Back in the Ring

If you miss the days of big hair and spandex, I’d suggest picking this record up as soon as possible. Otherwise, take a pass.

Not to be confused with the Christian death metal band which later changed its name to Vengeance Rising (perhaps because this band had already claimed the name), this version of Vengeance is a Dutch act that signed with CBS in the early 1980s and released a string of records into the 1990s that most people probably won’t remember. A 1997 comeback bid failed, leaving the band again dormant until this release.

While there are a few enjoyable, AC/DC-ish 1980s-style hard rockers scattered throughout the record, they’re few and far between. Actually that’s not exactly true. They’re crammed together in the opening minutes of the album with the title track, “No Mercy” and “Mind Over Matter.” After that things go downhill in a hurry.

The rest of the record is mostly derivative stuff right out of the 1980s, but what do you expect from a band with a guitarist whose nickname is Slash? (It’s taken, dude.) In truth, there was probably a time in my life when the opening riff of “Holy Water” would have caused some excitement, but that time’s long gone. The keyboards on “Now and Then” take it beyond hair band and into 1980s pop territory. Then, there’s the absolute worst song on the record, “Cowboy Style.” I’ve listened to it a few times just trying to figure out what the hell it’s about. I think there’s supposed to be some kind of innuendo here, but damned if I can figure out what it is. A bunch of lyrics about chickens and an “ayayippie” chorus that I can only assume is supposed to be their version of “yippie kay yay.” It’s like a collection of the worst cliches to come out of the hair band scene.

The record features a couple of guest shots that help slightly. Warlock drummer Michael Eurich sits in on “Rip it Off,” which is one of the handful of songs that actually works, even though I know I’ve heard the melody somewhere before and just can’t place it. Accept’s Wolf Hoffmann plays on “Mind Over Matter,” one of the listenable opening trio of songs. Other guest shots include Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen on “Captain Moonlight” and Mat Sinner providing some backing vocals.

Perhaps if I had heard this record in 1985, I’d have a slightly different opinion of it. In 2006, it just feels dated, stale and weak.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
June 23rd, 2006


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