Vicious Rumors / The Atlantic Years a history lesson in exhilarating Heavy Metal music

San Francisco’s Bay Area was a hotbed for early 1980s Metal talent, with many contenders for the crown, and one of them was Vicious Rumors. Always a hugely fertile musical breeding ground, it seemed the city’s atmosphere encouraged experimentation, and artists flourished with this freedom of expression. Though some may argue about its roots, Thrash certainly really took off there and went on to conquer the world.

Vicious Rumors – The Atlantic Years (Cherry Red Records)

Release Date: Out Now

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Listening back, whilst the music was certainly ground-breaking at the time and led to a lot of what we hear these days, by current standards of Extreme Metal, most of these early bands seem a lot more melodic now, and so it was with Vicious Rumors. Whilst not setting out to be a full-on thrash outfit, there was undoubtedly a cutting edge in their material but so much more as they tipped the hat to those giants in whose footsteps they followed. As well as the feral barbs of the new, harder music that was coming through, there were traditional elements here and some that caught the zeitgeist of what was happening over in the U.K.

Vicious Rumors - The Atlantic Years
Vicious Rumors – The Atlantic Years

Comprising of guitarists Geoff Thorpe and Mark McGee, drummer Larry Howe, bass player Dave Starr and vocalist Carl Albert, the quintet soon made a name for themselves, constantly touring and releasing two independent albums that caught the attention of the giant Atlantic Records.

Having secured a deal following showcase support of a Paul Stanley solo tour, the band hit the road hard again, then headed into the studio, and their self-titled album was unleashed upon the world. By the time of its release in early 1990, the band were a water-tight and close-knit unit that operated like a well-oiled machine.

Lauded by the legendary Malcolm Dome as “the Metal album that will define the ’90s,” Vicious Rumors was a volcanic explosion of riffs and locomotive rhythms, all topped by the extraordinary vocals of Albert. There are elements of Thrash here in the blistering opener Don’t Wait For Me, but other tracks dip more into bands like Dio-era Rainbow in Down To The Temple, Judas Priest in On The Edge and The Thrill Of The Hunt has the feel of Iron Maiden.

It’s certainly a glorious mix, and as a whole, this slightly schizophrenic approach is a fascinating one that had a broad appeal throughout the Metal community. Far from being a band in search of a sound, they were forging their own identity on a path but were not afraid to show influences as well as doing something entirely fresh.

Released in 1991, the third album Welcome To The Ball, followed swiftly, the year-long gap between that and their major label debut keeping up the momentum. Following the template but then pushing the envelope further, the band put together another great Metal album, with Saviour From Anger, Raise Your Hands and Ends of the Earth being amongst the highlights.

At times darker and meaner, a lot of it was written on the road, and this certainly contributed to the overall feel as the band reflected on life on tour and mixed both euphoria and tough-as-nails determination to not waste opportunities presented to them.

The dream destination of most rock and Metal bands, Japan came calling and answering the cry. The band went over in 1992 to a raft of already sold-out shows, one of which was recorded for Plug In and Hang On – Live in Tokyo. A bare-bones, overdub-free affair, it catches the Vicious Rumors at the height of their powers in front of an audience free of the archetypal reserve the nation is known for at shows.

Whilst the crowd noise on the recording is a little muted, the band are in full flight, and with four albums worth of material to choose from, it’s a cherry-picked set that highlights just what a thunderous outfit they were on the road. Obviously, having a great time on stage, the warmth and electricity of the performances translate well and tracks like Ship Of Fools and March Or Die blaze with intense light.

Following the release of their fifth album, Word Of Mouth, in 1994, Carl Albert was tragically killed in a car accident the following year, the band losing an integral part of their brotherhood and the Metal world robbed of an outstanding vocalist.

The decision was made to carry on the legacy, and so the band have continued bringing their particular Metal to the masses ever since, with Geoff Thorpe remaining the original founding member to this day. Whilst their output has been impressive throughout, it’s this three-disc set of their years on Atlantic Records that proves the early pinnacle and is well worth checking out for a history lesson in how to make exhilarating Heavy Metal music.

They may have been another band who frustratingly just missed on the super leagues, but Vicious Rumors were indeed contenders and The Atlantic Years is a fine testament to that very fact.

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