. If they can write twelve of these...), fully 16 more tracks from the Breaker story, which is dutifully retold by godly metal journo Mark Gromen (we really should hear more from this guy!), label head Bill Peters and the band's own Jim Hamar. All told, 28 pages stuffed with lyrics, credits, photos from all eras, from a band who, judging from the 2000 track, '88's Still Life and '90's Action, are the best songwriters in traditional metal today. See www.auburnrecords.com for more info.
Rating 9

Hard Reviews Page 5