It was back in 1985 and the 16-tear-old me was listening to Sweden’s then only radio show that featured hard rock, called Rockbox and all of a sudden, the VJ introduced us to this new band from USA called Madam X. The song he played was the song “Stand Up And Fight” from their newly released debut album We Reserve The Right. The tune hit me like a fist in the gut and I knew I had to purchase that record. I had no clue what they looked like at all and what I saw when I first held the album in my hand was something outrageous. Since I was a kid, I have always embraced theatrical bands with a strong image – I started with Sweet and Kiss and from them, it wasn’t a giant leap to get into Alice Cooper, Mötley Crüe and W.A.S.P. So for me to get whole-heartedly into Madam X was something of a no-brainer. Fact is, Madam X made all the mentioned bands look like schoolboys in comparison. It didn’t take long before Madam X were heavily featured in Sweden’s two music magazines, OKEJ and Rocket and since there was no internet at the time with all its endless info, us kids thought that Madam X were huge “over there”.
Well, we all would soon be aware that that wasn’t the case at all. It turned out that We Reserve The Right would be Madam X’s only album, even though OKEJ wrote an article about them recording a new record – even some song titles were dropped. But since the band had signed to Jet Records, more of a mafia institution than a record company – the owner was Don Arden, father of Ozzy Osbourne’s now wife Sharon – screwed lots of artists like Gary Moore, Magnum and Ozzy himself and of course, Madam X were given the same treatment. Singer Bret Kaiser was the first one to jump the ship and then drummer Roxy Petrucci left as well, leaving bass player Chris “Godzilla” Doliber and guitarist Maxine Petrucci to their own destiny. Roxy has then sold millions of albums with Vixen and Maxine has made a couple of solo albums but what Bret and Chris have been up to, I’m unsure of. Today, Madam X are mostly known for the fact that a later line-up included Skid Row singer to be, Sebastian Bach.
All this meant that the band’s reunion in 2014 came as something of a surprise to me. I watched their gig at Sweden Rock Festival that year and even though they didn’t blow me away, they didn’t suck. They even played a new song, “Another 80’s Rock Song”, which kind of gave away that they would eventually release a new album. About their debut album, I can honestly say that it haven’t really stood the test of time. I dug it like crazy as a 16 year-old but already four years later as a 20 year-old rocker it had run its course for me. The last time I heard it, only a few tracks appealed to me. But when a band like Madam X, a band I have a tight history with, releases a new record after 32 years, nothing can stop this guy from checking it out – and crossing my fingers that the album will be a total knock-out!
The album opens with a real monster that completely runs me over – and punches me right in the nuts. It’s called “Resurrection” and is a hard, fast and aggressive classic metal tune that lurks in the same alley as Judas Priest’s “Painkiller”. Sure, Madam X had their metal moments on their more glam/sleaze laden debut as well – remember “Stand Up And Fight” and “Metal In My Veins”? – but never this hard. And you know what, it actually fits them well. A good tune that bodes well for the rest of the album. The heavy metal continues with the following title track. The powerful rhythm punches and kicks and as a whole, this tune sounds like an updated version of the heavier moments on the debut. But as a song, it’s only ok and it doesn’t stay around for very long in my head. The Priest influence comes back in “Nitrous”, a slammin’, fast and hard metal fist-in-the-face bomber. Together with a brilliantly catchy chorus, the tune is a winner and quite frankly, the best Madam X tune I have heard so far.
“Freak Parade” comes in a mid pace, it’s a big and ballsy sleaze meets heavy metal rocker that will have the punters’ fists in the air when played live. It’s quite catchy and takes us back to the debut style wise. Roxy’s Vixen band-mate, singer Janet Gardner duets with Bret on it. It’s a good song although it doesn’t floor me. “Die Trying” is a hook-laden sleaze-metal stomper with a big pop feel and a sticky refrain of pure catchiness. It’s a great tune and must be a contender as the next single choice. “Hello Cleveland” is more of a good time party rocker, quite sleazy but also heavy and punchy with a refrain impossible to get out of your head once it’s there. It’s another good song that doesn’t quite make it to great. “Big Rock Rolls Heavy” is a sonic boom that will surely kick ass live. It has a heavy metal groove, it’s ballsy and punchy and it’s pretty much their debut album in style with a bigger metal influence. Great stuff. “Detroit Black” is dark, heavy and very distinct. It’s a tough metal tune that reminds me of the debut Fight album and the main melody is very effective. It has bass player Chris Doliber on lead vocals and he really nails it. The chorus is very effective and it really sticks – great song!
The punchy and ballsy heavy rocker “The Rise” follows in a mid tempo and this song is, to me, the absolute gem on the record. It strikes pretty hard but the effective and distinct main melody makes it a bit more easy-listening. It’s a metal tune but it’s extremely catchy albeit not in a radio-friendly way. Fan-bloody-tastic! “Good Stuff” is well, exactly that – good stuff. It’s a pop-metal tune with lots of single-potential but at the same time it rocks pretty good and it has the same pop-feel that some stuff on the debut had, only this is an updated version – and lots, lots better. Then it’s time for the mandatory power ballad – hey, this is, after all, an 80’s hard rock band so what did you expect? The question is only – will they come through or will this be just a saccharine wimp ballad? Well, “Wish You Away” is actually a great rock ballad. If this über-catchy little number had been released in 1990, this album would have gone platinum in no time. Some will probably hate this one because it’s big and over-blown but it is so catchy I just have to surrender. Love it.
“High In High School”. This is a song I have loved since the first day I heard it and I still do. But. I just can’t motivate a re-recording of it. I mean, why? It’s not bad here, a little heavier than on the debut but otherwise the same. I thought the idea with this album was to move forward and not to rest on past glories. It’s an ok version but unnecessary, I think. Closing track “Bride Of Frankenstein” is the most out-there tune on the album. Firstly, it is sung by Maxine, who does a great job and secondly it’s not in the same vein as the rest of the song. It’s somewhat progressive, with an Alice Cooper like atmosphere and some Black Sabbath influenced riffs and the mood is spooky, cinematic and could easily have been a soundtrack to a horror movie. It’s a bit twisted in the arrangements, not a far cry from Maxine’s solo stuff. A brave move. It’s a killer track and an awesome way to close the album.
Madam X have made a surprisingly strong album considering the only album I can compare it to is their so dated debut album. This album is way heavier and harder than the debut but still contains shitloads of hooks and catchy melodies and it sounds like a band that is really enjoying themselves. That said, I think the album do contain a few fillers too many for a high-score and also, I find the production a bit mushy and messy at times. It’s not bad but I would have loved this album with a cleaner sound, edgy and rough but still smooth. And what happened to “Another 80’s Rock Song”?? I don’t know how I will judge this album in, say, six months. Maybe the fillers has grown on me and they have stopped being fillers by then but as for now, I can only state that Madam X have recorded a stable record, a record that shows a new-born band with both bettered musical and song-writing skills, a very good foundation to build a resurrected career on and I have a feeling Madam X has THAT album in them. Welcome back.
4. Freak Parade
5. Die Trying
6. Hello Cleveland
7. Big Rock Rolls Heavy
8. Detroit Black
9. The Rise
10. Good Stuff
11. Wish You Away
12. High In High School
13. Bride Of Frankenstein