Review Summary: EZ Livin' may have never made it past the debut album, but they released the best goddamn debut album they could muster.
The short lifespan of the glam/hair metal scene had the inevitable effect of limiting the number of successful bands within the scene. And that is only logical, some say – after all, if even the big names couldn’t hold their appeal past the first couple of albums, why should the lesser-known bands have something to offer? The apologists of this train of thought will never have heard of great “single-album bands” such as Julliet and today’s subject, EZ Livin’.
Now, theoretically, EZ had one thing going for them: they were not American. In fact, while the US scene was getting increasingly well-coiffed and made-up, European bands retained at least a modicum of heaviness and true rock’n’roll spirit. However, they also suffered from a lack of the same widespread distribution that US bands thrived on. On the edge of this double-edged sword walked EZ Livin’, a band which never made it past the debut album, but which released the best goddamn debut album they could muster.
In fact, EZ’s sound is metalized hard rock of the highest quality. Opener Die for Rock
hints at a full-on, melodic metal assault, in the 80’s sense of the expression. However, second track Body Talk
dispels with such notions and takes a turn for the glamourized. The subsequent nine songs walk that line with gusto, never settling on either side, but always treading closer to the permed hairs and bandannas than to the denim jackets and spiked bracelets.
The group’s influences are varied, yet easy to pin down. Taking a page from fellow countrymen Bullet, as well as frenchmen Fisc and swedes Europe, the group mix in abundant American references: Too Hot To Handle
has large doses of Leppard, while Take Me
could have been written by Bon Jovi or even very early Poison. Taste My Sweet Love
even has a tapped lead ripped off AC/DC, and the two mandatory – and very good – power ballads sound rather Americanized as well. On other moments, such as the title track or the aforementioned Die For Rock
, the group find their own personality, presenting catchy slabs of euro-hard-rock.
Musically, there are few surprises, although the guitarist – Hans Ziller, later of Bonfire - clearly seems to have some chops and the drummer benefits from the good – and typically European – drum sound of the production. Peter Henrics’ voice has a tone similar to CJ Snare of Firehouse, Jon Bon Jovi or even Bret Michaels, although he attempts a few shriller screams that only the first of the three would dare to replicate. As for bassist Hermann Bauer, he is barely heard throughout, not disappointing when he does come through.
But the main attraction here is the songwriting. Although it falters a little towards the end, a solid 80% of this record is comprised of fantastic hard rock riffs and hooks. The initial sequence is particularly strong, with Die for Rock, Body Talk, Too Late for Paradise, EZ Livin’, See The Tears
and After The Fire
constituting a real showcase of how to write good hard rock. Whether they’re ripping through the fast metal of Die for Rock
or EZ Livin’
(a track which harks back to some of the drum patterns and vocal lines of the opener) or performing a solid mid-tempo in Body Talk
or even attempting a syrupy ballad (See The Tears
, a textbook example of vintage 80’s cheese), the group always come out with their reputation intact and their heads held well high. The title track, although somewhat less interesting in the verse section, brings the best chorus in the whole album, instantly skyrocketing to a standout position.
And this is where the album’s (few and small) problems start. After After The Fire
, the songwriting seems to take a dip in quality, with Taste My Sweet Love
and the boring Rockin’ Into The Night
– also known as Die For Rock Part 3
, but failing to entice in the same way as the other two parts – not capturing our interest in the same way as what came before. However, to the songs’ credit, each have at least one motive for interest: the first has its snaking, pervading guitar lead and the second has the best solo on the album, an electrified classical-music ditty sure to leave any fan of shredding salivating. Fortunately, things don’t take long to return to normal, and Too Hot To Handle
is another standout, an irresistible boogie that reminds us why we like cheesy 80’s hard rock. After Take Me
has presented the absolute lowest the album has to offer, in a display of bland, listless hard rock, Hold On
provides a decent closer, as well as the second power ballad.
In short, this is a real gem of an 80’s hard rock album. If you belong to the “treasure troving” demographic, you must seek out this one; if you have even a passing affinity for 80’s hard’n’heavy, ditto. I’m only forfeiting the 4.5 rating because I rated Julliet’s single album as a 4.0, and the two are in the exact same level of quality and have the exact same amount of filler songs in relation to total tracks. But if I could, I would go change that album’s rating, just so justice could be made, because both it and After The Fire
deserve a solid 4.5. Go listen to this album NOW.
Die For Rock
After The Fire
Too Hot To Handle