Dee Snider is a well-known vocalist and songwriter. He’s been a professional musician for a long time; writing, touring, performing, and singing… He’s done a lot of different styles, genres; and he even ventured out from music and has been involved with some TV shows and even wrote and starred in a horror film. But at the core of it all, he’s a heavy metal veteran! I’ve known that for a long time myself. Today, I’m coming to you with the latest representation of Snider’s passion for metal music: his new album called For the Love of Metal.
I’ve known of Dee since probably about 2000. Unlike most people, however, my introduction to Dee Snider was not through Twisted Sister, it was through a far less known band called Widowmaker. It was around the time Al Pitrelli had joined Megadeth and I was trying to find all albums he’d done thus far. I found both albums of Widowmaker, the debut Blood and Bullets (1992) and Stand By For Pain (1994). The debut sounds great but I wasn’t really blown away. But then I listened to the second record, Stand By For Pain… I’d probably put that album in my Top 10 Metal Albums. To me, it’s that good! The best way to describe it is a metal album with no gimmicks, no over-production, no tricks, no bullshit. Just pure heavy metal. The lyrics were poignant, at times political, but generally dealt with human frustrations in such a clever way. Al Pitrelli’s guitar playing was awesome; and the drums and bass (played by Joe Franco and Marc Russell, respectively) sounded great too, but you just had to stop and pay attention to who was singing. The moment “Killing Time” kicked in on that record and Dee started singing “Wrong place at the dead wrong time; what’s mine is theirs but what theirs ain’t mine”, I got chills. I could tell he genuinely went through the emotions that he talked about in the songs and his voice was just so powerful. Some vocalists have a good enough voice but they get lost in the mix despite the best efforts of the mixer. Dee would have no such problem. I can write an entire article about why that album is one of the best metal records of all time; but perhaps I’ll do that some other time. Suffice it to say I loved Widowmaker. I’m still bummed they couldn’t continue releasing music with that line-up.
There’s another reason why Dee was on my radar. I got into metal when I was 13. It’s been 20 years and I still love this music. I loved growing up discovering all these brilliant musicians. And if you are a teenager, and later a young adult, who’s into heavy metal, the least you get on the streets is dirty looks. You are certainly judged. And no one believes you can be a smart, responsible individual if you are into metal. I had no interest in fitting into anybody’s stereotype. Neither did my friends and most of the musicians I admired. We all hated that we were judged so negatively because we loved to headbang and we loved heavy music that helped us get our frustrations out! And upon discovering Widowmaker, I also discovered how Dee stood up to the PMRC, the infamous Parental Music Resource Center, a committee formed in the mid-1980s that aimed to increase “parental control” over music. Ever heard of the “Filthy Fifteen”? Yeah, that was their “work”! Of course, they weren’t fooling anyone. Their goal was censorship. While they succeeded – to a degree – by forcing companies to put the “Explicit Lyrics” stickers, they couldn’t go all the way thanks to some brave musicians that had the guts to show up to Senate hearings and defend an artist’s right to write whatever they wanted. Yes, Dee Snider was one of those people. Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It made it to the “Filthy Fifteen”. If you haven’t already done so, go and watch his testimony in front of members of PMRC and some Senate members. See, what I loved about Dee’s appearance was he wasn’t there to insult anyone. He was there to make a point; that metal musicians weren’t what the PMRC made them to be. They didn’t deserve this unfair treatment. And boy, did he make that point! My favorite part in the whole ordeal is when the committee pushes back and accuses Twisted Sister of writing about bondage with the song “Under the Blade” from the album of the same name; Dee responds, very calmly, about how certain lyrics are open to interpretation and everyone is going to find what they were looking for. “Ms. Gore was looking for sado-masochism and she found it!”. Ah, pure fucking bliss! As someone who’s had to deal with people’s incessant prejudice against metal, Dee instantly became a hero to me.
I knew that they were, like everybody else, grossly underestimating me. I knew that they viewed me as just another dunderheaded rocker and they would bring me in, make me look like a fool, and I would help their cause. They did not know that I could construct a sentence and speak English fluently.
I’m perfectly aware that that was a rather long introduction to an album review. But I wanted you to appreciate the background of Dee Snider a little bit more. His name wasn’t prominently featured in many metal magazines or websites in the last two decades; and perhaps that was in part because he was busier working on other arrangements, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate his new album. It’s time we all gave him a lot more coverage.
All right, let’s shift our gears back to For the Love of Metal.
This is album came about because of a dare. Jamey Jasta, who hosts a podcast called The Jasta Show, challenged Dee on his show to release a contemporary metal album. Jasta told Dee that he is an “icon” and eventually convinced him that there would be a huge interest in the new music. I’ll be honest, I don’t know that much about Hatebreed or Jasta, two bands Jamey leads, but I listen to his podcast any chance I get because his passion and energy are contagious! The guy genuinely loves this music and is ready to encourage anyone and everyone to forge ahead. His collaboration with Dee was no exception. Jamey has songwriting credits in all songs and he also produced the album, along with Nicky Bellmore. If you like this record, you should thank Jasta as much as you thank Dee Snider.
I’m fired up about this full on metal album we’re producing @deesniderofficial_ ! People are gonna lose their minds when they hear this! i pitched the idea to Dee on my podcast and now it’s becoming a reality. i did some co-writes w/ Nicky & Charlie as well as @joelgrind from @toxicholocaust_official also @markmortonofficial & Howard Jones have pitched in Riff & lyric ideas we are using on the album. Dee is one of the best vocalists of our time. His voice is up there with Ozzy, Dio, Dickinson & Halford to me, AND it’s as powerful as ever! Although this album will be very heavy, the songs are anthemic and will fit well in his solo set w/ We’re Not Gonna Take It, i Wanna Rock, Burn In Hell, We Are The Ones, So What and others. Can’t wait for everyone to hear this! Stay tuned!
