To my mind, comps like this (well, good comps like this, at any rate) serve one of two purposes: 1. They serve as a backwards-looking introduction of sorts to an artist or band that inspired and/or influenced the folks that came after; or 2. They take a well-known artist or band and put a new spin on the music (see Laibach’s several bizarre-yet-incredible versions of “Sympathy for the Devil” for a good example). In the best of all possible worlds, a comp should serve both purposes, but heck, that’s a tall order, so just one of the two is plenty. Sadly, Twisted Forever loses on both counts.
To take the purposes listed above (and their corresponding problems) in order:
#1. Okay, now maybe this is just me, but . . . well, who in the world decided that Twisted Sister, of all people, had a big impact on the next generation of rockers? Sure, they weren’t a bad band, for their day (better than quite a few of their contemporaries, definitely), and they were definitely fun to blast on the school bus, but when I think of the archetypes of the hair-metal genre, they’re not the first on my list. A tribute to Kiss I can understand, one to Motley Crue would be okay, and a Poison disc wouldn’t be too far off . . . but Twisted Sister? I’ve seen tribute CDs to everybody from the Pixies to Led Zeppelin over the last several years, but those all made sense—it’s hard to deny that both Zep or the Pixies made incredible impacts on the music world that went way beyond their own respective musical lives.
Beyond that, what’s even weirder is that half the bands/people on here were doing their thing either before or during Dee Snider and company’s heyday. Among the luminaries on here are folks like old-school thrashers Anthrax, hard rock queen Joan Jett, ex-Skid Row screamer Sebastian Bach, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, and, believe it or not, Motorhead (who had their own tribute album released recently on Victory). When it comes to the relative “new kids” on the CD, like Vision Of Disorder or Lit, heck, I can at least buy that the guys in the band grew up listening to Twisted Sister, but come on—you can’t tell me good old scratch-throated Motorhead bassist/vocalist Lemmy grew up listening to these guys. He was already in his thirties when Twisted Sister started putting on their trademark makeup, I’d wager . . .
#2. On to part two, which is more of a problem with the music itself. Simply put, Dee Snider’s no genius songwriter, and even the more talented people on the album can’t seem to do a whole lot new with the songs. At the top of the heap is Nine Days’ triumphant, almost gospel-like rendition of “The Price” (there’s nary a hair-swinging moment in sight), followed by Anthrax’s version of “Destroyer”, which succeeds because it sounds like Anthrax, and not like Twisted Sister (see below for more on that). Chuck D’s “Wake Up the Sleeping Giant” isn’t bad, for similar reasons, but it’s far from his best work, coming off as very dated ‘80s-style dance-rap (not a good thing). Metalheads Overkill run the opposite direction with “Under The Blade”, opting to take the metal influence completely over-the-top, with metal god shrieking and that ever-popular thwacking double-bass, and it almost works as heavy metal camp, if there is such a thing.
Unfortunately, beyond these relative high points, most of the music on Twisted Forever just drifts by unnoticed. Lit, Nashville Pussy, The Step Kings, and Hammerfall all do their best to ape old-school hair metal right down to the very last detail, which is sad, because I’d be very intrigued to hear them put their own stamp on the music. What’s worse, however, is that Motorhead, Sebastian Bach, and Joan Jett, well, they don’t even have to fake it; they’re rock heroes to begin with. What’s the point of getting a bunch of metalheads to cover a metal band? It’d be a lot cooler to hear new, fresh interpretations of Twisted Sister classics like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” or “I Wanna Rock”, rather than a soundalike track that could be straight off the original recording. I mean, if I wanted to hear the original versions, I’d go buy the original CD, right?
Finally, the last track on the album pretty much caps the whole thing off—it’s Twisted Sister themselves, doing “Sin City”, which takes purpose #1 and throws it in the garbage can completely (it’s also apparently itself an AC/DC cover?). I know it’s not the first time it’s ever happened, but still, what good is a “tribute” album that features the band to which you’re paying homage? One interesting thing, though, after listening to “Sin City” after wading through 15 or so lackluster covers, is that it’s by far one of the best songs on the CD, both in sound and execution. I hope Dee Snider appreciates the irony.