Thursday, January 05, 2012

Flash Metal Suicide: Alien

Comic Fantasy
Mongol Horde, 1983

"Earth to Alien, Earth to Alien- Aaargh!"
- from the inner-groove inscription on "Cosmic Fantasy"

There has gotta be so much more going on with this band then what we’ve been left with. The problem is, ya see, that at the time they were around, no one really gave too much thought about Alien and what they were up to, because there were zillions of other flash metal bands running around with tattered spaceman threads and loony cosmic-headbanger lyrics, and who could tell one from the other? I mean, nobody coulda predicted that Alien’s lead singer would go on to front one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of all time, before flaming out completely in a fatal bike wreck a few years later, or that their bass player would end up bein’ the only prime-time actor currently sitting on death row in Florida.

Most assuredly, even Alien themselves woulda chuckled at that far-fetched notion. But goddamn if that ain’t EXACTLY what happened, Fred.

Mongol Horde was a short-lived but quite memorable New York-based heavy metal record label that released only 4 EPS before folding- Alien’s “Cosmic Fantasy”, Takashi’s“Kamikaze Killers”, Thor’s “Unchained” , and Virgin Steele’s “Wait for the Night” (all 1983). All 4 records have become highly-sought after collector’s items, and all 4 were popular at the time of their release, so it remains a mystery why the label closed up shop within a year of its formation. I dunno who the Mongol Horde dude was, but the fucker’s gotta have some good stories. At any rate, whilst all four bands had some degree of flash to their image, none of ‘em were glam-metal in the traditional LA “party rock” sense. Thor, of course, was a part-time superhero from Canada, who blew up hot water bottles and bent steel bars between crunchy, Sweet-inspired cartoon-metal tunes. Virgin Steele boasted an authentic guitar hero in Jack Starr, and an alarmingly high-pitched soprano, Dave Defeis, on vox, and a ‘classic’ metal sound that had more in common with the British Maiden-baby bands then with anything stateside. Takashi, despite the Japanese name, were a buncha white guys, and they also played ‘true’ metal, i.e. powerful, Judas Priest-inspired stuff. The only band on the label that flirted with outright Flash Metal was Alien, and that was mostly cuz of their outlandish stage attire.

Speaking of the Sweet, they are a good reference point for Alien’s look, if everyone in the Sweet was as off-the-charts flamboyant as their bass player, Steve Priest, was, and if they lived on the set of an old sci-fi flick from the 60’s.

Traditional metal-wear like spandex, studs, and leather crashed headlong into capes, shoulder pads, purple jumpsuits and space-boots to create some sorta half-assed ‘cosmic glam’ look that resembled a mangled Angel after a long, hard night. But what the hell, it was 1983, and stuff like that was acceptable.

The band consisted of Frank Starr on vocals, Brian Fair and Rikk Kristi on guitars, DamienThe BeastBardot on bass, and Roxann Harlow on drums. Although it’s kinda hard defining gender in these kind of circumstances, Roxann really was a girl, and having a female drummer was not only extremely rare, but rather progressive-thinking for a metal band in 1983. I suppose you’d expect that from highly-evolved visitors form another world, tho, right? Musically, they vacillated between glammy cock-rock and chugging heavy metal, usually in the same song. Frank Starr’s vox were much higher then they would be in subsequent bands- high-pitched caterwauling was big amongst the spandex faithful in the early 80’s- but otherwise, for low-budget, regional metal, it’s pretty solid, fulla fire and energy and a predilection for seamlessly melding contemporary thundercock songs and lyrics into weirdo space-sex themes- see “Star Lover” and the climactic (ahem) title track for evidence of such. But classic? Oh, fuck, no. This is a Flash Metal SUICIDE, after all.

