Review Summary: Lacking inspiration, conviction, innovation and intrigue as it does, most of Murder One is easily skippable, and nowhere near essential listening for anyone but the most die-hard of die-hard fans.
Ah, Mr. Paul Di’Anno. Even though he has demonstrated time and time again after his expulsion from seminal metallers Iron Maiden that, personality wise, he’s certainly not the most affable in the garden, there is still a soft spot reserved for him in the hearts of Maiden fans the world over. Indeed-some still prefer his work in the band’s raw, punky self-titled debut, or their rollicking sophomore release “Killers”, over anything the band has outed since Paul’s eviction in 1981, whether with iconic Maiden poster-boy Bruce Dickinson, or the less popular Blaze Bailey. Even if it would appear that Di’Anno dropped off the metal radar after Killers to the casual fan, the truth is actually far from that. Although never again reaching any sort of popularity comparable with his past, Di’Anno fronted a great deal of post-Maiden bands, including Gogmagog (which included future Maiden axeman Janick Gers), the self-titled Di’Anno, Battlezone, and Killers (allegedly named after one of Di’Anno’s old Maiden numbers).
Unfortunately, Di’Anno’s debut release with Killers, Murder One, is an excruciating exercise in mediocrity. All of the key ingredients of “traditional” heavy metal are present-speedy double bass blasts, power chords, steady, booming basslines, falsetto screams and horror/fantasy inspired lyrics, but the fact of the matter is, without master songsmiths like Steve Harris, or passionate, expressive musicians such as Dave Murray behind him, Murder One’s songs, musical performances, and even Di’Anno himself seem, most of the time, hollow and lifeless. Intentionally or not, Di’Anno overshadows his faceless band, who rarely ever stand out, or even stand on equal footing to himself. Instead of seeming like a team effort, Murder One comes off as a bungled solo album by Di’Anno, featuring a consortium of cover-band backing musicians. Lacking inspiration, conviction, innovation and intrigue as it does, most of Murder One is easily skippable, and nowhere near essential listening for anyone but the most die-hard of die-hard fans.
The album’s opener, “Impaler”, claws its way out of the speakers with a sample of a female scream so laughably tacky it sounds like it was sourced from a 1960’s B-Movie. Though an almost predictably typical, Impaler is actually one of the album’s high points, with fun, though not overly inspired or technical, riffery and vocal performances, and a slightly interesting speedy solo. Regrettably though, besides a few choice moments, the album gets progressively worse as it continues through the tracklisting. Whether it be the horrid cover of T.Rex’s “Children of the Revolution”, the overblown, cringeworthy ode to sadomasochistic love that is “S&M”, or the multiple too-long filler tracks that make up the majority of the album (Takin’ No Prisoners, Awakening, Protector, Three Words, The Beast Arises), Murder One is full of uninspired riffs and melodies, lazy and cliché composition, and bland performance.
Almost as if the embarrassment of the lacklustre original material available on the album wasn’t enough, Murder One also includes two Iron Maiden covers, bringing the total amount of cover songs up to three. Whether to try and relive the glory days of Paul’s past, or to make up for the lack of original material in both quality and quantity, the inclusion of these re-recordings further cements the sad state of affairs that is Murder One. The fact that an acoustic version of Iron Maiden’s signature rocker “Wrathchild” may well be the best song on the album doesn’t bode quite well for Paul and co. Predictably, the included re-recording of Remember Tomorrow doesn’t at all live up to the explosively tense original, with the guitars and bass lacking the signature maiden flair, and Paul lacking all sense of eeriness and mystery he possessed on the original.
Murder One, despite failing almost unilaterally, still has some enjoyable moments. Mid-album rocker Marshall Lokjaw is probably the closest Paul comes to his glory days. Though it too begins with another cheesy scream sample (this time of a group of women in what one can only assume is an old-timey saloon of some sort), it is perhaps the only point on the album where the band are able to rock (so to speak) both cohesively and genuinely. Paul almost spits his (admittedly, laughably bad) lyrics, with attitude unseen anywhere else on the album, and the instrumentation too possess a certain air of attitude, with the only truly enjoyable guitar solos on the album appearing on this track. So too, despite the fact that there are two versions of Dream Keeper present on the album (unsurprising, seeing as it is the album’s strongest song), both versions are equally as enjoyable. Though overkill to include, both versions of Dream Keeper, a departure from the rest of the album’s generic NWoBHM/Hard Rock style in the form of a heartfelt ballad, are equally enjoyable, and definitely save the album from being a total failure.
Much of the criticism levelled at Murder One can be traced back to Paul Di’Anno himself. Burdened with nearly ten years of age since his Iron Maiden recordings, much of Di’Anno’s performance lacks his signature youthful exuberance and attitude. Contrary to seeming genuine and heartfelt, Paul’s performance, both vocal and lyrical is bland and uninspired, seeming a badly failed attempt to imitate his glorious past-and sometimes even his bitter successor Bruce Dickinson’s signature style, if the pseudo-operatic falsetto screams in Impaler and The Beast Arises are anything to go by. Di’Anno’s lyrics at times seem even lazier than the songwriting. Though they may be the choice cuts of the album, Marshall Lokjaw and Impaler are possessive of some of the most laughable lyrics on the album, respectively containing the one-liners “My quest for justice-You must obey the LAW!” and “Hear his siren scream; deadly laser beam!” that unfortunately wouldn’t sound out of place in a parody bands’ repertoire.
Though somewhat enjoyable, the few above-average tracks on Murder One don’t save the rest of the album from mediocrity. Whether it be the uninspired original material, sheer obsoletion of over a third of the album (three covers, and two versions of the same song), or the lack of any compelling sincerity in the performances, Murder One is, unfortunately, hard to take as anything more than a washed-up ex-star’s solo album and anything less than someone attempting to ride on the coattails of past success. He may be loved for his short, two album stint in Iron Maiden, but Murder One is nothing Paul Di’Anno, or any of his fans, should be proud of.