|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: John Petri|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1988/2011||Artist Website: Bride|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 35:20|
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Live To Die, the 1988 Pure Metal Records sophomore release from Louisville, Kentucky based Bride, has all the qualities you would expect from a classic heavy metal album. Bone crushing guitar riffs? Check. Shredding lead guitar work? Present. A high pitched vocalist that can wail with the best of them? Got that covered, too. Adrenaline fueled rhythm section? Accounted for.
Similar to its predecessor Show No Mercy from 1986, also on Pure Metal, Live To Die maintains a straightforward metal heading, albeit a bit heavier this time around and with more variety. Bride, for instance, has expanded upon its sound by giving prominence to some thrash influences along with the occasional bluesy element. You will still find some darker (almost Gothic) flavorings but not to quite the same extent. Also like the debut, direct comparisons are difficult to invite in that Bride stays true to its own sound. As stated in my Show No Mercy review, “Bride does not sound like anyone else because they attempt to imitate no one”- and such is the case here.
As also stated in my Show No Mercy review, I have to confess to not being the biggest eighties era Bride fan. I felt the early nineties found the group hitting its stride - when it trended towards blues based hard rock - while showing great promise though not without some inconstancies during its informative eighties day. As for Live To Die, the album finds Bride making steps and strides in terms of its songwriting in that metal anthem “Hell No” and dramatic epic “Heroes” are nothing less than classics. The bluesy “Whiskey Seed” and intricacies of “In The Dark” and “Out For Blood” are choice tracks as well.
That said, Bride, at this early stage in its career, hits a few bumps along the road. The fact is, I find it difficult to identify with the groups more thrash heavy material. The platitude driven “Here Comes The Bride” has always impressed me as a throwaway while “Live To Die” and “Fire And Brimstone” trend towards the repetitious. Yes, the two eventually grew on me (I consider them above average to good songs at best) but it was not without a significant amount of time and difficultly.
It is equally important to reinforce that many Bride fans consider Live To Die a “classic” or even a “monster album”. Just do not count me among them in that - according to my opinion - there are not enough great moments here to rate Live To Die an upper tier album. I guess it all boils down to whether or not you accept Bride’s “thrashier” material. If so, and “Live To Die” and “Fire And Brimstone” are among your favorites, then add another 10 to 15 percentage points to the final score- and we will agree to disagree in the process!
Live To Die finds Bride improving upon its performance. It all starts with vocalist Dale Thompson, who scales things back in terms of his delivery. While Show No Mercy found him overdoing it in the high pitched and falsetto department, on Live To Die he exercises the all around greater control in presenting with an even balance of the high end and register on the more mid-ranged side of things. Yes, he can still go for a high note - pay close attention to “Live To Die” and “In The Dark” - but, again, it is with added control and a professional eye towards aligning with the musical happenings at hand.
Troy Thompson and Steve Osborne continue to form a monster guitar team. Tight sounding riffs and harmonies prevail throughout - the instrumental moments to “Heroes” are intense as they get - while the soloing of Osborne proves a guitar heroes delight (no pun intended). “Live To Die” and “Fire And Brimstone”, in particular, allow him to stretch in terms of his lead guitar abilities.
While the greatness of an album is an ever debated point, it is of no avail if you are unable to obtain it. And that is where the early 2011 Retroactive Records re-issue of Live To Die comes into play. Not only is the album available for the first time after being out of print for several decades, it was re-mastered in addition to coming with liner notes from Troy Thompson.
In terms of production, I always felt Live To Die sounded fine for its era. The Retroactive re-mastering, however, cleans things up in presenting with the bigger and all around fuller sound. Guitars now come across edgier and the low end, particularly drums, that much more pronounced. Any element of muddiness hinted at on the original is now gone.
Track By Track
“Metal Might” gets things going with its unrelenting double kick drum action. Despite its clichéd title, “Metal Might” proves a winner, reflected in its piercing rhythm guitar emphasis and uncompromising tempo. Osborne destroys on lead guitar while Dale complements things with his well timed wails and falsettos.
“Hell No” remains a Christian metal anthem to this day. The songs strength resides in its over the top chorus, continually shouting the phrase “We won’t go to hell, no we wont’ go” in resounding fashion. The riff action, at the same time, borders on the infectious and momentum the tenacious side of things. Lyric snippet:
Close the hatches and lower the sails
The wind is whipping great balls of hail
Tempest is raging pulling us down
Time to learn to swim or time to drown
Oars have broken your time to kneel
The storm is screaming with vengeance to kill
Faith has plunged into the sea beneath
Waves beat the ship with iron fist to sink
We won't go to Hell, no we won't go…
The quality is maintained on “In The Dark”. Yes, the tempo might taper a bit here - at least in comparison to the previous two - but the song holds up under some slow to fast time changes (at least for its verses) and elements of the breathtaking (for its animated chorus). A quieter passage decelerating to a classical guitar is prime Bride.
