Rough Cutt: ‘Rough Cutt’

Released on November 30, 1985 (Warner Bros.); remastered on May 13, 2016 (Rock Candy Records)

Review by Kelley Simms:
L.A. based hard rock/glam metal band, Rough Cutt, never quite caught on with the mass majority of ’80s metal fans. Although Rough Cutt displayed some of the typical glam/hair metal influences similar to Ratt, Mötley Crüe and the like, they were much heavier, especially in their early formation before the release of their 1985 eponymous debut album.

Featuring powerhouse vocalist Paul Shortino, guitarists Amir Derakh and Chris Hager, bassist Matt Thorr and drummer/backing vocalist Dave Alford, Rough Cutt’s line-up was a solid musical unit. Early formations of the band featured Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee, Dio keyboardist Claude Schnell and Dio/Giuffria guitarist Craig Goldy, while Hager and Alford were early members of Mickey Ratt (later becoming Ratt). Rough Cutt were protégés of Ronnie James Dio (also managed by his wife Wendy) and opened up for the ex-Black Sabbath singer on his 1985 Sacred Heart Tour.

Lead-off track, “Take Her,” which was co-written by Ronnie James Dio, begins with a grooving, mid-paced riff and piercing guitar melodies. As soon as you hear Shortino belting out his raspy, one of a kind vocals, it’s clear that there was something different and cool about this band. Next track, Erma Franklin’s funk/soul love song “Piece of My Heart” — later made famous by Janis Joplin — is a somewhat odd choice for a cover tune, but it’s a decent rendition and is performed rather well, especially Shortino’s soaring vocal harmonies, while another atypical cover tune immediately follows it with Australian hard rock band The Choir Boys’ “Never Gonna Die.” “Dreamin’ Again” was the band’s attempt at the ubiquitous ’80s power ballad. Although it possesses a more darker tone and a certain charm, it falls short here. The raging, uptempo rocker “Cutt Your Heart Out” is a hard-charging affair containing some fiery trade-off guitar solos and proves to be one of the heaviest tracks on the album.

The slow-burning “Black Widow” is a dark, soulful and bluesy jam with some highly skillful basslines from Thorr. “You Keep Breaking My Heart” is another slow-yet-emotive track, while “Kids Will Rock” takes on a dash of Helix influences, yet darker and heavier with even a slight thrashy vibe with its gang-chanted chorus, while “Dressed To Kill”’s ominous atmosphere and album closer “She’s Too Hott” also contain some memorable moments. Unfortunately, consisting of two cover tunes, an uninspired ballad and a couple of uninteresting slower tracks, Rough Cutt doesn’t really knock anyone’s socks off.

After Rough Cutt’s first hiatus in 1987, Paul Shortino went on to front Quiet Riot, while Amir Derakh joined electro rockers Orgy, and bassist Matt Thorr played in Jailhouse and Stephen Pearcy’s solo band, and is currently the rhythm guitarist in ’80s throwback hair metal band Platinum Overdose. Rough Cutt are still a live act — although only sporadically — with new singer Steven St. James coming aboard in 2019 to join longstanding members Alford and Hager.

Rough Cutt is one of my favorite bands from the ’80s metal era and I really liked this album when it came out, as well as their second and last album Rough Cutt Wants You!. However, Rough Cutt unfortunately misses the mark with most fans. Rough Cutt were a band caught between a rock and a hard place; they were too heavy for the typical glam/hair metal fan and not heavy enough for traditional/thrash metal fans.

Track List:
01. Take Her
02. Piece of My Heart
03. Never Gonna Die
04. Dreamin’ Again
05. Cutt Your Heart Out
06. Black Widow
07. You Keep Breaking My Heart
08. Kids Will Rock
09. Dressed To Kill
10. She’s Too Hott

Band Members:
Paul Shortino – lead vocals
Amir Derakh – guitars
Chris Hager – guitars
Matt Thorr – bass
Dave Alford – drums, backing vocals

Produced by Tom Allom
Engineered by Mark Dodson
Second engineer: Paul Wertheimer

Band Website:

Reviewed by Kelley Simms for Sleaze Roxx, November 2020

Rough Cutt‘s “Piece of My Heart” video: