What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today? KEEL – LAY DOWN THE LAW (1984)

Man I used to love Keel. Keel were one of the BEST metal bands to come out of LA in the 1980s. Keel wrote more metal anthems than most metal bands. They wrote original, solid and ballsy metal tuneage. I used to own ‘The Right To Rock’ LP, ‘The Final Frontier’ LP and the self titled LP which came out after that. With Rockbrat being a KI$$ fanatic, any band related to them always got a look in with us back then. With Gene $immons taking Keel under his (bat) wing, Keel get a lot of airplay on the Rockbrat stereo back in the mid 80s. Keel had a tough, traditional metal sound, particularly on this, their first LP which came out in 84 on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records. Ron Keel honed his craft in Steeler, so when he launched his own band Keel, he was primed for success, and indeed, success did come for him. Who didn’t loved ‘The Right To Rock’? This is such a cool metal anthem, and in 1985 this song took Keel to the masses. Yet let’s take a trip back to 84, a great year in metal and one I remember fondly, and listen to the band’s debut album, ‘Lay Down The Law’. First thing you notice is the cover, definitely Scorpions approved. A couple years later and Tipper Gore would have slapped a PMRC sticker over this one.  One look at the cover and you know instantly that it’s a metal album.  There’s nine tracks on this album and most are fist shakin’, full throttle, mid 80’s metal – each song punctuated by Ron Keel’s shriek and scream – he has the best scream in heavy metal, well he did back in the 80s. A good range too – he sings high, he sings low. This album is raw and shows a bad hungry for success. The production ain’t great, but by the time they signed to Vertigo, that wasn’t an issue.  The album open’s with ‘Thunder and Lightning’, and is as expected, loud, proud and riff heavy. ‘Lay Down The Law’ has more of a mid tempo, but is still real tuneful, and rocks hard. Another great song. ‘Speed Demon’ is next, and it’s a frantic tune for the ‘eadbangers down the front. Ron Keel really belts this one, screaming out the chorus. The band re recorded this and it appeared on ‘The Right To Rock’. The ballad ‘Princess Of Illusion’ follows and it’s a nice change of pace. It’s nice to hear Keel’s voice in this setting. Nice melody too. ‘Born Ready’ is my favourite tune on the album. It’s got a great anthemic vibe, a simple structure and singalong chorus – kinds of liked the little brother of ‘The Right To Rock’. Like Black ‘n’ Blue in 84, Keel were a jeans, tee shirt and leather jacket kind of band. No frills rock n roll – and they did it so well. This is such a cool song. If some young kid ever asks you what heavy metal sounds like, play ‘em this tune. The pace does not slacken, with ‘Metal Generation’ maintaining the rage to maximum effect. These songs connected with teenage kids all over the world – and why not. Back in those days before Bon Jovi broke world wide and sanitised the whole genre, metal spoke to an underground army of denim wearing devotees with black tee shirts and sew on patches. Song like this spoke directly for them and to them. Another good ‘un.  With its rapid fire riff and double kick drumming, ‘You’re The Victim I’m the Crime’ treads speed metal territory. Still real tuneful though. The album closes with a cover of the Stones ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, which morphs back into the title song, ‘Lay Down The Law’.  Great album, 8 out of 10.  This album caught the ears of Gene $immons who produced the band’s next two albums, ‘The Right To Rock’, and ‘The Final Frontier’.  Bobby Marks played drums on this album, and was briefly replaced by Steve Riley before he took the gig with W.A.S.P. I’m pretty sure that Riley recorded the early session work on ‘The Right To Rock’. Did you know that Keel also recorded a cover of Patti Smith’s ‘Because the Night and Rose Tattoo’s ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw?  Did you know that Keel guitarist Marc Ferrari produced Pantera’s ‘Power Metal’ album in 1988? In my mind anyway – Keel still ROCK!

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