Review Summary: Alice Cooper continue their streak of classic hard rock albums, taking on more influences and creating yet another enjoyable and influential record.LepreCon Presents: Rock Legends
Legend In Focus: Vincent Furnier- ALICE COOPER
Part Four: Apt Album Title Is Apt
What is the next thing that you do when your band is signed to a major label, has a competent producer behind the desk, has made a classic hard rock album and found critical and mainstream acceptance at last? Why, you head back to the studio and record a follow-up, of course. The fourth album in and the Alice Cooper band were most certainly on a roll. Love It To Death
had been the breakthrough they craved, leaning in a much more cohesive and hard-rocking direction than the psychedelic dalliances of their previous two records and not to mention getting them signed to Warner Brothers in the process. As the follow-up Killer
proved, they were just getting started.
was famously recorded and released in the same year as its predecessor, but it was far from a cheap cash-in on the breakthrough success the band found on Love It To Death
. In fact, it seemed that the band still had plenty more ideas in their twisted minds, enough to write and record another classic record in such a short period of time. In short, Alice Cooper's fourth studio album takes everything that made its predecessor so good and takes it one step further. While Love It To Death
was more along the lines of a straight-up 70s hard rock album, the band stepped into deeper waters with their songwriting abilities on Killer
and took on a variety of influences, including blues, garage rock and even proto-metal. Bob Ezrin, the mastermind behind the band's third album, was back on board twisting the knobs once again. If not to their discoverer, Frank Zappa, it was to Ezrin that the band owed its greatest debt, and this would not be the last winning collaboration either.
The first two tracks, Under My Wheels
and Be My Lover
are a double- whammy of classic hard rock cuts. Employing similar elements as used on the previous record, these songs make great use of heavy guitar work, catchy yet driving rhythms and quirky lyrics to keep the listener's attention and serve as brilliant songs to open a hard rock album with. Something one will also notice on these songs, and indeed throughout the rest of the record as well, is the outstanding bass work of Dennis Dunaway. Rather than just taking the lazy way out and following the guitars, the bass is as integral to the album's sound as any other instrument, presenting plenty of interesting riffs and fills to the listener. Dunaway seriously just tears thing up with his bass, and this is most likely because he was the only member of the band who was not high or wasted 24/7.
A very notable track here, Desperado
, was written as a tribute to a fallen friend, fellow musician and former frontman of The Doors Jim Morrison, who died of a suspected drug overdose earlier in the year. Inspired by a character from The Magnificent Seven, the track has an understandably personal feel. In his lyrics, Furnier expresses the futility of death at the hands of one's vices and it is quite a sombre track despite being as loud and rocking as anything else here. The epic Halo of Flies
is another standout cut. It is perhaps here more than in any other track to date that the band is able to blend so many ideas and influences into one track and still make it flow very well. Lyrically, the song deals with the Cold War, centring around an espionage organization. The instrumental passages really shine here. The listener is treated to tasty blues licks, grand orchestral segments courtesy of Ezrin's production skills and even some early heavy metal with palm-muted chugging. This track proved that the band was capable of creating grand progressive suites in the vein of Yes and King Crimson, and this experiment would yield to further tracks along these lines in the future.
Today, many would associate Alice Cooper with twisted lyrical content. However, it was only here that the band really began to stir up controversy. The song Dead Babies
was criticized at the time of the albums release for its morbid themes. On closer inspection though it appears that the song is more along the lines of a legitimate anti-child abuse anthem than a call to arms for the infanticidal. Of course, at the time any publicity was good publicity for a band trying to make it in the big business of music and any controversy they could generate could only lead to greater things. Combining twisted themes with the eeriness of tracks like the album's eponymous closer were to become synonymous with the name Alice Cooper, both the band and Vincent Furnier's future solo career.
In all, Killer
is another instalment in a line of classic albums released by the Alice Cooper band up until their breakup some years later. Many would even regard this as the best offering from both the band and Furnier's solo catalogue. Perhaps so, but perhaps not. It does, however, represent the point where Alice Cooper was more than just another hard rock band from the 70s desperate to make it big in the industry. It takes a step forward from its hugely successful predecessor, showing that they were not just going to play things safe, and their ambition paid off for them. The album was another major hit and the influence it had on rock and metal is evident, with its songs being covered by a variety of bands from The Melvins to Iced Earth. Being the band's most successful, not to mention consistent, record up to this point, it was inevitable that this would not be the end for Alice Cooper. Its importance alone makes it an essential listen, but the quality of the songs throughout also sets it apart as a fantastic album and definitely one of the best in the discography of Alice Cooper, even almost forty years after its release. Would they be able to carry this through to the next record? At the time, the jury was out and, soon after, so was School
The Killer Lineup Was:
Vincent Damon Furnier- lead vocals
Glen Buxton- lead guitar
Michael Bruce- rhythm guitar
Dennis Dunaway- bass guitar
Neal Smith- drums
To Be Continued In Part Five: School's Out...