Two years removed from their impressive debut Nasty by Nature, Stereo Nasty are back with their sophomore opus, entitled Twisting the Blade, on Stormspell Records. For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of making their acquaintance, Stereo Nasty are a four-piece from Kildare, Ireland who play ‘80s-style traditional heavy metal along the lines of Accept, Lizzy Borden, W.A.S.P., Metal Church, Leatherwolf, Dokken, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne, but boasting a full, powerful, modern production. Of course, there are many newer bands today worshiping at the altar of old-school heavy metal, but Stereo Nasty’s take is somewhat unique. Rather than aping Iron Maiden or early Metallica like so many of their peers, Stereo Nasty take aim at the U.S. metal sound that counterbalanced its power chords with melodic accessibility and anthemic, Z-Rock tailored songwriting, a la early W.A.S.P. or Lizzy Borden. The band also benefits from the throaty, gravelly but instantly recognizable vocals of Mick Mahon, whose voice follows in the footsteps of legends such as Blackie Lawless, David Wayne, and Jon Oliva.
Make no mistake: Stereo Nasty are very good at what they do. Guitarist Adrian Foley is a riff merchant of the highest order, churning out these simple but devastatingly effective classic riffs propelling every song. On tunes like “No One Gets Out Alive” or “Becoming a Beast,” he channels the mighty Wolf Hoffmann (Accept) circa tunes like “Love Child” or “Princess of the Dawn.” If you close your eyes, you can almost see the synchronized Hoffmann/Baltes stage moves. More broadly, Stereo Nasty are exceptional songwriters. Somehow, they take the three and a half minute verse/chorus formula and make it sound fresh and exciting with compelling midtempo songs that make you want to sing along at the top of your lungs and bust out the trusty air guitar without mercy. Opener “Kill or Be Killed” showcases everything that makes Stereo Nasty great: towering riffs, spine-tingling vocals, and a hook to die for, all wrapped up neatly in a sub-four minute package. The title track, “Twisting the Blade,” delivers equal satisfaction, with a “Dream Warriors”-type riff and even gang vocals shouting out the titular phrase in the chorus. That’s not to say, however, that Stereo Nasty always play it safe in the songwriting department. Track 5, “Through the Void,” my favorite song on the album, takes the listener on a seven-minute journey that builds gradually from semi-ballad realms at the outset (gentle clean guitars and a dynamic, emotive vocal) to pedal-to-the-metal glory just after the four-minute mark, with Foley kicking into a buzzsaw riff and Mahon taking you out of darkness and behind the light, damning your soul to hell. I’ll tell you, it’s enough to give me goosebumps. The album closes out in the best possible way with “Becoming a Beast,” which features superb riffs and vocals and an infectious chorus about being possessed by evil and screaming at the moon. What a totally addictive song.
None of this should take you by surprise if you’re already familiar with Stereo Nasty. The band have not altered the formula or changed their approach significantly. Twisting the Blade follows very much in the Nasty by Nature blueprint. In some ways, that might dampen this album’s impact because the element of surprise has been lost and the listener now knows what to expect. But Stereo Nasty have tried to work within the parameters of their sound to write even better riffs and songs, concentrating their firepower into a lean, concise album clocking in at a hair under 35 minutes. I can’t say whether Twisting the Blade is better than Nasty by Nature. What I can say unequivocally is that both albums belong in the collection of every discerning old-school metalhead who appreciates the timeless power of a simple mighty riff and a catchy melody. I would love to see Stereo Nasty live someday. I bet these songs rule even more in a concert setting.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~