MARK SLAUGHTER – Reflections In A Rear View Mirror

Mark Slaughter RIARVMIt has been a long wait for all people who have longed for something new from the high-pitched vocalist. But I’m a little curious of who many people have an idea of who Mark Slaughter is. I mean, if you’re a die-hard melodic rock fan or a big Kiss fan, you probably know who this guy is, but for most rockers out there, I’m not sure that too many knows this guy. The first time I heard his name was when he replaced the misplaced Robert Fleishman (ex – Journey) in Vinnie Vincent’s band Invasion. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I loved all those big voiced singers with high-pitched falsetto and loud screams, but even then, Fleishman was too much for me. I loved the first Vinnie Vincent Invasion album, but much of it was ruined because of Fleishman’s annoying screams and Vincent’s ability to play as much as could as often as he could over everything. So when Fleishman was replaced with Slaughter, I was pleased. Even before I had heard him sing, actually because Fleishman didn’t look the part either, but Slaughter sure did. Mark’s first job was to sing on VVI’s second album, All Systems Go (1988), a great album where Vincent had calmed down a bit and Mark Slaughter’s voice made wonders for the songs. But, with Vincent being Vincent, things soon turned sour and the whole band left him only a year later, drummer Bobby Rock joined the AOR twins Nelson and Mark and bassist Dana Strum went on and formed Slaughter with guitar player Tim Kelly (1963 – 1998) and drummer Blas Elias, taking over Vinnie Vincent’s record contract with Chrysalis Records. Slaughter’s debut album, Stick It To Ya came out in 1990 and it made Slaughter a platinum act right away. I bought that CD without hearing a note from it, I just knew I would love it and so I did. To this day, I find that album a masterpiece. But nothing lasts forever and it felt like Mark and Dana had unleashed everything they had in the song writing department into that record and when they released the follow-up The Wild Life in 1992, it turned out to be a big disappointment, at least for me. It had some really good song and none of the songs were bad, but most of the album was forgettable. The same could be said of Fear No Evil (1995) and by the time they released Revolution in 1997, I had just about given up on them. But much to my surprise, Slaughter delivered a great effort with that record and hopes were up again. Unfortunately, Tim Kelly died in a car accident in 1998. The band decided to keep going with new guitarist Jeff Blando for one album, the ill-fated Back To Reality (1999). It had some good songs and a way heavier sound than what we were used to, but most of that record felt rushed and uneven. The band split shortly after. Since then, there hasn’t been a Slaughter band per se, more sporadic reunions for smaller package tours with other 80’s/90’s acts and for festivals. No new album has been in sight even tough Slaughter has been playing quite frequently in later years, When it’s time for some new Slaughter-related music for us, Mark did a Tom Keifer and released a solo album instead of a new record with the band he’s been touring with lately.

“Away I Go” opens up the album with a bang, a riff happy rocker that sounds like Slaughter’s rougher moments from back when. The song is good but lacks the “it” that makes it a killer. “Never Givin’ Up” is clearly single material, a very catchy melodic rocker with a strong chorus that nails itself to your brain after one listen. “Miss Elainious” is a straight forward melodic hard rocker that brings back memories of old Slaughter daze and I could see this track fit an album like Revolution. “Carry Me Back Home” is the album’s sore thumb. It’s a total pop song, but symphonic with hints towards prog and it makes me think of Styx and their likes. The melody is contagious and the hooks are all over the place – this is really good stuff. Same for “The Real Thing”, a catchy 80’s pop-rocker and I smell a hit on this one. “Baby Wants” is an 80’s rocker with a huge Led Zeppelin influence and a big 70’s groove and some really infectious hooks – the melodies really get etched onto your brain. The ballad “Don’t Turn Away” has to be one of the finest moments on this record. Mark duets with one Gena Johnson, who she is I’m really clueless of, and the tune has some big Beatles influences, but I also hear Cheap Trick which could have made this an Enuff Z’nuff song with Mark Slaughter on vocals. However, both Slaughter and Johnson makes a brilliant performance here. “Somewhere Isn’t Here” is a pop song, really, that comes with a rocking groove and a nice catchy melody. “Velcro Jesus” is another killer. It’s a great pop-rocker with some heavy grooves, another Beatles vibe in the melodies, but the foundation of the song really belongs on Stick It To Ya. The closing track, “Deep In Her Heart”, takes us a bit to the way side musically. The track is a slow, ballad-like, Zeppelin-influenced blues song with both minor symphonic and jazzy influences – fantastic!

The first time I listened to the album, I though it was underwhelming, to be honest. The fact that I only really dig two out five albums with Slaughter didn’t exactly raise any expectations for this album as Mark together with Dana Strum were Slaughter’s song writers. But every album is worth at least three spins before the final judgement falls. So, first listen said 6/10, but it grew after another listen to a 7, so I guess this album is a bit of a grower. Also, when listened to it in headphones, I discovered things I didn’t get the first time around. I mentioned Tom Keifer from Cinderella earlier and when I listened to his, awesome, solo album, I really didn’t get why he made a solo record out of that when it really could be a Cinderella album and he was the sole song writer there anyway. With this album, I can understand why Mark wanted this to be a solo album and not a Slaughter one. Even though this album has some songs that clearly could be Slaughter tracks, there are many songs that might not would have fitted on a Slaughter record. Slaughter were, when all is said and done, a standard melodic hard rock band that didn’t exactly went outside the box, musically. Nothing wrong with that at all, but if you’re in such a band, the need for a solo record will come sooner or later and now, 16 years after Slaughter’s last record, Mark has felt that it was time to let his creativity flow. Well done, I say. This record is together with Stick It To Ya, Revolution and All Systems Go, the best he’s done to date. It really makes me wish for a new Slaughter record. Bring it on, Mark. Bring it on. And next time, make a video of some kind to promote the thing.

Jon Wilmenius (7/10)

1. Away I Go
2. Never Givin’ Up
3. Miss Elainious
4. Carry Me Back Home
5. The Real Thing
6. Baby Wants
7. Don’t Turn Away
8. Somewhere Isn’t Here
9. In Circle Flight
10. Velcro Jesus
11. Deep In Her Heart

 

 

 

 

3 comments on “MARK SLAUGHTER – Reflections In A Rear View Mirror

  1. Hmmm. I appreciate that the album can grow on you. I got bored with Slaughter a while ago. I really like the first two. I’d be willing to give Mark a shot though.

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