The rest of the world would never know it but Vanadium virtually ruled the Italian heavy metal scene during the mid-'80s, and after three, increasingly accomplished studio albums and one live LP released specifically to commemorate their steady ascension, the Milanese quintet were in peak form by the release of 1986's Born to Fight LP. Fans still bicker over whether its high caliber songwriting was quite on par with that of worthy predecessors, Game Over and A Race with the Devil, but there was no question that Born to Fight boasted the topmost production standards of Vanadium's career thus far, thanks to their hookup with experienced British engineer Louis Austin (Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, MSG, etc.). Looking at the songs, then: opening speedster "Run Too Fast" was launched off a Bach-like sacred procession from keyboardist Ruggero Zanolini and frankly sounds as good as any of the era's major metal exports; along with the album-closing "Arms in the Air," featuring a matching introductory solo response from guitarist Steve Tessarin, it figures among the best songs of Vanadium's career. Other cuts, like the somewhat staid "Still Got the Time," the lyrically predictable (very Whitesnake-inspired) "Born to Rock," and of course the custom-built power ballad "Easy Way to Love," worked perfectly well at the time, but have aged poorly like so much '80s hard rock, seeming a little too "civilized" by modern heavy metal standards. And yet, for listeners who still pined for Vanadium's older, '70s-fueled, dueling-guitars-and-organs template, there remained a few classic examples in "Before It's Too Late," the racing instrumental "Ridge Farm," and -- for safety's sake -- a faithful (maybe too faithful) cover of Deep Purple's "Never Before." Born to Fight was a mixed creative bag, in other words, but so well recorded and consistent with Vanadium's building career momentum of previous years, that one would have been hard pressed to divine just how much trouble lay ahead for the venerable Italian group.
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