Released: 2015, Boyz Tyme Records
There are lots of European glam and sleaze metal bands with a more modern edge to them, like Hardcore Superstar and Crashdïet to name a couple. Sergeant Steel is another to add to the list, though they lean much more retro than many other retro revival bands. RIDERS OF THE WORM is the band’s third LP since forming in Austria in 2007. I missed the first two releases from the band, so listening to RIDERS OF THE STORM was like taking a time machine back to 1987. That happens a lot these days, with retro movements sweeping or having swept across scores of metal subgenres, but Sergeant Steel takes it to the next level, from keyboards to production. And you know what? They do it well and have a good time doing it.
Phil Vanderkill leads the way as the everyman glam metal vocalist, sounding the part and delivering the songs with appropriate enthusiasm despite the often cheesy lyrics. Speaking of songs, there are a lot of them. We get 14 tracks at nearly an hour worth of music, a lot to digest to be sure. Hard to fault the first two songs though, with “Happy Time (Love On Demand)” and “Dirty Habit” featuring upbeat riffs, 80s keyboards, and gang vocals during the memorable choruses. “Silver Spoon” rips off the keyboard opening from “Faithfully” by Journey and I mean blatantly rips it off. The song itself sounds like something from one of the Iron Eagle movie soundtracks of the mid-80s, and maybe that is the point. Muscle-bound 80s guitarist Kane Roberts makes a guest appearance on this song, one of two fairly high profile guest musicians on the album. Why? Who knows, as the songs is almost entirely based on a keyboard riff, with Roberts just kinda hanging out before he gets to punch in a quick melodic solo and is out the door.
There is a really clichéd power ballad to follow in “Where My Heart Is”, but after that the momentum picks back up with “Young and Hungry” featuring Mark Slaughter contributing vocals. One interesting thing about RIDERS OF THE WORM is that the second half of the album moves in a more modern sleaze metal direction, and also features a mature, eastern influenced instrumental in “Samsara.” Not surprisingly, the album faithfully recaptures the sound of the 80s, but with modern boosts in volume and clarity courtesy of big name producer Michael Waegner.
The verdict is decidedly in favor of RIDERS OF THE WORM, particularly for fans of Silent Rage, Dirty Penny and other glam metal bands. There are large doses of AOR mixed in with sleaze and even some punk, making RIDERS OF THE WORM more varied than most albums in this style. Granted, it’s not perfect nor profound, and you can throw originality out the door. However, it is fun and worth a spin, especially chased with a few cold brews.