Pretty Maids – Louder Than Ever
Reviewed by Jeff Teets
Pretty Maids is on something of a hot streak right now. Ever since its collaboration with famed Danish producer Jacob Hansen gave the band new life on 2010’s Pandemonium, its been on fire. Pandemonium in 2010, a live album (entitled It Comes Alive) in 2012, Motherland in 2013, and now Louder Than Ever in the first half of 2014. It seems as though even the band is well aware of the spark Hansen has ignited for them, hence the decision to rerecord eight songs from their “forgotten period” of 1995-2006, including selections from Scream (1995), Anything Worth Doing is Worth Overdoing (1999), Carpe Diem (2000), Planet Panic (2002), and Wake Up to the Real World (2006). The eight rerecorded songs come alongside four brand-new tracks, in the form of opener “Deranged”, an expectedly uplifting ballad “My Soul to Take”, the pounding and anthemic “Nuclear Boomerang”, and the introspectively mellow “Heart Without a Home”, closing out the disc.
Singer Ronnie Atkins revealed that the original intention of Louder Than Ever was to release something to bridge the gap between two full-length studio albums, but quickly turned into an opportunity to re-imagine some of the band’s favorite selections from its largely overlooked albums. The production difference is very apparent right out of the gate, as Jacob Hansen’s punchy, precise, and slick modern production gives some of these tracks whole new life. “Psycho Time Bomb Planet Earth” is more or less the same as it was in 1995, but tracks like “Virtual Brutality” and “Playing God” have each received a fair degree of rearrangement. The former features much more subdued use of intentionally auto-tuned vocals, which made the original rather difficult to listen to, while the latter now includes a more pounding, half-time chorus arrangement that gives it a modern flavor, which works to its benefit.
The four new songs more or less pick up where 2013’s Motherland left off. “Deranged” showcases the band at its most heavy, aggressive, and modern with a killer chorus and an even better bridge section. “My Soul to Take” calls to mind a vibe similar to tracks like “Sad to See You Suffer” and “Little Drops of Heaven” – a ballad somewhat reminiscent of what you might imagine Def Leppard would sound like today if they didn’t completely suck and had some semblance of “rock” left in them. “Nuclear Boomerang” is an all-out uptempo assault fit to be this release’s first single and anthem. Strong riffs and an excellent chorus featuring politically-charged lyrics, which seem to be the band’s forte as of late. Closing out the record is “Heart Without a Home”, which initially left me slightly underwhelmed because of never picking things up into a full-band arrangement with drums, but on repeat listens has grown on me exponentially. I tend to love album closers that. while having a ballad-like nature. are not quite “ballads” per se, and instead evoke a certain reflective atmosphere that makes a great way to end a record.
While not all of the songs see specific benefits of their re-recordings (“Snakes in Eden” comes to mind), they are not any worse off either. Many times the behavior of bands rerecording songs goes south immediately, due to the band choosing to rerecord its most beloved songs, and doing so far past the prime of their career. However, Pretty Maids couldn’t be more on-point with its decision to re-imagine and repackage these tunes in their current state. The unified production value helps unite the songs in a way that simply re-releasing them on a “Best Of” would not have done, and showcasing them alongside four brand new tracks further asserts the point that this band is far from a nostalgia act looking to relive former glories alongside occasionally pushing something new as an excuse to tour. Other acts born from the same time period have taken the same sort of initiative – Saxon and Accept come to mind. I can’t help but feel that bands of this sort are better off for not having ever really become big mainstream successes in the American metal world. While your giants of the genre can rehash and release subpar records and still remain at the top of the heap, bands like these have had to fight for survival over the years, and are all the better for it. The hunger that many bands have early in their careers has not vanished from these groups, who still have something to prove to their fan base and the rest of the world. This record stands as another testament to the fact that, while Pretty Maid’s classics Future World (1987) and Red, Hot and Heavy (1984) will probably always be their best, as a creative machine, they are not only louder than ever, but perhaps better, and more relevant than ever.
4.25 // 5