One Nation Underground

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Hawaii's 1983 debut, One Nation Underground, is one of those rush-recorded, lousy-sounding, guitar-dominated heavy metal albums that could only have come from Shrapnel Records' early-'80s assembly line. Really just a series of guitar heroics stitched together into nine, mostly indistinctive songs, the record has scant few great moments to advertise (maybe the functional rocker "Silent Nightmare," the promising "Escape the Night"), and instead serves as a damning indictment for high-pitched metal vocalists everywhere. In fact, so shrill is frontman Gary St. Pierre's delivery that one can't help but think of '70s era Rush when listening to hysterical offerings like "You're Gonna Burn" and "Nitro Power" -- even if the challenging, semi-progressive song arrangements here in no way compare to the Canadian trio's lofty accomplishments. Instead, Hawaii's well-intentioned but undercooked near-songs often recall similarly flawed efforts by Japan's Loudness (perhaps a geographical proximity issue?) or, at best, Texan techno-thrashers Watchtower. In any case, Marty Friedman's guitar work is already amazingly fluid and highly inventive, and should give guitar-shredding enthusiasts something to look forward to regardless of this album's shortcomings.

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