Though former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford has been absent from the recording industry since 1997, she hasn't exactly been idle. After releasing Kiss Me Deadly, her final album after a string of them in the '80s and '90s, the music scene -- and the industry with it -- changed, and alternative ruled the airwaves. Ford got married to Jim Gillette, former vocalist with hair metal rockers Nitro, and started a family. In addition, she relocated to the Caribbean. Wicked Wonderland is uncharacteristic of the pop-metal she released a decade ago. It's an in-your-face metal record, but ultimately it's a very studied and calculated 21st century pop-metal record. It's an album with explicit sexual content, examining S&M, bondage, power exchanges, and all manner of kink and crave in lyrics, words, and sleeve images. Ford wrote all of these songs with her co-producers Greg Hampton and Gillette. Gillette is also either a duet partner or backing vocalist on every track here. Hampton handles bass, keyboard, and other sonic duties, and there are a pair of drummers who alternate in Chris Collier and Stet Howland. The album's first single (and longest track), "Bed," was released exclusively to Stockroom.com, one of the leading suppliers of S&M and bondage gear on the internet. Ford claims that she and her husband have carved out a path to a happy family life, and it does seem that they detail it on this recording. Musically, while Wicked Wonderland is harder, edgier, darker, and more visceral than anything she's released in the past, this is still a very pop-oriented heavy music recording. The songs have hooks as well as blazing guitars and triple-time drumbeats, and they're saturated in keyboards and samplers. Metal has morphed and changed so radically in the last decade, this record sounds more like a late White Zombie tribute album than it does a contemporary metal recording. Check out the hooks in tracks like "Indulge," or the post-'80s metallic musical architecture of "Scream 4 Me," or even the industrial keyboard sounds combined with growling death metal vocals, and Ford's own almost-nostalgic balladic style, all of which make for something that feels not quite of the moment and something not quite dated, either. It also provides a link, however thinly disguised, of the persona she displayed on her earlier recordings. With the proper marketing strategy it will get some play and push in certain quarters of the music world, and perhaps in some markets not even normally associated with music at all. It's an intriguing listen -- once. Otherwise, Wicked Wonderland is a set so steeped in sexual and faux metal clichés it's more a comedy record than a creative or, ultimately, memorable one. So little imagination is actually explored here that one has to wonder why she bothered to come back at all.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek