The first album from any genre to go #1 on the US album charts is often not what it “should” be. A genre usually has to percolate for a while before it becomes mainstream enough, especially something like “Heavy Metal,” which is not obviously appealing and perhaps deliberately unappealing to most people. But, supposedly this is the record that did it. And it makes sense in many ways.
The songs are catchy. That’s not something you might expect in “heavy metal” but, of course, this isn’t exactly a “metal” band in the sense we might mean in 1991. It’s much closer to “hard rock” or the dreaded “hair metal” (though these guys are more “metal” or, rather, “rock” than most “hair metal” bands). I don’t really have any interest in listening to generic hard rock myself but I guess I have to admit that these songs are pretty catchy for hard rock.
The lyrics are the usual metal silliness. There was actually one line of Bach’s that really made me laugh for how bad it was, but I honestly cannot remember it right now. Most of the time, they’re just pretty standard metal lyrics.
The aesthetic is early Motley Crue, with a little less glam, right? If I knew Motley Crue better (thankful I don’t!) I might either see some difference or have a really big problem with how derivative they are. (I don’t actually know.) But Motley Crue is the first band that comes to mind. It’s possible that there are distinct differences – Sebastian Bach is a better singer than Vince Neil, right? – but I don’t really know. And I don’t really care. Again, I have no interest in a hard rock band like this in 1991 – I want my metal to actually sound like metal and I want my rock to acknowledge the existence of punk (created roughly 15 years prior, if not earlier). This is not music I like.
But, as I said, the songs are catchy. And the band is talented, it seems. They can play, certainly. And the album sounds pretty good 30 years later – the one thing you can really say is that it is the rare, um, “metal” album from 1991 that isn’t horribly produced.
I understand why this was a hit: it’s so much more accessible and less scary than most actual 1991 metal, and it’s louder and heavier than hair metal (especially given how many of those bands had been releasing power ballads recently). It’s nothing I’ll ever listen to again. And if I knew definitively that it was as derivative of Motley Crue as I suspect, I’d knock it down 1.