The EP starts with a minute and a half of bubbling, sci-fi synths called “Space Prelude”. The writing of this intro is credited to “Alien”, but there’s no mention of synths on the back cover- mebbe they just lifted it from an old episode of “Outer Limits”, or somethin’. At some point in there, the machine-gunning flash metal riff cuts through the murk, and “Cosmic Fantasy”, part 1, takes shape. Although Bardot’s fussy bass-lines step on the rest of the song for most of it’s running time (Bardot produced the rekkid, natch), the dueling guitars are pretty fuckin’ amazing, as is Starr’s dramatic upper-register screech. Ok, so it sounds hopelessly dated 21 years later – my wife actually winced when she heard it- but for crusty ol’ headbangers, it rock the way you remember it.

Star Lover”, about fucking space girls, of course, is more straight-ahead flash metal, crashing, bashing cock rock with a 70’s arena-ready chorus. Side one’s closer is a 4 minute ode to Alien’s own rockability, “Headbangin’” : “We’re a hard rockin’ band, we play as loud as we can”, etc. Some great twin axe-action on this ‘un, and yeah, I know, it’s pretty stupid, but as I have mentioned before, all METAL bands had to have songs about how METAL they were. That’s just they way it was, man.

Don’t Say Goodbye” was Alien’s stab at commercial success, a woeful pop metal number that finds Frank and Roxann trading off vox, and the band sounding exactly like Journey. And I mean exactly. Maybe this is what killed off Mongol Horde. Anyway, it’s probably only awful if you plunked down yr $8 (more like $80 now) expecting METAL, cuz I kinda like it now, in a wobbly, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” soundtrack sorta way, but I absolutely hated it in 1983.

Crazily enough, the EP ends with “Cosmic Fantasy”. That’s right, the song you just heard 3 tracks ago. It might be a little different, possibly a little longer, but it’s the SAME SONG. I can’t imagine what the reasoning for this was. I mean, any band can come up with more than 4 songs, can’t they? Umm, maybe THIS is what killed Mongol Horde.

Oh, and the EP finishes with a short burst of backwards-masking. To keep ya from pacing the floor all night, the message is thus: “We are Alien, we are Alien, we are Alien, we are Alien...Alien, the intergalactic gods of heavy metal, we are here to imbed our music in your minds…”

Now ya know.

Sin - Starr and Kristi on the right

Soon after this EP was released, Alien broke up. Seein’ as they only had four fuckin’ songs, I guess that wasn’t so much of a loss. Frank Starr and Rikk Kristi both left New York and headed to LA, where they joined a flash metal band in progress called Sin, led by ex-Steeler/WASP bass dude Rik Fox. A demo tape of ‘em is floating around the planet, but they never officially released anything (a two-song pic disc, “On the Run”, was released on Azra in 1983, before Starr and Kristi joined the band), and Sin, too, soon folded, re-emerging in ’86 as Jagwire without Starr, Kristi, or Fox. Alien’s other guitarist, Brian Fair, joined New York thrashers Hittman with ex-members of Takashi and nuclear-metal goons Attila.
Roxann Harlow quit the music biz and became a successful business woman. Frank Starr, of course, went on to join the biker-boogie legends the Four Horsemen, where he took his business of rockin’ a little too seriously, resulting in a series of lengthy jail sentences and several motorcycle accidents, the last proving fatal. Frank Starr died in 1999.

And what of Damien “The Beast” Bardot? After Alien, Bardot went to Florida and started a successful acting career, eventually landing a role on Miami Vice, as well as in the ’86 film “Band of the Hand”. Although details are sketchy, Bardot somehow found himself involved in a violent robbery in 1987, and was charged, and convicted of first degree murder. Although he maintains his innocence, Bardot was sentenced to death, and remains on death row in Florida. Which is officially the weirdest end that any ex-flash metal cat has come to so far. Talk about living up to yr nickname…

In terms of pure listening enjoyment, “Cosmic Fantasy” is not worth the exorbitant collector-scum prices it’s currently fetching, man, no way. But as a weird, tragic rock n’ roll artifact now tinged with death and murder? Well, then I guess it’s worth plenty. Fuck, I guess you better own this, just in case.

Oh, and Mongol Horde dude, please write in. I have so many questions!


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