Friday, July 9, 2010

Blade Runner - Hunted (1984)

What better way could there be to launch yourself into the rank and file of the rapidly expanding NWOBHM movement than to name yourselves after one of the greatest films of all time, which is still fresh on the tongues and imaginations of moviegoers during one of the most brilliant epochs in all of movies and music. Better still, consign an artist to deliver a kick ass cover that implies a rather serious, aggressive edge to your music. Granted, Blade Runner is really not all that heavy, they sound like a mix of Saxon and early Def Leppard with a slightly more unhinged singer in Steve McKay, who just loves to let his range soar above the burning, blues centered hard rock riffing. But the point remains: catch the metal fan's eye and imagination, and then deliver a solid experience with catchy if not wholly original pieces, and they will come away satisfied.

Color me satisfied! The London boys rock like there is no tomorrow on this debut. The mix of the record is standard for its day, or perhaps even slightly substandard, but I can hear the stock riffs of Gary Jones well enough, and they're the sort that should appease any fan of big radio rock in the 80s, cozy enough to please a fan of Survivor or Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, but still firmly within the melodic camp of their fellow NWOBHM acts like White Spirit, Saxon, Praying Mantis, Savage and earlier Demon. We've all been assaulted by now with decades of radio rock hits that utilize similar chord structures, but let's keep in mind that this album was dropped in 1984 before everyone had become sick of it, and to me it still remains highly enjoyable when I'm in for a quick fix of top down, cruising heavy metal and don't feel like turning to the usual suspects.

Hunted opens with one of its very best tracks, "Too Far Too Late", desperate melodic street metal with McKay's vocals dominating as they lurch into a pretty memorable chorus. I also dig the brief screams between verses, though I think the song in all might be a little too short, but the solos are great and I haven't stopped banging my head, ever to this. "Run from the Night" seems a little more like a boys' night out, rockin' at the roller rink track with its punchy chords, but McKay's vocals lean towards the piercing and wild. "Back Street Lady" opens with just a plodding bass, soon merged with some kickass riffs perfect for pumping your fist, a first that I hope would be adorned in leather and perhaps a spike or two. This is still, burning hard rock, mind ye, a little more restless and rough around the edges than the top 40 stuff, but certain to satisfy any Def Leppard fan, at least before that band released "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and jumped the shark.

"The Stealer" comes off like something the band might have lifted directly from the first three Saxon records, the one distinction being the difference in McKay and Byford's vocals, while "Hunted" itself is a burning rocker with some well placed harmonics in the intro, and a fine resonance to the front man's delivery. "I've Got to Rock" totally kicks ass, with big hooks and a screaming fury I wish this guy would have executed more often. "Back on the Street" seems like a direct sequel to "Back Street Lady", because it uses a similar bass pop in the early seconds. However, the vocals are a little better, and I like the cheesy gang chorus here. Another tune worth mentioning is "Looking from the Outside", which is likewise very catchy if you enjoyed the songs "Too Far Too Late" or "I've Got to Rock", with a nice little chord shift in the chorus.

It's hard recommending Blade Runner to anyone, because honestly this is a band that myself and maybe a few dozen other people on Earth would have a good time to. But if you really love those early artists that dwelt on the precipice of accessible leather and lace hard rock, and the more blunt sincerity of steel town heavy metal, it's possible that Hunted is what you're seeking. The production is nothing stellar, but that has never stopped my fondness growing for any of these, and I'd much rather spin this again than offer parlance to a good number of today's retro wannabes who are currently starting to explore this back territory. A few of the tunes here, in particular "Dogs of War" and "The Stealer", are less than satisfactory, but the rest certainly compensate.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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