I won’t take another opportunity to mention how underrated UFO is in the history of hard rock and how you should totally check them out, unless I do it in some sort of back-handed, surreptitious manner. Instead, I’ll just assume that you’re already aware of the fact that this band released some great music back in the day, and you probably even know that they’re still going mostly strong, albeit long without guitar wunderkind Michael Schenker (who left in the late 70s, returned briefly in the 90s, and was replaced by Vinnie Moore thereafter). You probably even realize that they’re now without founding rock-star bassist Pete Way, who departed a few years back for health reasons. (Way’s spot has yet to be officially filled.) So, yeah, you know all that – but what you don’t know yet is that, after coming off the respectable The Monkey Puzzle with the relatively lackluster The Visitor a few years back, the band is once again musically on track. Seven Deadly rocks like sin, it’s true, and it proves that, forty-plus years after they first took flight, the guys in UFO can still bring the goods.
Seven Deadly hits the ground running with the classic-sounding riff of “Fight Night,” and between Moore’s riffs and Phil Mogg’s perfectly weathered voice, that track and the subsequent “Wonderland” serve up a pair of the hard-rocking tunes that put this band on the radar back in the early 70s. And while we’re on the subject of Mogg: The man has always been a powerful and (ahem) unsung voice in hard rock, but as he’s aged, that voice seems to have gotten stronger, tougher. He’s never been one to test the upper end of rock-god screaming – no Halford or Plant falsetto wails or Gillan piercing screams – but the man has soul, dammit, and his gritty style has only improved through the years. On the guitar front, Moore’s days as a Shrapnel shredder still color his playing – he does have a tendency to dance around the fretboard, although he’s tasteful about it, as Schenker always was – and he hands in a fine performance here, but still, the show is Mogg’s and its his voice and emotion that ultimately serves as Seven Deadly’s driving force.
That said, as great as the band and their singer may be, Seven Deadly really rocks because Mogg and Moore and long-time guitarist / keyboardist Paul Raymond have written a great batch of songs – aside from “Fight Night” and “Wonderland,” tracks like the driving “Mojo Town” and “The Last Stone Rider” are vintage-sounding UFO rockers, updated a bit but structured the same, whilst the moody “Angel Station” stands as one of the band’s best ballads and the album’s emotive centerpiece. Mogg’s world-weary edge perfectly suits that track’s theme of loss and acceptance, of moving on – his repeated verse of “I spent twenty years of walking / eighteen years of talking / one year to lose you / and five of regret…” is given a resigned tone that perfectly fits the words. Later midtempo semi-ballad “Burn Your House Down” also pulses with a similar dreamy groove – it’s not quite as grand a song, but it is a winner and, like “Angel Station,” it, too, features a nimble solo from Moore.
Though Seven Deadly is damn impressive, it’s not perfect, but the only real hiccup comes after the high quality run of the first eight (deadly) tracks. “Steal Yourself” meanders beneath its plodding riffs, and it never quite comes together on the same level as what surrounds it. But the lull is short-lived: After “Burn Your House Down,” “The Fear” mines a harmonica-drenched blues-rock vein to stomping results, bounding along atop a shuffling Andy Parker drumbeat, and “Waving Goodbye” closes the album on another mid-tempo note, plaintive and driving beneath organs and more Moore soloing.
All in all, though I’m clearly pleased by what I have in this disc, I must concede that those new to UFO shouldn’t start here – they should start with Lights Out and Strangers In The Night, start at the top and work their way in. For the fans that have stuck with the band for all these years: Here’s a great example of why you did. This band knows how to rock.
But then again, you probably already knew that.