For all its boys-will-be-boys and boys-will-be-girls trappings, the ’80s pop-metal explosion sure belched up its share of girls-can-be-boys. Who among us doesn’t recall the rocking, hit-me-on-the-cock-with-a-hammer, major-label sounds of Phantom Blue, Smashed Gladys, Saraya, Femme Fatale, and Vixen? (Erm . . . just Lita Ford then?)
Or how about Warlock? From Germany and fronted by blond-tressed, leather-clad fantasy goddess Doro Pesch, Warlock scored an MTV hit circa ’88 with “All We Are.” The video featured lots of fire, people standing on cars, and something very deep: cleavage! Be still yon throbbing boner.
Absent from U.S. shelves for 10 years, Doro marks her return with Calling the Wild. Biggest question is, will she sound the same, thereby appeasing old fans whose posters have long since curled at the edges, half-covered in thick dobbets of wrist-dispatched doob? Or will she have embraced the changes the last decade hath wrought upon the genre formerly known as heavy metal?
The album’s opening chords suggest the latter. All down-tuned, grunged-up, guttural doom-murk—the kind of guitar tones that nobody bloody likes but that are essential for showing an understanding of mankind’s weathered, kicked-in-the-teeth-by-whatever-nevermind condition. That is, the kind of crud that Creed (and boy do they suck) peddle. Which doesn’t bode well for anyone wanting to rock’n’roll all night with Doro.
Life is wrestled back with track five, “Kiss Me Like a Cobra,” in which Doro demonstrates her vocal prowess, slithering through octaves like a snake through, um, a grass lawn strewn with wood chips and cow poo. And not touching the poo! The title’s relation to Motörhead’s “Love Me Like a Reptile” is no coincidence, either: Next song on the album is a Motörhead cover, with Master of the Universe Lemmy himself adding guest vocals and warts.
Covering “White Wedding,” the greatest moment in Billy Idol’s idling career (OK, maybe the second greatest, after the chick on his floor in “Rebel Yell”), was another great idea. Though those down-tuned guitars do spoil the honeymoon, loitering as they do like an ex-lover in the hallway, demanding to be noticed when you wish they’d piss off.
“Fuel” sorta echoes Warlock’s ’80s robustness of hook, and Doro sings, “I like exceptional inflammable stuff,” evoking flashbacks to 1988’s flaming streets and heaving bosoms. But otherwise, weighted toward the heavy end of “modern rock” rather than timeless metal, this isn’t the album love-you-long-time fans would’ve wanted. Still, it’s progress just to have Doro’s loin-stirring voice back. May she soar like an eagle through clouds of, erm, condensed particles of water that collectively sometimes look like Snoopy. (Bonus boner for guitar geeks: Al “Who am I?” Pitrelli and Slash guest.)