Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Recurrection Band - DMZ
   
Musical Style: Hard Rock Produced By: Resurrection Band
Record Label: Light/Retroactive Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1982/2017 Artist Website: Resurrection Band
Tracks: 10 Rating: 60%
Running Time: 34:22

Resurrection Band - DMZ

If your experience has been similar to mine, then many if not most of your favorite band’s have that one album in their repertoire that (for whatever reason) has failed to grow on you.  Perhaps it is due to musical direction or the fact songwriting is uneven.  In other instances, songs are fine but production is not up to standard.  Resurrection Band’s DMZ is that album in question for me.  Not unlike most ‘Rez Band’ albums, DMZ is top heavy with its share of great material, including “Military Man”, “White Noise”, “Babylon” and “No Alibi”, but where I find it to diverge from the groups back catalog is in its lack of quality deep cuts.  As a Rez Band fan since the early eighties, I always identified with it as a ‘deep cut band’ in that the albums it released before and after DMZ present with enough depth to their track listing to maintain my attention despite the occasional filler tack.  No so DMZ, which outside the four songs as noted I find it to drop off a cliff never to climb back up again.      

Why does DMZ (in my opinion) fall below the line in comparison to other Rez Band releases?  My theory is overwork in that the 1982 released DMZ was the groups fifth full length  in as many years, a period in which if it was not on the road it was in the studio, which might not have left a great deal of time to work on new material.  It is easy to see songwriter and vocalist/guitarist Glenn Kaiser, for instance, potentially burning out at this point in the face of having to compose each year a full album of new material.  It deserves note that starting with 1988 release Silence Screams, new bassist Roy Montroy played a significant songwriting role with the group that in turn helped to lighten Glenn’s workload.  Besides, with two good songwriters, Rez Band started to hit its stride and released (again, my opinion) in the late eighties to mid nineties some of its best albums ever, not that the groups early material (of which was mostly Glenn composed) was in any way lacking.

Playing an equal role is label pressure, which might have influenced the group to broaden or diversify its sound in a more ‘current’ direction with the goal of expanding upon its fan base.  The change actually started with 1981 predecessor Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore in that Rez Band began to imbue its traditional hard rock basis with elements of blues-rock, punk/wave and even pop, but it worked (noting my 80% MDLDA review) in that songwriting was of above the line quality.  With DMZ, however, the continued transition to new musical territory proves problematic in that I struggle to embrace the material falling outside the group’s hard rock framework.  Yes, it could relate to songwriting (DMZ deep cuts - once more, my opinion - fail to measure up to their MDLDA counterparts), but it could also be expectations in that at the time I might have been hoping the group would return to the more consistently heavier direction of 1980’s Colours.

Originally a vinyl and cassette release on Light Records, DMZ did not see re-issue on CD until 1991 (also Light).  It was later re-mastered and re-issued twice on Retroactive Records, with the first in 2004 (jewel case) and second July of 2017 (4-panel digi pak). 
 
Opening cut “Military Man” meets those heavier expectations and then some.  One of Rez Band’s all time great classic cuts and a concert favorite, “Military Man” gives prominence to a guitar riff for all the ages - ripping; snarling; nothing less than inspired - and tumultuous setting perfectly suited for Glenn Kaiser’s gritty and blues soaked vocal delivery.  Impression left is hard rock on the edge of metal that is heavier than much of the so-called ‘pop metal’ and ‘hair metal’ that would become prevalent as the decade wore on.

The same applies with “Babylon”, a shorter (two and a half minutes) piece that opens to wailing sirens before flaying guitars take over the remaining steadfast distance.  Albums second ‘Glenn cut’, “Babylon” makes the most of its truncated length in playing up a compelling form despite the heavy hitting if not angst laden feel at hand.  One area in which I credit Rez Band is how it is one of the few if only hard rock acts able to compose material less than three minutes that does not leave me feel wanting.