“Out For Blood” stands out with its technical flavorings. Technical in that it also brings some time changes, starting its verses slow and ominous only to gain impetus as the rhythm guitar kicks in and carries things to quite the hard hitting chorus. Three minutes of explosive energy would be the best way to describe things. Lyric snippet:
You slip a note under the table
And wait for a handful of change
You've grown weak, honor is lost
You got the ransom He paid the cost
Crying over eternal fate
Judas kiss, Judas kiss
Out for blood, you're out for blood
It is on the albums title track that some thrash elements come into play. No, this one might not be “melody driven” but still proves a powerful piece with its resolute focus and vigorous chorus in which the classic statement is made: “I’m not the preacher, I’m not the priest/I’m not the devil/I’m not the beast/I’m not a prophet/I’m not a witch/Live to die, die to live”. The best stretch of the albums nastiest lead guitar can be found as well. Lyric snippet:
I'm not going to be the one to tell you
That we don't need guns
But I know one thing for sure
We don't need more war
I won't be the one to say
That you need religion
But without a Savior
There's no chance to be forgiven
“Fire And Brimstone” hits with all the force of a runaway freight train. Also bringing some thrash influences, the song slows the tempo with its “chugga-chugga” riffs in standing out with its full on power. Similar to “Live To Die” not the catchiest but solid nonetheless. Another extended instrumental stretch.
“Whiskey Seed” rates with my Live To Die favorites. This one finds some much needed melody returning to the songwriting while hinting at the bluesy direction Bride would take a few years later. Quite the plodding bass line underpins things (the re-mastering really shines here) but it is the catchy chorus - one of the all time best from Bride - that gives the song its appeal (at least for me). The soloing (it sounds like Troy’s work) is appropriately blues driven. Lyric snippet:
So you want to drink because it makes you feel so big
Pour it down I'll break you like a twig
I am the whiskey you shoot in your veins
I am the bullet you put in your brains
I am the letter you leave on your bed
I am the angel that meets you when you’re dead
You're so young but you want to feel so old
The only way to be hot gain the world and lose your soul
How convenient that a group named Bride would compose a track entitled “Here Comes The Bride”. Unfortunately, I find the song, a two and a half minute thrash assault, completely unmemorable- despite the passing of over two decades it has failed to grow on me. Thrash fans, on the other hand, will be certain to embrace this. As the old saying goes, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. Lyric snippet:
I'm the man in white
The eagle in flight
I'm clean and pure
My heart is sure
Got feet of brass
I'm first and last
Sharp two edged sword
I hold the stars
I live forever more
“Heroes” represents another Bride classic. The song starts to chilling spoken word delivery as eerie keyboards haunt the backdrop. “Heroes” proves dramatic its remaining distance, delivering duel instrumental sections carried by super tight guitar harmonies and an imposing chorus making quite the decisive statement:
Heroes, heroes, heroes are not here to stay
They will all fade away
Except the one who raised
You have to appreciate the songs “outro” as the word “heroes” gradually transitions to “He rose”. You also cannot help but wonder when Dale is going to come up for air during the lengthy scream he cuts loose with at the five and a half minute mark. Lyric snippet:
I'm standing on the sword of the Dragon
He can't pull it from beneath my feet
Down in the darkened cavern
In the field of blood I'll watch him bleed
Watching the smoke rise from the wounded hero
Standing dazed in the acid rain
A bitter taste in the air
I hear the danger of the tightening chains
How you rate Live To Die depends on how you accept its more thrash heavy material. Thrash fans, as already stated, add another 10 to 15 points to the final score (or even more if this review has got you all worked up!). I embrace it as a very good album featuring some classic moments (again, “Hell No” and “Heroes”) and others that took a bit of time in order to grow on me. Still, the re-issue comes recommended for the improvements as a result of the re-mastering- even if you already own the original.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Metal Might” (3:35), “Hell No” (3:53), “In The Dark” (4:10), “Out For Blood” (2:58), “Live To Die” (2:54), “Fire And Brimstone” (4:27), “Whiskey Seed” (3:41), “Here Comes The Bride” (2:27), “Heroes” (7:13)
Dale Thompson – Lead Vocals
Steve Osborne – Guitars
Troy Thompson – Guitars
Frank Partipilo - Bass
Stephen Rolland – Drums