Various Artists

Love Metal

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The title of this compilation and its release at the same time as a number of other collections keyed to Valentine's Day suggest a romantic connection, albeit for the headbanger set. The album's contents belie the first word in the title, however, unless your taste in love runs heavily toward the aggressive -- titles include "Shake Me" and "Rock You Like a Hurricane." But leaving aside that quibble, Love Metal is an excellent survey of heavy metal music in the decade before Nirvana's 1991 ascension and the attendant alternative rock trend that temporarily put the style in the shade. This is the big-hair music of acts like Ratt and Cinderella, Led Zeppelin sound-alikes Whitesnake, and that precursor of the rap/metal hybrid Anthrax and Public Enemy with "Bring the Noise." Universal's Hip-O imprint as usual goes beyond the company vaults to license tracks from fellow majors Sony, Warner, and BMG, resulting in a wider selection than compilations usually enjoy. Quiet Riot's remake of Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" and Extreme's comparatively wimpy "Hole Hearted" were actually Top Five pop hits, but most of these songs were radio hits from platinum and multi-platinum albums at a time when young audiences rewarded heavy riffs and lots of hairspray. Annotator Rob Kemp celebrates the time, especially the lusty, happy-go-lucky lyrics, and laments that in the metal resurgence of the early 21st century the messages are "mired in miserabilism." Maybe '80s metal was an aberration between the devil worshippers who preceded it and the malcontents who followed, but the result is exhilarating hard rock, even if it is distinctly lacking in originality.

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