Vicious Rumors
Digital Dictator



by Voivod STAFF
December 9th, 2023 | 7 replies

Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Out of the shadows, into the top tier with the titans.

Of all the metal tribes that’ve ever set foot on the face of Earth since that first Black Sabbath album, ‘80s metal guitar shredders are by far, the noblest of them all. The analogy is poor in terms of the modus operandi during the Middle Ages (where someone “was” or “wasn’t” a noble), rather, it is more befitting to the somewhat laxer rules of chemical taxonomy. Leaving aside gases wherein chemical nobility is strictly “Middle Ages” tier, metals are characterized by degrees of separation, analogously to the retention of ‘80s metal guitar metal shredders in full time bands. The default pedigree of the pack was a solo career, there were virtuosos that played in bands their entire career, and then there were lads who joined full time bands for a brief period of time, with variable results. For every Marty Friedman and Joey Tafolla raising the ante in the Megadeths and Jag Panzers of the world, there were some guitar masters, whose style was more or less incompatible to that of their other guitar half.

It is the subjective point of view of the author of this review, that a case in point is Vinnie Moore and Geoff Thorpe, during the stint of the former in Vicious Rumors for their debut album Soldiers of the Night. Moore’s style careened towards neoclassical shredding, while Thorpe’s was a blend of ‘70s-’80s glam/hard rock and ‘80s heavy/power metal (two genres that would be superbly brought together towards the end of the ‘80s, by Vicious Rumors and their peers, namely Drive, Marshall Law, Hittman etc.). Nowhere is this more evident than the instrumental track “Invader” where Moore shreds solo, or the song “Medusa”, wherein the duo’s lead guitar work is impressive, but under the hood, the effect of each guitarist in sustaining and highlighting the track, is noticeably uneven.

There’s no doubt that Moore did his best to fit in, but his extensive and successful solo career shows that his true calling resided elsewhere. After his departure, Vicious Rumors brought guitarist Mark McGee to the fold, whose track record at the time, was a demo with the outfit Now. Moreover, singer Gary St. Pierre, who did a good job in Soldiers of the Night, was replaced with Carl Albert (RIP). Albert was initially a guitarist and later on vocalist for Villain, an obscure Californian metal outfit Thorpe was managing at the time (their EP Only Time Will Tell is considered by many, an underground ‘80s metal classic). With the line-up revamped and complete, Vicious Rumors released their sophomore album Digital Dictator in 1987, and transitioned from a company of mere prospects, to serious rivals of the entire ‘80s heavy metal universe.

It is not an exaggeration to write that the album gazed la crème de la crème of ‘80s metal in the eyes at the time of its release, first of all due to the extraordinary vocal delivery of Carl Albert. In any debate about the greatest metal vocalists of all time, Albert should be included in the same sentence with Geoff Tate, Steve Benito (Heir Apparent), Tony Moore (Riot), Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford, period. Listening to the album time and again, lends credence to why Thorpe replaced a good singer, with an absolutely perfect one. Albert could easily fit in/and crossover between any of the of the aforementioned greats, and then go beyond to his very own creative territory. His acrobatics from high pitch flights to the stratosphere to commanding/middle-to-low-end singing and back, have to be heard to be fully believed. The guy was so potent, that he could sing anything anywhere in the ‘80s heavy metal/hard rock realm, and the sole excuse for metalheads not talking about him more, can only be traced in Vicious Rumors’ relative obscurity.

Albert’s band partners do not fall behind, in fact it is them who are sagely directing his tour de force. Irrespective of tempo, Thorpe and McGee laid down riffs at the crosshairs of hard rock and ‘80s heavy metal, whose heaviness, rightly sustained by the great (yet not perfect, in the presence of, say, Master of Puppets) sound work, stands way above the usual practice at that time. To that end, prospective listeners are prompted to insure their head and neck before listening to the opening riff and every bit of the mid-tempo scorcher “Towns on Fire”. However, where the duo truly excels at is its homogeneous, lead guitar interplay. Unequivocally sounding as if they had been playing together for years, Thorpe and McGee fingers are racing exclusively over the bleeding edge, producing solos every bit as important as anything else on the album. While every cut therein is adorned that way, “Lady Took A Chance” stands as first among equals, because every ingredient that makes Digital Dictator an underground classic, has been included therein, in the superlative degree. Last but not least, stands the rhythm section of Howe and Starr. Even though his patterns are largely straightforward, Howe is a hard hitting metronome, whereas Starr’s whimsical bass lines, are allowed to be heard in the final mix.

Unlike most ‘80s metal outfits and on par with the greats of that era, for example Iron Maiden or Metallica, Digital Dictator also excels in the lyrical sector. Even though most of the album hymns the need of having a composedly good time (more on that later), part of the album is succinctly summarized in the album title, partly a misnomer at the time of release, but definitely a punch line for what increasingly appears to be the norm in the 21st century. The instrumental album opener “Replicant”, influenced by the then freshly released Blade Runner speaks volumes, whereas the namesake track is description in so many words, of today’s controversial digital overlords. Even the track “Lady Took A Chance”, taken out of its default context, could be a testament of the precarious comings and goings within contemporary dating apps, a digital as well as a sentimental gamble whose outcome is largely dictated by the ratio of toxic versus normal participants within each platform. One thing within the album though, is undeniably ‘80s. That’s the “backward” message heard in the long player version of the album, long after the end of the speed metal onslaught that is “Out of the Shadows”. The recipients of this mockery have been documented time and again ever since, but one can only imagine their faces, when they fathomed what the message really says to the metal kids; care for your parents, stay clean, have the best possible time, and be wary of turntable needle wear, while listening to all of the above. The most positive way for Vicious Rumors to pull the curtain on a truly remarkable metal album, especially in times where ‘80s metal was routinely shown the finger of scorn.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2023


Album Rating: 4.5

Constructive criticism is most welcome.


December 9th 2023


Damn, hot minute since I've heard this

December 9th 2023


Excellent review, such as the album.

December 10th 2023


Album Rating: 5.0

One of the best US power metal albums ever, pure electricity.

December 11th 2023


hoyl shit cant believe this didnt have a review

December 15th 2023


well, I read this review and have been listening to the album all week (along with Cathedral), and now they just announced a North American tour with Raven with a date in my city in April

queue Kronk “oh yeah it’s all coming together”

Staff Reviewer
December 16th 2023


Album Rating: 4.5

That's great news, while I was writing this, the band was concluding a tour in Japan.

Hope a new album will come after the NA tour.

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