Storybook Highway Chile - Storybook Heroes (Lost Gems) 1983/1984

Storybook Heroes
1.  The Fever (4:50)
2.  Headbangers (4:23)
3.  Carol (Lady of the Dark Room) (3:52)     
4.  Handing You Over (4:35)
5.  Highway Chile (3:47)
6.  Jesse James (3:40)
7.  Going Blind (4:02)
8.  Endless Trial (4:11)
9.  Run Run (4:30)
10. Nothing You Can Do About It (4:21)
11. Highway Chile (4:08)
For The Wild and Lonely
12. Power and the Force (3:06)
13. Pale Blue Eyes (4:21)
14. The Omerta (Lucky No More) (3:42)
15. Custer's Last Stand (4:01)
16. Brand New Star (3:59)
17. Horses and Shields (4:24)

"Storybook Heroes" is the debut from Dutch metal legends Highway Chile. The album is condsidered an underground classic by many metal fans. The production and mix is very raw and certainly could have been better. However, the raw production actually ads to the overall appeal and gives the album some time-stamped character. Highway Chile blend elements of early 1980's NWOBHM with late 70's heavy metal/hard rock and some big pop-hooks.

The first ten tracks were on the original vinyl release. The sound is straight-forward heavy metal/hard rock with plenty of hooks. The album opens with "The Fever", a galloping, mid-paced and melodic metal number. That sound pretty much maintains throughout the album. Songs like "Headbangers" is similarly mid-paced and melodic with a fun, albeit cheesy, sing-along chorus. "We are headbangers, we will never let you down..." Still, it's rock 'n' roll, it doesn't have to be rocket science. It's all fists-in-the-air, sing-along metal romps. This is also true of the eponymous titled track. This song is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album and reminds me of early Riot or The Rods with those chugging riffs and galloping rhythm section. Actually the overall sound on this debut record wouldn't be that far off from early Riot or even early Heavy Pettin' and Def Leppard.

The follow-up EP "From the Wild and Lonely" features a different line-up. Both guitarists from the first record were replaced and the sound changes only slightly. The production is again raw, but sounds very different from the first album with the drums out in the front of the mix and a very bare-bones mix. As separate albums the production differences probably wouldn't be a big deal, but when both albums are included on the same CD, as they are here, the production differences become very apparent. Musically, the sound is a little different as well. While "Power and the Force" could have been written for and included on "Storybook Heroes", a song like "Pale Blue Eyes" is an obvious and desperate attempt at a radio-rock song complete with keyboards. Likewise "The Omerta" is a melodic 80's pop rock song. While the debut is considered a classic it seems that Highway Chile were never able to re-capture the pure Euro-heavy-metal vibe that they captured on "Storybook Heroes".

Snakes for the Divine Highway Chile - Rockarama (Wounded Bird) 1985

1.  You Took My Heart (4:24)
2.  Christine (4:14)
3.  No Place To Run (4:42)
4.  Too Hot To Touch (2:54)
5.  Rockarama (3:26)
6.  Broken Promises (4:16)
7.  So Hard To Get (3:58)
8.  California's On Fire (3:51)
9  On The Rox (4:35)
1o. Chearleader (1:44)

Well what the heck happened here? The band that gave us the promise, "we are headbangers, we'll never let you down" has decided that they want to be Loverboy or more likely, Def Leppard. The raw, New Wave of British Heavy Metal inspired metal that the band recorded on "Storybook Heroes" has been replaced by a pop rock sound and songs like "You Took My Heart", which sounds more like "Pyromania"-era Def Leppard or perhaps Honeymoon Suite than anything resembling heavy metal. For this, their second full length album and first on Atlantic Records, the band have a new vocalist, Sav Pearce. Sav has good pipes with just a bit of gravely grit, but his style and sound are also very different from the band's first album. The recording and sound quality are much improved over the debut and EP that preceded this album as well, but sounds very 80's. Despite the squeaky clean production and obvious Leppard influences, Highway Chile manage to deliver a decidedly good melodic rock album built around poppy hooks, melodic, guitar driven chops, lush keys and that big drums sound that every Leppard follower was after. I personally prefer the band's previous two albums, but fans of melodic hard rock will probably appreciate this album moreso than the raw, underproduced debut. "Rockarama" is a likable album but I'd most likely grab for "Storybook Heroes" or even "For the Wild and Lonely" before this album.

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