“White Noise”, first ever Roy Montroy penned Rez Band cut, is every bit the classic that is “Military Man” and another concert staple.  The song begins to the same signature open air cement the knobs on ten guitar solo (sort of like Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption”), with Wendi taking over the rest of the way and aligning her raspy voice with high energy guitars that cross the threshold of all out metal.  It is refreshing how guitarist Stu Heiss unveils his full wealth of licks and chops- it is too bad he did not have opportunity to cut loose like this more often throughout the album.

In a more reserved vein but every bit good is “No Alibi.  I find this to be one of Rez Band’s more experimental - and better! - tracks in that guitars back off from the hard rocking focus in taking a flowing and wave-like U2 form.  Further factor the perfectly in step rhythm section of bassist Jim Denton and drummer John Herrin, the song solidifies a melodic backbone as Glenn’s emotional vocal delivery magnifies the pensive refrain: ‘No excuse, no reply, no alibi, No defense, no reasons why, no alibi’.  In the end, “No Alibi” is so catchy and so melodic and so good that I cannot help but feel when Glenn was in prime songwriting form, no one - and I mean no one - could pen a better hard rock cut.

“Area 312” bridges the gap between the standout DMZ material and that which ‘drops off a cliff’.  The song represents the albums last hard rocker, as a drum solo at the start gives way to crunchy guitars, cavorting upbeat momentum and plenty of shouted ‘area 312!’ backing vocals.  Lone complaint is the saxophone solo gracing the instrumental section.  Yes, saxophone has its place in rock music - noting classic Rez Band cuts “The Return” and “Every Time It Rains” - but I also cannot help but feel another heated Heiss guitar solo would have lent the more flattering effect.

Rez Band branches out on the remaining DMZ material but with mixed results.  “Reluctance” gives rise to a forward keyboard mix as a Wendi fronted ‘techno wave pop’ rocker, a style I cannot say I wholeheartedly embrace.  Likewise, I have never been draw to “The Prisoner”, final ‘Wendi cut’, with its vanilla middle of the road rock but not quite hard rock approach.  I am all for diversity and can understand how Rez Band might wish to occasionally step outside its musical boundaries, but I also cannot help but feel either song is up to the standards of which the group is capable (noting how I liked much of its outside the box material gracing MDLDA).

“I Need Your Love” is the better of the three remaining ‘Glenn cuts’.  This one is actually not bad in skirting straightforward rock laced with traces of the blues territory.  I particularly like how the song starts low key and solemn as Glenn sings in a lower register, but as it builds, guitars power into the mix, and he correspondingly reveals the full breadth to his voice.  A nice effort that only is held back by some muddiness to production (more on this later).

“Lonely Hearts” takes a somewhat similar musical stance but at the more upbeat tempo.  It loses me all the same in that I wish guitars had made more of a prevalent statement, although John Herrin continues to shines with his precise timekeeping abilities.  Keyboards return on closing track “So In Love With You”, the groups attempt to recreate the magic of pop-based MDLDA cut “Lovin’ You”, but it does not work in that music is not of similar quality.  I tend to pass in light of how DMZ desperately needs to close to another hard rocker along the lines of “Military Man” and “White Noise”.

Whereas production to the original Light version revealed some muddy limitations, the Retroactive re-mastering leaches out any murkiness from the mix to create the overall crisper and tighter DMZ sound.  Hence, for those that possess the original Light version, purchasing the Retroactive re-issue is of necessity.

Resurrection Band has traditionally focused on being socially conscious and aware in terms of its lyrical themes, and DMZ proves no different with a ‘suite’ of songs that touch upon our violent world, Military Man”, “Babylon” and “White Noise”.

“Military Man” deals with a soldier’s loss of humanity in the struggle to survive:

Military man got his armor on
Molten machine got his loaded gun
Paying his dues on a foreign shore
Just another day playing games of war

Considering chances in a nuclear zone
Hard to live life beneath the battle's drone
Silver syringe caught his victim napping
Slapping him 'round a broken life on loan
He caught sight of the future shock
Defenses crushed beneath the Risen Rock

Likewise, “White Noise” focuses on the rhetoric of a culture that prioritizes stockpiling arms over feeding children:

Defective youth, the writing's on the wall,
Decline of the West, see the fallout fall,
Violence, banner of the tough,
Politicians playing a blind man's bluff.

