Black Rose

Bright Lights Burnin'

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The saying goes that every person on earth will have their 15 minutes of fame, and it also seems a safe bet that every New Wave of British Heavy Metal band that ever recorded an album, single, or even a few demos will eventually get their own CD anthology! Not that Saltburn, England's Black Rose are any less deserving in this regard than similarly forgotten contemporaries like Vardis, Tysondog or Aragorn (who might just take the cake, having squeezed out a 22-song anthology despite never releasing an album); but even the most optimistic of obscure metal collectors probably ever thought they'd see this band's career chronicled as extensively as it is in 2005's Bright Lights Burnin'. Of course they must keep in mind that, this being compiled by the Majestic Rock label, utmost sound quality is not to be expected, and it's clear to even untrained ears that most -- if not all -- of the material collected herein was digitized directly from vinyl sources. But, hey, just consider it part of the adventure, OK? So, moving along in chronological order, Bright Lights Burnin' naturally begins with Black Rose's first single, 1982's "No Point Runnin'," which showed an evident debt to Def Leppard's early works with its catchy, accessible, but still thoroughly heavy attack. Better yet, its B-side, "Sucker for Your Love" and the ensuing "Red Light Lady" (from their 1983 EP), rocked even harder and faster, comfortably sparring with the toughest of the day's New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, while showcasing the enviable melodic and soloing talents of guitarist Chris Thompson. Unfortunately, Black Rose's Leppard-as-role-models philosophy would quickly lead to problems on their subsequent releases, as the group strived to add more commercial pop flavors to their songwriting, without the benefit of a major-label budget, much less a Mutt Lange in the studio control room. At first, it was merely the band's lyrics that augured this push towards the mainstream, and, to be fair, it's not that long a leap from clich├ęd heavy metal fighting words ("We're Gonna Rock You," "Stand Your Ground," "Walk It How You Talk It") to American-inspired hard rock futility ("Boys Will Be Boys," "Party Animal," and "California USA,"). But, along with the words soon came contrived instrumental sweetness (hello, synthesizers!) and overly predictable, boring arrangements -- not to mention the obligatory power ballad attempts like "Baby Believe Me." By the time we get to this anthology's final, previously unreleased late-'80s demos (including a rather good Van Halen-inspired number in "Want Your love"), Black Rose are virtually indistinguishable from any number of faceless cock rock bands; sharing in the same tragic fate as better known metal acts like Saxon and Y&T, who likewise attempted to dumb themselves down to appease the masses, only to achieve even less success and unsatisfying musical results in the process. Nevertheless, N.W.O.B.H.M. fanatics will find several striking contributions to the movement within Black Rose's oeuvre, neatly assembled in this -- their pre-ordained 15 minutes/anthology.

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