Metal veterans, L.A. Guns release single, “Speed,” from forthcoming album

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Any discussion of America’s 1980’s heavy metal scene would have been incomplete without the inclusion of L.A. Guns. The band’s 2017 album, “The Missing Peace” is due out in October. The first single, “Speed,” makes social commentary and is sparking enthusiasm from fans and critics alike.

L.A. Guns and 1980s metal

L.A. Guns was formed in the early 1980s. Its beginnings are intertwined with that of at least one other metal giant, Guns ‘n’ Roses. Maybe on the surface, as in just looking at pictures, there was not a great deal of difference between L.A. Guns and dozens of others bands that wore long hair, and denim and leather outfits. However, by the time their sound made its way to my corner of flyover country in 1988, in the form of the song “Electric Gypsy,” I knew they were different.

I can find something good to say about a number of bands from the 1980s. The era seemed open to innovation across genres. There was something about L.A. Guns that was dangerous and authentic. Even in retrospect, the intangible quality that set the band apart is difficult to put into words. Attitude? Approach? Song quality? All of the above. The singer’s voice and the narratives provided in those songs that could only be heavy metal–all  added up to L.A. Guns not being just another band.

L.A. Guns’ relevance in 2017

While YouTube videos, informal discussions and other forums ponder why people tend to like older music better than newer music, L.A. Guns comes along with a new album. The first single from that album, helps to give some clarity on the question of new music’s validity.

Anyone who has said, “Metal is making a comeback,” in the past decade, has been corrected. “Metal never left,” is the response. L.A. Guns’ recent work is proof of that. It is odd how hair and clothing styles became associated with a musical style, and once the fashion trend changed, the music fell out of fashion for some people, too.

What L.A. Guns teaches audiences with “Speed,” their latest single, is that metal is a playing style. The lyrical content and vocal delivery need to have the same mix of guts and heart as the instrumentation. That doesn’t always happen with heavy metal bands, but it does with L.A. Guns.

I kept checking around to make sure “Speed” was actually new. It is wide open and brash. The lyrics reference everything from Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” to names of hard drugs (shouted in backing vocals), and add up to a sonic head shaking against instant gratification. The pace and ferocity of “Speed” will remind some metal fans of Iron Maiden–for a few measures, anyway.

The guitars in L.A. Guns’ fast songs always remind me of lacerating wires assigned a musical frequency. Add Phil Lewis’ in-your-face delivery, and Shane Fitzgibbons’ thunder-groove drumming, and “Speed” becomes an instant classic.

Heavy metal was never the type of music to set well with audiences who craved politeness and traditional sonic beauty in every chord. However, its continued popularity signals that the rebellious streak that runs through  U.S. culture will never be silenced. Maybe that is why heavy metal remains popular. “Speed” is an instant classic. October can’t arrive fast enough for enthusiastic fans.

 

 

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