LOVE YOU TO PIECES
Released on May 31, 1985 (Metal Blade Records)
“Cuz we all, we all…love it LOUD!” ~American Metal by Lizzy Borden
One of the many cool things about waking up to Sleaze Roxx every morning with my coffee — much like my father and his father before him sat each morning flipping through the newspaper as the steam from fresh, hot java disappeared into the morning air of the kitchen — is occasionally catching news on artists I haven’t heard about (or in some cases even thought about) in years. I’m sure I’m not alone in my opinion that starting my day sparking old memories via the current happenings of old favorite artists is far more entertaining and uplifting than waking up to skewed daily news events.
After all, even watching former eighties bandmates fling mud at each other all these years later is still way more positive than any left or right leaning news channel and for rock’s sake, don’t even get me thinking about the self-absorbed, conspiracy fueled nonsense that fills up Facebook feeds daily! But anyway, it was a post on Sleaze Roxx one morning a few years back that caused my sleepy eyes to burst open as inside my head I screamed “Holy crap! Lizzy Borden‘s back?”
Funny looking back now, it hardly seems like nearly a decade had passed since the day I stumbled across the video for “Under Your Skin” from the album Appointment With Death until I woke up one morning to get blasted away by the video for “Long May They Haunt Us” from the the soon to be released My Midnight Things CD a few years back. Both cases left me thinking how long it had been since I’d heard anything about Lizzy Borden and amazed how after so many years, Lizzy Borden, the band, could still kick ass musically and Lizzy Borden, the man, could still kill on vocals. But most of all it pushed up memories of so many great songs starting with the ever so awesome 1984 Give ‘Em the Axe EP. For a good decade after, records like Menace To Society, Visual Lies, and Master of Disguise added a good bit of punch to my daily ear damage sessions but none as much as Lizzy Borden‘s first full-length release Love You To Pieces.
For those not familiar with Lizzy Borden, the best way I can sum up the band’s sound is if you took the majestic style and vocal power of early Queensrÿche, tossed in the fist raising metal anthems of Judas Priest, and wrapped it all in a pumped up Alice Cooper stage show, you might come close to having Lizzy Borden. A heavy progressive metal sounding band, with catchy hard tunes about standing up for yourself (and against all opposition) fronted by a visual singer bearing the same moniker as the band itself. Yeah, there’s that brutal progressive metal base but tying it all together is a very cool, very fun eighties horror movie vibe that is more brutal than Alice Cooper and less sexually sadistic than W.A.S.P..
Toss in the fact that it’s usually covered by an ongoing slasher theme connected to the band’s 19th century namesake and in the eighties, you had a vehicle for heavy metal mayhem. To this day, when I put on a Lizzy Borden record or pull up a video on YouTube, I still shake my head amazed that the band didn’t reach more commercial heights. Despite not having the budget of bands like Marilyn Manson, over the course of its existence, Lizzy Borden has still put out better overall records and live stage shows especially vocally. But before I let myself get carried away by what is or could have been, let me get back to what definitely was.
Lizzy Borden‘s arrival in 1984 grabbed me for reasons beyond just a teaser EP of killer metal. The visual presentation of the band’s double-bladed logo captured my imagination much in the way those of Angel, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, KISS, and others had caught my eye to up that point. As an artist with an interest in rock album and magazine cover layout and what would eventually become known as branding, Lizzy Borden was a visual dream even as early as the band’s simple raw debut EP cover which then was cool, it left more time to get sucked in by the music itself. The following year when Love You To Pieces hit stores, the reflective image of Borden staring at a barely clad vixen beneath the now all silver-blade colored band logo was impossible to leave on the shelf and the only thing capable of prying eyes away was the mix of odd sounds when the needle hit the first notes of the album before diving head on into the carnage that would be album opener “Council For The Cauldron.”
Already a fan of the band, right off the bat, I was floored into this reality that somehow their release from just a few months earlier could merely be a learning curve of things to come. Up to that point in my life, I had been exposed to just about every kind of heavy rock and metal but this was something like I felt I had never heard before. Even with nods to influences like Cooper and Priest, this was its own unique thing far removed from just being a blending of influences. I’ve always dug visual bands like KISS and W.A.S.P. but in my opinion, Lizzy Borden did more than just take past influences and regurgitate them into a cool new package. There’s just something different and in some ways outside the normal box of heavy metal in Lizzy Borden‘s music almost like Lizzy himself pulls from a bag of secret guilty pleasures to spice up what the average fan loves about heavy metal music and visuals. Sure his brain slicing vocals are unlike anyone elses almost sounding like the screams of the very parents that the original Lizzy Borden herself was said to have chopped up but it was even more than that. I felt that in 1984. Just seconds into “Council For The Cauldron”, my suspicions were fully confirmed.
Not to be overshadowed by Love You To Pieces’ killer opening track, side one is to me classic Lizzy Borden. While opinions for many might lean towards their following three albums and the Terror Rising EP, for me this is where the brunt of the Lizzy brutality exists. It’s tough to argue the sinister Jack the Ripper style visuals on “Psychopath” with all it’s “I love to see the terror in your face” heavy metal slasher gory glory. The crazed “I want to play” ranting make the track even more striking giving it a bit of vicious vaudeville without coming off overly campy.