Dee actually released another studio album just a couple of years ago called We Are the Ones. Dee himself commented that most of his metal fans were going to hate this album because he had “abandoned his past to move forward”. I wouldn’t say I hated it; but even after multiple listens I couldn’t find myself getting that into the album. I listened to it again before writing this review and it still wouldn’t grab my attention the way this new record did. I will always defend a musician’s right to try new things – but I think straightforward heavy metal is what goes with Dee’s voice best.
Jamey Jasta must have thought the same since he brought up this idea of releasing a full-blown metal record. I don’t know why Dee didn’t write any of the songs (he’s certainly more than capable) but perhaps he wanted to make sure he gave younger writers a chance to represent the sound of today’s metal. Jasta recruited Nicky Bellmore to co-produce, mix and play drums on the album. Charlie Bellmore played most of the guitars, except for some guest solos here and there. I believe Jasta knew these two players from their Kingdom of Sorrow project; but I’m not all too familiar with that. Both of these players helped Jasta on the songwriting department too.
Knowing Jasta is into hardcore, I wasn’t sure how the music was going to work. I was all for a contemporary metal album; but I couldn’t see Dee doing a hardcore album. But the music reminds me of Widowmaker more than anything. As you can imagine, I was thrilled with that! Of course, it’s not identical as the musicians are different; but the overall vibe is the same. These guys wanted to release a metal album without gimmicks, without lots of effects, and they did not want to over-polish the sound. Everything is well produced and mixed as far as I’m concerned.
The music, of course, is heavy. Furthermore, it is streamlined as much as possible. There aren’t a lot of extended parts. At times I wished we’d had some more room for some riffs to breathe, or some more solos. Perhaps the goal was to highlight Dee’s vocals as much as possible… In any case, there are a lot of great guitar parts, the drumming is stellar, and the whole album just works. It’s hard to have that many songwriters on all songs… It can easily create a tense situation and the results aren’t always the best; but these guys pulled it off.
The lyrics, as far as I could tell, are more personal than political. Dee didn’t write the lyrics, but it sounds like the songwriters were in close contact with him to try to understand what he wanted to talk about. In an interview with Anithero Magazine, Dee says the songs mostly talk about “standing up, believing in yourself, fighting back, a lot of anti-bullying themes”. There’s some introspection in the songs, but also a lot of anger and sorrow too. Metal is a good channel for all these emotions.
The opening track, Lies Are a Business, sets the vibe right off the bat. Starting with a fast-paced double-bass drum beat, it’s got elements of ‘80s metal that infuses thrash metal with some NWOBHM melody. It serves as a good barometer, if you like this song, then you’ll also gel with the rest of the album.
Dee made two tracks available on their own before the whole record was released. Tomorrow’s No Concern is a fantastic track. It’s hooky – so the chorus will stay in your head for quite a while! The song is reminiscent of Testament, just the overall riffs and how the song was arranged reminded me of Eric Peterson’s songwriting. Become the Storm, the other song that was released earlier, is another good choice to represent the album. It’s actually one of my favorites because it’s got a lot of variety in one song; but that variety is spread so well and it’s so streamlined that nothing is overplayed. Catchy chorus, great solo section, tempo changes, some great rhythm work with the bass holding down the fort! And just wait till your Dee sing on this song!
There’s maybe a couple of tracks that I couldn’t really get into; but in an album that offers 12 songs that’s still a damn good ratio! American Made is super heavy – and did I just hear Dee growl? They weren’t kidding when they said this was gonna be a pure metal album. This one is slower, but heavier and groovier. The biggest benefit of going for groove as opposed to speed is it allowed Dee’s vocals to take the front stage. This song is really, really well composed. There’s also some promising lead parts here that I wish had been extended; but I guess the aim was to allow Dee’s vocals have as much space as possible in the tracks, which, given that this is a Dee Snider album, is understandable. Great track nonetheless!
I Am the Hurricane, Roll Over You (which has some super aggressive lyrics!), I’m Ready, The Hardest Way are some of my other favorites. All feature catchy hooks, some intricate riffing, good leadwork, and, of course, Dee’s powerful singing! What I appreciate the most is that they didn’t forgo melody, as some artists do when they want to release a “contemporary metal” album – after all, that phrase is open to interpretation! I’m Ready, for instance, has a great melodic section right in the middle that took me back to some of my favorite ‘80s heavy metal records. You can write heavy song while still incorporating melody – and I’m so glad these guys agreed with that philosophy.
This is a solid heavy metal album. Like I said at the beginning of the review, Dee Snider will always be someone who’s career I will follow. He’s occasionally misunderstood but if you read up on his life, you’ll see his passion for music and for his family. I respect that. I was kind of left wanting more when I listened to his previous solo effort; so, as you can image, I’m psyched Jasta convinced him to go for a heavier sound. These guys created a strong album and I’d recommend it to everyone who loved the Widowmaker records. Who knows, if things go well with this record, maybe Dee will pick up the phone and call Al Pitrelli for some new Widowmaker work? Okay, okay I know I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s hit play and enjoy some more of For the Love of Metal.
“I do it for the love
I release my hate
Set our souls ablaze
We do it for the love
We release our hate
When we take the stage
For the love of metal”