If you want to look at a roller-coaster career then look no further than the career of Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider. When Twisted Sister started, Dee Snider wasn’t even a member of the group and it wasn’t until he joined up with guitarist Jay Jay French (John Segall) in 1976 that things started to happen with the band. The addition of guitarist Eddie Ojeda became the first edition of what was about to be the version that people see as the original one. After an endless line of bass players and drummers, Dee, Jay Jay and Eddie finally added drummer Anthony Jude (A.J.) Pero and Mark “The Animal” Mendoza and that was when the line-up everybody knows and loves was completed. Playing at places that took somewhere between 3000 – 5000 people without even having a record deal was more than impressive but what’s really confusing is that they had such a hard time getting one. In the beginning it was the shortage of really good songs that was the reason to that, but even when Dee Snider brought in his own hard, aggressive yet melodic and catchy tunes, record companies were reluctant to sign the band. But finally in 1982, Secret records decided to sign the band and they released their now classic debut album Under The Blade (1982). But the album didn’t exactly set the world on fire and the ink hadn’t even dried on the contract when the record went bankrupt and the band was once again without contract. But some dude at Atlantic Records saw the potential within the band and signed them. You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll was released in 1983 and that album gave them a big hit with “I Am (I’m Me)” and the album started to run up the charts. Ironically, it was the band’s mega selling album Stay Hungry (1984) that both made them a platinum selling arena band and also was the beginning of the end. See, Twisted Sister were always an angry heavy metal band with an outrageous image, but it was their videos to “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” that sold the album and since the videos were made with a lot of humor and the songs had a lot of pop in them, that mixed with their image, Twisted Sister became an act that attracted little kids and even the parents, the ones that the band once revolted to, started to dig the band and all of that made the “true” metal heads look at Twisted Sister as a joke and a circus act and a band for the daycare centre.
So when Twisted Sister released the underrated follow-up Come Out And Play in 1985, it still sold quite well, but nowhere as good as its predecessor and it stood clear that the downfall had already started. Snider recorded a solo album, Love Is For Suckers in 1987, released as a Twisted Sister album where Joey Franco had replaced A.J. Pero (in reality no members of the band actually played on that album and the drums were a machine), an album that totally bombed and shortly after, Twisted Sister split up. In 1988 Dee started the band Desperado with ex- Ozzy guitarist Bernie Tormé, ex- Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr and bass player Marc Russell, signed a big deal with Elektra Records, recorded the album Ace – officially released in 2006 but a bootleg version called Bloodied But Unbowed was released in 1996 – and got dropped when Elektra changed their staff. But Dee licked his wounds, got a new band – Widowmaker – together with Russell, drummer Joey Franco and guitarist Al Pitrelli (Danger Danger, Alice Cooper, Asia, Joe Lynn Turner, Megadeth, Savatage, Trans Siberian Orchestra) and released the brilliant Blood And Bullets (1992) (an album that included several Desperado tracks) and the more alternative and not so great Stand By For Pain (1994) before the band fell apart. Between that and the first Twisted Sister reunion in 2001, Snider had his own radio show and directed a movie, “Strangeland”, in which he starred. He also has released two solo albums, Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down (2000), an album of unreleased Desperado – and other – songs and Dee Does Broadway (2012). Twisted Sister also got together and rerecorded Stay Hungry – renamed Still Hungry – in 2004 to little critical acclaim. But what has happened while on the long hiatus is that Twisted Sister had gotten their respect back as a great metal band and the tours of later years has been a huge success. Of course bad luck struck once again when drummer A.J. Pero died in 2015 and that was when it was decided that the last tour would be their final one – ever – with Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, The Winery Dogs) stepping in to help the band out.
Without Twisted Sister, it was time for Dee to think about the future and without very much notice, his new solo album was released on October 28 with only a single to shortly pre-date the album’s release. The single in question is the album’s opener and title track and at first, it sounded only ok and musically very different to what we are used to get from Dee Snider. But a closer listen gave me second thoughts about just how different it really is. Sure, it’s a pop-punk-metal tune, but it’s not that modern radio rock sounding, it’s more in the vein of a band like the Backyard Babies – and the fact is, I could very well see Twisted Sister recording a song like that in 2016. It’s very catchy and punchy and I quite like it. “Over Again” is catchy enough but with some edge and it sounds like early 90’s melodic hard rock mixed with a slice of punk and some metal and again, it’s a really good song. “Close To You” is a bit more experimental and has an alternative touch, but the verses comes with a big Alice Cooper vibe that’s significant to the song, but Dee also throws a nod back to mid 90’s Brit pop. There’s still some heaviness at the bottom and the melody is memorable, so I guess the mix works. The modern radio rock sound is more obvious in “Rule The World”, a slow-paced pop/rock song that holds many layers of synthesizers and a “whoa whoa whoa” refrain that is very catchy and sticks to the brain no matter if you like it or not. But there’s some heavy guitars on top which kind of saves it from being a pure pop song. I have a soft spot for songs like this, so I’ll give it my thumbs up.
Like we haven’t heard “We’re Not Gonna Take It” enough, Dee has decided to re-record it but this time as an acoustic piano ballad. It’s very raw, stripped and full of emotion which is all fine, but the song is a kick-ass pop-metal anthem and for us who grew up with the song, this version doesn’t really cut it. I know it was made for charity and that’s cool but maybe he should have left it at that because it really doesn’t fit this record at all. It’s not bad, it just sounds wrong to these ears. “Crazy For Nothing” is an in-your-face hard rocker, simple with a slight punk influence. The melody strikes hard and the chorus is über-catchy and this could very well have been a new Twisted Sister song. It’s a great tune and probably my favorite on the album. “Believe” comes with verses that are all built on bass, drums and synth while the rhythm sounds somewhat alternative. However, the catchy and Bon Jovi-ish pop chorus is really sticky and I guess this is single material – a good song. The Nine Inch Nails cover “Head Like A Hole” is hard and aggressive and Dee has kept the industrial and electronic sounds that NIN are known for. Dee is pissed off again – which is awesome – and this song is the soundtrack to his anger. I think it’s a great version and Dee has made it his own even though it’s easy to hear its origins. “Superhero” is an electronic pop song that holds a killer melody and a super catchy refrain and even though it’s a good song, it feels kinda weird to hear Dee Snider sing this stuff – it sure will take some time to get used to. Closing track “So What” is a semi-acoustic tune with just a little keyboards in the background. It’s dark, raw and stripped but also heavy and angry and Dee’s mad voice makes the tune pretty much spot-on.
This is a strange album for a guy like Dee Snider for sure but I will give him the benefit of a doubt with this one – I think it’s really cool that he dares to try out new stuff as a 61-year old metalhead. But what’s really confusing is that Dee, who has been the main song writer in every project he has been involved in, hasn’t written a single song – except for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – on this album and I can’t figure out why. Still, covering songs written by outsiders, he sure makes it sound that he means business and that he means every word he’s singing. But I would love to hear new music written by the man himself next time around. I know that this album probably isn’t for everyone and Dee’s words “metal heads will hate this album” just might be accurate – it’s very obvious that Dee is aiming for a younger audience this time, but it just might work. But even an old geezer like me who’s a big Dee Snider and Twisted Sister fan can’t help but to surrender to this record. I dunno, with an open mind and with no prejudice opinions, this album might just work for the average metalhead as well. Yes, I do quite like it.
1. We Are The Ones
2. Over Again
3. Close To You
4. Rule The World
5. We’re Not Gonna Take It (2016 Acoustic Recording)
6. Crazy For Nothing
8. Head Like A Hole
10. So What