Vicious Rumors – The Atlantic Years (Dissonance Productions / Cherry Red Records
The arrival of The Atlantic Years shines a light on one of the most underrated bands in rock and metal. For over 40 years, Vicious Rumors has been churning out inspired records that have largely fallen under the radar of the mainstream, with the majority of their back catalogue currently out of print and unavailable on streaming services.
This new box set goes some way to correct this, showcasing the group’s three-album stint with Atlantic Records. Representing the apex of their career, there’s no better place to begin your Vicious Rumors journey.
In 1988, the band’s second album, Digital Dictator, welcomed vocalist extraordinaire Carl Albert to the fold. This landmark release is packed to the rafters with relentless melodic metal bangers and understandably caught the attention of Atlantic Records, resulting in Vicious Rumors’ first major label deal.
The term ‘masterpiece’ is all too often brandished when discussing solid records, but there can be no other word for the band’s self-titled debut with Atlantic. Unleashed in 1990, Vicious Rumors is a tour-de-force of melodic heavy metal. Subgenres such as power metal, speed metal, and thrash are commonly associated with the band, but the album is far too fresh to be pigeonholed.
‘Don’t Wait for Me’ bolts out of the gates; a thunderous opener that glistens with the band’s unique blend of aggression, melody, and technical prowess. An impeccable production, courtesy of Michael Rosen, allows the allure of each member to shine – Larry Howe’s powerhouse drums, the tasteful duel guitar gymnastics of Geoff Thorpe and Mark McGee, Dave Starr’s forceful bass, and last but certainly not least, the incredible, soaring vocals of Carl Albert.
Vicious Rumors never falters, with each anthem brandishing its own set of insatiable riffs and infectious earworm choruses. From mid-paced stompers such as ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘World Church’, to high-octane face-rippers like ‘On the Edge’ and ‘Hellraiser’, the album shifts through tempos and moods with such grandeur that, for 40 minutes, the listener is transported on a captivating soundscape thrill-ride that demands return visits.
Welcome to the Ball arrived a year later and was primarily written on the road. While it doesn’t quite hit its predecessor’s dizzying heights, it comes mighty close. The album is home to one of Vicious Rumors’ finest songs of all in ‘When Love Comes Down’ – a ballad, something of a rarity for the band. Another highlight is ‘You Only Live Twice’; a song that ignites with a blend of ferocious riffage and stampeding drums before (while keeping its foot firmly on the gas) darting into a gorgeous midsection that sees Thorpe and McGee lay down some of their most emotive guitar solos.
The final disc in the set brings the much-welcome reissue of Plug In and Hang On: Live in Tokyo. This long-lost live record from 1992 proves this incarnation of the band could nail it on stage as well as in the studio. The sizzling setlist features a delicious scattering of tunes from both Vicious Rumors and Welcome to the Ball, with a couple of killer picks from Digital Dictator and the group’s 1985 debut album, Soldiers of the Night, thrown in. As with the studio albums, this live set is brilliantly produced.
Vicious Rumors would release one further studio album with Albert at the helm before his untimely death in 1995. Here’s hoping 1994’s Word of Mouth sees a reissue in due course, as it continued the impeccable quality found across the band’s Atlantic output.
For those yet to check out Vicious Rumors, you’re in for a treat with this release. As for long-time fans, the inclusion of Plug In and Hang On: Live in Tokyo will be a welcome addition if you missed it the first time around, while the overall package and remastering job make it an essential purchase.
Dan Aston | Now Spinning Magazine