Of all the bands that could have possibly reformed in the new millennium, Lizzy Borden was one that I never thought actually would. Not because they didn’t have a few minor glories to relive, as dated as those may be, but simply because I figured that their day had passed. I assumed that, at best, Borden would be forever relegated to the status of “ironic metal band logo on undersized vintage t-shirt for the hipster crowd.”
Despite being far more metallic than their Sunset Strip peers, Lizzy’s brand of theatrical metal was stuck in the second tier even during their first attempt, an Alice Cooper homage atop an often respectable power metal base. They (he) managed to get a video or two on MTV, and they even scored something of a hit with “Me Against The World.” (Bring that video up on YouTube, kids, and behold the spectacle of Lizzy himself in a metallic silver suit with matching lipstick and a three-foot-wide perm…) Looking back now, Visual Lies and Master Of Disguise hold up better than anyone would’ve expected.
So enough of the history lesson, what of the record at hand, this second Lizzy Borden opus of the last eighteen years? Well, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect — it’s theatrical; it’s silly; it’s good. Like Armored Saint, Borden was always more indebted to metal giants like Maiden and Priest than to the Aerosmith sleaze that fueled their party-hard contemporaries. Following suit, Appointment is a traditional metal album with some great moments, and also, of course, some lesser ones.
For this one, Lizzy (the man) is joined by drummer Joey Scott, the only returning member of the original group—not surprising, since he’s also Lizzy’s brother—plus guitarist Ira Black and bassist Marten Andersson. Scott has never been a flashy drummer, and both Black and Andersson have performed with other capable acts, so the musicianship is a bit workmanlike, but it’s certainly acceptable. Lizzy’s voice sounds better here than before, rangy and powerful like Tate or Dickinson or Deris and without the vibrato he tended to (over)employ in his heyday. All the vocals are clean and operatic, with some falsetto action, and thankfully no “updated” attempts at any type of growling. He manages to make his vocal approach equally modern and vintage, soaring and not as thin and reedy as he sometimes sounded in 1987.
Boiling it down, the biggest difference between Appointment With Death and Borden’s past is that Appointment is better produced—recorded by Lizzy and Scott and mixed by Erik Rutan, it sounds modern and big, slick and decidedly not dated. As before, there are still big sing-along choruses, some nimble-fingered guitar work, and more delicious cheese than Pizza Hut’s new Triple-Layer Parmesan-Crust Mozzarella-Injected Ooey-Gooey Dairy Bomb. There’s a melodrama to Appointment that invokes early Queensryche, especially with Lizzy’s vocal similarities to Tate. (Check out “Perfect World” and “The Death Of Love” for distinctly ‘Ryche-like performances.) There are guest appearances by Rutan, George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob, Dave Meniketti of Y&T, and for the young ‘uns, Corey Beaulieu of Trivium.
As with the best of earlier Borden, the music sticks to the commercial side of power metal, with a few forays on either side of the line. You’ve got Dokken-like harmony-laden mid-tempos (“Live Forever”) balanced against Bruce Dickinson-isms (the title track, “Bloody Tears”). Large parts of Appointment sound like a cross between vintage Queensryche and modern Helloween’s poppier, less speed-drenched moments. The album’s only downright embarrassing moment is also its last one: the closing ballad “The Darker Side,” which is equally grating and laughable. (Damn, those falsetto squeals are piercing in all the wrong ways…)
The bottom line: Sadly, no matter how good Appointment With Death may be, I doubt it’s going to re-ignite any significant interest in Lizzy Borden amongst the youngsters. But for faithful fans and the few curious who may dare to seek it out, it’s an enjoyable old-school metal record from a band that I certainly never believed would return.