Imagine Me Alive
Released: 2012, Metal Up Records
I did not expect this. At all. When I read that Leather Leone would be coming back onto the scene, I perhaps somewhat naively (but not without considerable anticipation) assumed she would deliver another straight-up Metal album. I figured her new album would be along the lines of her excellent, debut solo album from 1989 called SHOCKWAVES. I sorta assumed I'd hear SHOCKWAVES Part II. Shows you what I know because her new album IMAGINE ME ALIVE is a very different beast. After a monumental and almost insurmountable absence (over 20 years) from the front-lines, Leather is back with her new project Sledge Leather.
Sledge Leather is a collaborative effort of Leather Leone, the former Chastain singer, with her ol' buddy Sledge, from back in the Malibu Barbi days, on drums. Sledge+Leather...get it? The duo recruit some considerable additional firepower in the form of a couple of ex-Dio guys, Jimmy Bain and Scott Warren. New guy Mathias Weisheit carries the role of axe-slinger.
My surprise is how accomplished, mature and sophisticated this record is. I'm not suggesting that Leathers previous stuff was weak, but as I mentioned I expected something more straight forward, akin to the 80's rust-belt Metal she was known for. Instead the 11 song album has a pleasant degree of variation and tones.
IMAGINE ME ALIVE has many intros, outros, interludes, sound-effects, lots of acoustic piano and the whole album is loaded with atmosphere and orchestration. It's almost like a concept album or Rock Opera but a very low-key one, not a bombastic and pretentious one. All the extra sonic-stuff is downplayed in a sense.
It's quite short album actually with five 'real' songs, (three fast, one mid- tempo and one slow song) and six instrumental/interlude type songs filling in between. All the five songs are about 4-5 minutes long. As brief as it is, the whole album is very Metal! Don't let my description of all the neat little extras fool you, those are merely the extra frosting heaped high on a dense and delicious slab of Metal cake. Sledge pounds the hell out of those drums, lots of fast bass drums and double-kicks when required. Leathers' voice is still a bit gruff and raw, a true rock voice. It's so nice to hear her sing again and she hasn't missed a beat, you cannot tell she has been away from the microphone for 20+ years...I mean in a Metal capacity. She could sing every day for all I know but it still sounds great. The lyrics seem quite dark and introspective a cut above songs about headbanging and partying. The guitars are thick and crunchy and supported by the darker keyboard tones as well.
Overall, I'm extremely impressed. IMAGINE ME ALIVE is not what I expected at all, but instead of disappointment I'm even more pleasantly surprised. This album has a deep, dark charm that is compelling, I had to revisit it several times before I could even begin to articulate my opinion and even re-reading this review, I'm not sure I've done the album justice, without descending into gushing praise. Sledge Leather is a very welcome addition or shall we say, a reintroduction to the Metal community.