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The Last Years of 80s Hair Metal, Part II – The Scandinavian Invasion

Posted in Entertainment, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2022 by Mike

Hair metal peaked with Appetite for Destruction. Here’s what came after…

In 1986 the Swedish band Europe released The Final Countdown, an album chock-full of pop metal hits and ballads including the eponymous single still heard in every stadium where professional sports are played. Right now you can hear the keyboard intro you attempted to plink out with one finger at least once on your best friend’s piano/keyboard until they told you to knock it off.

da-da-dah duh.. da-da-dah dah duh…

That album went triple platinum: five singles were released, including “Carrie“, which was probably single-handedly responsible for the rise in the teen pregnancy rate among the denim-wearing, hair teased-to-the-sky demographic of 1987:

Holy shit, I just made that up! You mean I was right?

The Final Countdown would be Europe’s biggest album, and even their guitarist thought it was too much and quit the band afterward. But they weren’t the only Scandinavian band to make it across the pond, just the biggest. And because, as I warned you, this blog series is about the more obscure albums I was listening to, here are three more.

D.A.D. is a Danish band whose album No Fuel Left For the Pilgrims saw some success here in the States, selling 100,000 copies (re: Wikipedia). Released in March of ’89, it was actually the band’s third album but first international one. D.A.D. stood for “Disneyland After Dark”, but the House of Mouse had problems with them using that name so the band simply abbreviated it. Of the three albums I’m going with today, this is the most straight forward rocker – “Rim of Hell” has a huge sing-along chorus and should’ve been a bigger hit. The other single, “Sleeping My Day Away“, caught more radio play and its sound is what you’ll get on most of the album’s tracks. “Jihad” and “Ill Will” (this one is a favorite) though, are thisclose to thrash metal – I’m willing to bet they felt like it live. Lead singer Jesper Binzer’s growly vocals were also a bit of a departure from most hair metal bands at the time, and as such there’s not a proper ballad on this album. This is not a complaint. Yeah, this BAND should’ve been bigger than they were.

“Scr-screamin’ gui-gui-guitar!” – if you were 17 in 1989 and heard the beginning of Shotgun Messiah’s “Shout it Out” and didn’t immediately crank the volume, well, you probably listened to country or Madonna. Listening to it again, it sounds like it took cues from the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” and KISS. Another band out of Sweden, Messiah were very much a glam band a la Poison and Crue. Their guitarist, Harry Cody was another gunslinger, as evidenced by the licks/riffs on every damn song and the instrumental on this album, “The Explorer” – epic. I remember reading in Rolling Stone that Cody refused to play it in concert – something about not wanting to be like other lead guitarists playing solos during shows, as I recall. The rest of the songs on the album didn’t offer much in the way of originality, but as alluded to before, originality wasn’t the genre’s selling point (hell, it sold about 500,000 copies in the US).

By 1989, some bands probably began realizing being labeled “hair metal” was limiting their appeal and started giving themselves other monikers. “Funk metal” was one such label used by bands like Extreme, Bang Tango (more on them in a later post, I think), and Electric Boys, yet another band out of Sweden. Funk metal tended to emphasize the bass guitar a bit more prominently and were often riff heavy, and Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride is a perfect example. This is a fun album, and one I listened well into freshmen year of college. Electric Boys’ singer, Conny Bloom, had a distinctive bluesy sound, getting away from the wailers more prominent on rock radio. Take a listen to “If I Had a Car” – definitely groove-driven. Their most popular song, “All Lips and Hips“, should’ve been bigger – it has an awesome riff and if you had some subwoofers in your car you’d get noticed playing this one. “Captain of my Soul” has a powerful chorus (I definitely hear some “Mississippi Queen” in that one) and then there’s “Rags to Riches,” the album’s best example of funk metal. The harmonies this band had – well, nothing compares to Van Halen’s Michael Anthony, but these are pretty damn good, too. “Into the Woods” closes out the album; I still bang my head to its riff, and the outro still gives me shivers (jump ahead to 2:50 as it moves just to full-on metal guitar). Electric Boys is still putting out albums, which makes me happy…

So, I’m not even trying to be exhaustive here, so if you’ve happened upon this blog and want to rail on me for forgetting some other European hair metal band, don’t be that person. Feel free, though, to remind me. Meanwhile, I’m going to go listen to “Ill Will” again.

Next week I think I’m going more sleezy.