America's missiles - a superpower blessed,
Hungry child is crying - pretend it's just a test,
Russia's got the gulag; Pretoria, the bomb,
Making sure the weak keep silent, move along.

“Babylon” bases itself around the destructive nature of war:

I saw Babylon slowly start to burn,
Heard the voices crying, refusing ever to learn

The glory of it all: God become a man, the pure and holy lover,
You betrayed him with a kiss, murdered your own brother.

Sometimes it flowed like a magic,
The pleasure hid the flaw,
But, oh, forever tragic: him you never saw,
I saw the heavens shake, saw the city fade,
Shattered in one hour,
Time to build again,
Babylon, Babylon is fallen

In terms of other topics, the group wrote “Area 312” from the standpoint of a teenager lamenting over the loneliness of the inner city:

Hiding out in my bedroom,
I wish that I could die.
No one seems to love me,
But I'm not going to cry
Boyfriend left me yesterday,
He said I wasn't cool.
But I'm all right, yeah I'm OK,
I ain't nobody's fool.

High school unreality,
Normality so strange
Lookin' for some answers
Ready for a change
Feelin' so distressed tonight,
Jesus, are you there?
Could we talk a little while,
I hear you really care.

Rez Band traditionally closes its earlier albums to a song with lyrics on the introspective side with “So In Love With You” fulfilling such a role:

Somewhere in Scotland or Wales I met you in heather,
Under starlit skies - was it in November?
A dream, a thought, a whisper there,
All I know is: now I know you care,
Somewhere in time I realized.

Somewhere in time I realized how lost I'd been,
Blackout on the moors, taunting northern wind,
Rain soaked daybreak arriving at land's end,
Dawn paints storm clouds,
You coloured me your friend.

If I happened to be a label bigwig and Rez Band sent me demo versions to the 10 DMZ cuts, I would, obviously, advise to go with “Military Man”, “White Noise”, “Babylon” and “No Alibi”.  I would also encourage recording a studio version to “Gameroom”, a great hard rock cut that made its only appearance on the groups 1984 live album Live Bootleg (I do not know anything about the songs history, but I take it for granted it was around at the time of DMZ but was not recorded for whatever reason).  Finally, I would tell Glenn to grab his guitar, go ‘hole up’ somewhere and not come out until he composed another five top-notch hard rock numbers.  

Why?  Because I would want DMZ to not be so much a great album but rather Rez Band’s signature album.  When someone says ‘Rez Band’ I would want DMZ to be the first thing that comes to mind in the same way if you say Deliverance Weapons Of Our Warfare comes to mind and likewise Stryper with To Hell With The Devil (or Bride and Snakes In The Playground).  That is how much potential I saw in Rez Band during the early eighties, but, alas, such potential did not come to fruition until much later in the decade.

Hence, how I find an analysis of DMZ to be problematic. On one hand, the album is inclusive to some truly outstanding material, but on the other, musical inconsistency rears its ugly head.  As a result, I rate DMZ my least favorite Rez Band album, keeping in mind the high level of respect I hold for the group’s entire body of work.  I ask die-hard Rez Band fans to please consider the review within this perspective, but if you are still upset then first grab a cup of coffee, sit down and relax a few minutes before sending any all caps e-mails suggesting I am a clueless reviewer.  As for those that see the big picture, whether you embrace DMZ, are on the fence or agree with the review, then make the Retroactive re-issue a priority purchase due to the improvements from the re-mastering.    

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: "Military Man" (3:39),"Reluctance" (2:14), "Babylon" (2:36), "I Need Your Love" (3:24), "Area 312" (3:56), "No Alibi" (4:39), "White Noise" (3:41), "Lonely Hearts" (3:00), "The Prisoner" (2:54), "So In Love With You (3:38)

Musicians
Glenn Kaiser - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Wendi Kaiser - Lead Vocals
Stu Heiss - Guitars & Keyboards
Jim Denton - Bass & Synthesizers
John Herrin - Drums

Additional Musicians
Steve Eisen - Saxophone

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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