For the purpose of this review, I will stick to my original vinyl version as I prefer this one — with “Save Me” on the first side and “American Metal” kicking off the second. Like most older releases, many versions I’m sure are out in the world but for me, this is the ultimate way to hear this album. Some including Lizzy himself may prefer the current version and that’s cool. The listen is best served to the ears listening as I once heard someone long ago say. “Save Me”, with its up and down rollercoaster ride presentation just lands perfect as the third track and sets a nice place for “Red Rum” to come in. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of what I felt were a bit too drawn out drums to start off this scorching tune but over the years, I have grown to expect it. Could the drums have been more brutal? Well, hell yeah, but by the time you get to the chanting chorus, you pretty much forget the song even started with a flurry of drums. My favorite part of “Red Rum” (outside of the “Red Rum” back and forth chants) though has to be the guitar solos. Just total headbanging awesomeness all around which gives even more cause for me wanting to hear side one of Love You To Pieces eerily close out with its title track.
In the eighties, album title songs were generally heavy anthems meant to loudly represent a record overall but as mentioned before, Lizzy Borden never was your typical hair metal era band. “Love You To Pieces” is a grinding, powerful masterpiece of a song complete with perhaps the most intense vocals found on any of the band’s albums. Surely meant to add to the theatricality of the song, it does so without taking away from its pure metal substance. Thirty five years later, few vocalists have come close and the ones that did eventually lost the ability to sing as good as Borden still can. I’m listening as I try and type with my right hand while pumping my left fist in the air and tossing my head back in an attempt to sing along. Needless to say while it’s a blast to still be able to feel some semblance of youthful rock and roll energy, I’m easily failing at this level of multitasking especially when it comes to the singing part.
In the eighties, there were a ton a fight songs, battle cries if you will. Those hard-hitting anthems created to pump metalheads into the necessary denim and leather fury needed to take on anyone out to regulate or decimate a generational belief in all things eighties metal. Keel had it with “The Right To Rock”, Twisted Sister delivered “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and Lizzy Borden powered their own call-to-arms anthem in the form of Love You To Pieces’ side two opener “American Metal.” Lizzy didn’t just tell the world that “We love it loud”, he pretty much screamed faces off with that fact. Alongside future single “Me Against The World”, “American Metal” is perhaps Lizzy Borden‘s signature tune. In my mind, if Lizzy were ever to try his hand at wrestling, I could see him coming to the ring as this killer tune blasts out across the arena.
Loaded with not only killer power chords and driving bass guitar, “Flesheater” rips a page from Deep Purple‘s “Highway Star” and sets it ablaze with more of Lizzy‘s fiery vocals and shredding guitar. The Maiden like breaks are heart pounding and all together just reek of what would eventually be considered classic Lizzy Borden but despite possessing a signature sound, there is a not a track to be found that doesn’t excite on its own. Even “Warfare”, which is similar in some ways, stands tall with a great chorus that’s all its own while “Godiva” (also possessing a double guitar romp similar to Maiden) just tears it up right out of the starting block. Out of all the tracks on Love You To Pieces, this might be the one to most draw “man that sounds like…” comments but for most bands, in the beginning, that’s not terribly uncommon. Matter of fact, after listening to the first EP and this first full album, Lizzy Borden should be granted higher status just for the pure fact that in the hair metal eighties where nearly every band shared hints of their contemporaries, Lizzy Borden tore out of the gate with a sound that could not mistaken for any other band.
Closer “Rod of Iron” might be considered just a deep track in the Lizzy catalog but over the years, as it has blared out of my stereo, whether it be in the house or in the car, I have always felt that it could just as easily be one of those rare tracks that someone like Blackie Lawless wished they had written. Not that Blackie hasn’t filled his albums with great, raw, sexual innuendo laced songs but from title to tempo, “Rod of Iron” is about as cleverly killer as a theatrical sex, blood, and guts band can get.
As the eighties rolled along through a journey that took me from bored high school rocker, to struggling young parent and husband, one thing remained along the way and that was great music, especially hard rock and metal. Each Lizzy Borden release took its place alongside other great loud albums of the day to help hold me up, push me forward, get me by, and some days even carry me through. While filled with more great music, the second half of the eighties would end up nowhere near as fruitful and pleasant personally as I had hoped. Many dreams dashed, hopes lost, but what never left were the chances to get lost in the music. Other friends struggled opting to handle things in less than healthier ways and along the journey some fell forever left behind but as dark as those times might have been for me, I can always look back and be grateful for the many bands like Lizzy Borden who if anything offered the additional energy for me to get up and push on daily.
As we get older and friends ask why as adults we still listen to this loud, hard-hitting music that we should have stopped relating to years ago, it doesn’t take much thought to respond. Just as it drove us to not let anyone stand in the way of our music then, it drove us not to let anyone stand in the way of success, careers, growth, adulthood with our own set in stone beliefs. And for me, it still drives me to not let anyone stand in the way of me coming home after a hard days work, tossing on some old jeans and a heavy metal tee and time traveling back to my younger self with a blast of “American Metal.”
01. Council for the Cauldron
03. Save Me
04. Red Rum
05. Love You to Pieces
06. American Metal
10. Rod of Iron
Demo 2001 Reissue Bonus Tracks:
11. Wild One
12. Whiplasher (live)
13. Warfare (live)
14. Dirty Pictures
Lizzy Borden – lead and backing vocals
Gene Allen – guitars, backing vocals
Tony Matuzak – guitars
Michael Davis – bass, backin vocals
Joey Scott Harges – drums, backing vocals
Jon Natisch – backing vocals
Mark Benson – backing vocals
Tony Copozzi – backing vocals
Produced by Lizzy Borden and Brian Slagel
Engineered by Randy Burns
Mastered by Eddie Schreyer
Executive producer: Brian Slagel
Remastered by Tom Baker (2001 reissue)
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, May 2020
Lizzy Borden‘s “Council For The Cauldron” video (from The Murderess Metal Road Show Live DVD):