Welcome back to The Lazarus Pit, a look back at should-be classic records that don’t get nearly enough love.
You know the cover, because it’s an outrageous documentation of straight-to-VHS art circa mid-’80s, but you might not know the tunes on Torch’s second album, 1984’s Electrikiss. Sure, the Swedish band’s self-titled from the year before had a bit more steel to it, but this one is actually more fun because it tries for a more mainstream sound, like Lizzy Borden or Tokyo Blade taking on just-before-Turbo-era Judas Priest, and while the result is a bit stiff and awkward at times, man, I’ll be damned if it’s not a blast to listen to.
Opening anthem “Thunderstruck” is low-grade Priest—fuck yeah it’s low-grade Priest—but it’s awesome. Really, what makes this so endearing now, all these years later, is the fact that it is kinda low-grade. Despite the slight feeling of reaching-for-success and the accompanying desperation that always goes with that, this song rules. I mean, if reaching for success in 1984 meant ripping off Priest, that’s victory, that’s a world I want to live in. Fuck yeah, “Thunderstruck.”
The title track casts a nervous eye over to Accept, Torch realizing Balls to the Wall is one of the greatest albums ever as they lay down an opening riff that has more than a bit of a hard-on for that album’s riffs. Of course the vocals are more dead-serious Halford than they are anything else, and it works again, the chorus exploding in pure arena-metal glory, the song a shoulda-been of the highest order.
“Hot on Your Heels” picks up the pace for a brisk stomp through what is really just kinda there, I dunno, decent enough chorus but the song as a whole offering more of a statement about the glory of even this second-tier trad metal stuff (and I do believe there’s a glory there, in attitude, in passion, and, sure, in nostalgia), the song racing past and falling a bit short at the important third-song mark.
“Runnin’ Riot” is awesome, Torch punching way above their weight here, if you count their weight through the head-shaking album covers that adorned both this and their debut, the song delivering a classy, molten-metal, mid-paced Priest/Accept attack, another one that borders on anthem, bonkers solo included for extra value for your dollar (which, as memory serves, was precisely the bin where we here in Canada could find the domestic Banzai releases of records like this back in the day).
“Vicious Love” is a smart stomper of way to end off side one, the band marching off to war, but no war in particular, just marching, stomping, trying to avoid being forgotten in time, mainly failing, yet, here we are.
“Bad Girls” kicks off side B with an economic rocker, file next to “Hot on Your Heels” but with a bit more frenetic energy to it, the band only bothering for 2:27, then calling it a day/song. Love the relentless tempo, kinda love the dumb lyrics; not much to dislike here. Ditto for “Cut-Throat Tactics,” man, the band delivering pretty regal metal, clawing for the top tier, slightly understated vocals being the only thing really stopping this one from attaining full metal glory. And you see what’s happening here? We’ve only got two tracks left and it’s just absolutely solid metal through and through, even the lesser songs on Electrikiss still being worthy of spending some time with.
“When the Going Gets Tough” (guess the next line of the chorus, I dare you) is another mid-to-speedy rocker, this one with some added atmosphere with a slightly mellower guitar effect during the verse, then the pre-chorus has a big, wide-open groove of a riff that works, Torch totally doing better than we all remember them doing here. Another win.
“Limelight” ends it all off with an opening riff that sounds just like another opening riff that I can’t quite place (but smart money says it’s either Priest or Accept) and the band quickly goes into melodies that work perfectly for a closing song, creating this feeling of finality, of closure, of, shit, maybe something bigger than what we were all expecting just happened. Cue the fake-out ending, cue the real, weird, sudden ending, and you’ve got a surprisingly above-par traditional metal record clocking in at a brisk 30:10 in nine songs, which is just how I like it.
Torch do a lot right on Electrikiss, and it’s a shame that the album cover is probably what this is most remembered for because, even though I would never want the band to have put anything else on there, the tunes are way, way better than the naïve, youthful, idealistic art suggests. Actually, the tunes are exactly what the naïve, youthful, idealistic art suggests, which is precisely why they hold up so well today, the band tapping into the core—warts and all—of what made metal the best music in the world then and what makes metal the best music in the world now.