review of Atomic Opera's For Madmen Only I harkened back to the days of my youth, remembering how the album was decent but not great, and decided to give the album a refresher spin to see if my opinion had changed. In referring to my handy-dandy-uber-dorky database to find which backup DVD contained the album, I noticed that I had given it a seven, while giving their two subsequent albums (Gospel Cola and Penguin Dust) only fives. Hmmm...
The first two songs make the album. "Joyride" and "Justice" are two very hooky metal-pop songs that managed to creep into my brain now and then over the years. I had forgotten how the guitars are especially beefy, chunky and thick, like a good salsa. This is good stuff, Chester! But as the album wore on the guitar tones didn't change and there were very few melodic hooks, which is why I couldn't remember any songs other than the first two*. About halfway through I started to check to see how much of the album was left... never a good sign. And nothing personal but the vocalist has a generic voice that is nearly bereft of any kind of distinguishing characteristic, which also doesn't vary. I feel bad saying that because I'm sure he's a nice guy and all. It's actually a very good, strong voice but just not very textured. It was also about halfway through that I started to develop ear fatigue from the compressed production. Crunchy walls of guitars are great but ya gotta let them breath!
I'm not saying that the only redeeming quality of For Madmen Only are the first two songs. There are many strong points but not enough or of the right kind to make the album with me. For instance, the start of War Drums makes me think of the Spinal Tap song "Big Bottoms," which is neither a good or a bad thing. Some of the songs vary from the typical 4/4 meter, which is usually good, but doesn't develop this change into anything memorable. The lyrics are intelligent throughout and of a Christian inclination, without being overt. A favorite is from the song "Blackness" where he sings "We all wanna change the world / We don't wanna change our minds." I'm sure I turned this towards "the unsaved" back in 1994 but I've since seen that the church is equally blind and sheeplike, no longer looking once they've found what they're looking for. The album ends on a strong note with the nearly ten minute epic "New Dreams", a trick which producer Sam Taylor was fond of making King's X do on their earlier albums. In fact, "New Dreams" sounds a bit like King's X guitar tones, though with a bit less character, and having enough variation within itself and from the preceeding songs that it was quite enjoyable. Oh, did I fail to mention that Sam Taylor produced this album? It's probably why I even picked it up in the first place. It might also have been the last time I picked up an album based on this guy's name.
I think I'll stand by my rating of seven, though I'm tempted to drop it to six. 2.5 songs does not an album make.
* Two extremely good songs and the rest just kinda meh, somewhat like Jet Circus from the same era. STEP ON IT!