Infestation | Ratt
Hair metal is the greatest thing ever to come from the ’80s.
I can make this statement with some objectivity, having been born in 1990. Nevertheless, the truth stands: glamorizing hard rock with spandex, enormous hair and sick riffs was the best idea ever. Whether or not it stands the test of time is another issue. Ratt took off in the early days of the sleazy Sunset Strip scene with first-wave hair metal bands like Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister. Now on their seventh album, Ratt has overcome years of hiatus and drama over their lineup to return with an album that, while modernized, doesn’t stray far from well-loved clichés of the genre.
The album kicks off with “Eat Me Up Alive,” where yowls and harmonized vocals line up with exceedingly typical metal signatures: screaming guitar solos, chugged power chords and the same three-chord verse progression. Nothing about the first track or the album itself is terribly innovative, but it is clearly modernized. Ratt’s sound is darker than typical hair metal, and the blues influence that made them famous in the early days is clear in their chord progressions. The chorus is a catchy bit of pop-metal glory.
That said, “Eat Me Up Alive” also boasts one of the most emotionally confusing guitar solos that I have ever come up against. The beginning is just sad. Really and truly sad. If you can bend a single note, kids, then you can be in a metal band. In my notes for this article I was ready to write the album off right at that moment until I was blindsided by some of the most beautifully enunciated shredding in metal history. Nothing can save sloppy technique: this solo is simple but technically well-done, fast and clean, and the final flourish of harmonized bends transitions back into the song proper in a way that few solos deign to do. I know that this song will be fantastic live. If any of you wonderful readers want to second that opinion, I’d be much obliged to have you come to their show with me once the tour kicks off.
Unfortunately, the first track may also be the best. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “Infestation,” just that very little about it will hold interest. “Best of Me” sounds awkwardly similar to Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” A shrewd move, to be sure, but one that even the laziest connoisseur of metal will catch. By contrast, “Don’t Let Go” may have lifted lyrics directly from Augustana’s “Boston.” Honestly, if “Chinese Democracy” had turned out anything like this I would have been thrilled. However, classic sound from a smaller name just doesn’t cut it. The obligatory power ballad, “Take Me Home,” plays with a strangely atonal minor guitar and bass interplay before blossoming into luxuriously mid-tempo choruses. You get the feeling that if these songs had been originally released in the ’80s and had had time to grow on us, they would have been insanely popular, à la “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Every Rose has its Thorn.” Classic rock radio and its devotees will love the album. The rest of us may be better off sticking to the old stuff or waiting for further innovation.
For fans of: Def Leppard, early Van Halen, Quiet Riot
Tracks to download: ‘Eat Me Up Alive,’ ‘Look Out Below,’ ‘Garden of Eden’