What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today ? SHOK PARIS – Steel & Starlight (1987) + The Zero Hour NHK Radio Series (World War II)

Posted: February 23, 2016 by Cowboy Col in What's The Rockbrat Listening To Today ?
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imageWhen I listen to this album, it sends me straight back to 1987 when I used to spin this album on my turntable. This was one of those B-grade metal albums that you would find in the second hand store for a few bucks, and, judging an album by its cover, you picked it up. The ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ theory could never be applied to metal albums, when the cover art normally held half the appeal. How many Maiden albums were sold to Maiden ignorant suburban kids who bought it cos the cover looked cool? Plenty I bet. Although I must admit that this theory did not apply when I purchased this album some 29 (sheesh!) years ago, as I had in fact read a review of the album in Metal Hammer. Still, the space-age chick on the cover holding the model of the Eiffel Tower (steel) which is shooting out starlight looked kinda cool to me (it was certainly far removed from album art by nong bands like INXS or Mental As Anything that were forced down my throat), and although she was not one of the space age Judy’s of teen lust (Jetson or Robinson), it’s a striking, original metal album cover. Albums adorned  with females always held appeal to the hordes of testosterone charged, dateless  teen metal heads worldwide.  From memory, other second tier albums that adjourned my record player or cassette deck in 1987 included Desperado by France’s own Motorhead Vulcain (go listen to Blueberry Blues and tell me it aint Lemmy singing), Taste’s – Dreamhunter album (I’m talking about the Swedish meatball hair band, not Ken Murdoch and co by the way), Onslaughts’ Let There Be Rock’, and Pretty Maids’ Future World’. Still a great tune. Maybe Pretty Maids and Shok Paris coulda done a space metal split single (Did I just coin a term people?) (Ed: I think UFO had an album called Space Metal Cowboy, so no dice). Sales could have skyrocketed and been out of this world. Ahem. Anyway, I think Pretty Maids were from Denmark, whilst Shok Paris, although they have a sound that is more distinctively Euro metal, hailed from Cleveland. Hello Cleveland! Cleveland Rocks. Feel free to insert your own Cleveland cliché here. This was their second album, after 1984’s ‘Go For The Throat’, and a demo (I think) from 1983. Although suffering from a somewhat lacklustre production, the 11 songs on Steel & Starlight are rippin metal – yet often though its metal for metal sakes. The opener ‘Go Down Fighting’ is a fist in the air call to arms to metal heads all over. It sounds a lot like Lizzy Borden, in fact if you cross Lizzy Borden and Armoured Saint, Steel Paris fit somewhere in between, although Leatherwolf would also be a good comparison. Non-descript, but certainly appealing, Euro influenced – mid 80s American power metal. The title tune is up next and its more melodic than the opener, with a catchy riff, a nice pre chorus and catchy chorus. The song, like all of them, could have benefited from a singer who can actually sing, as opposed to the shrieking of front man Vic Hix, and  that’s not a collective criticism, the songs are good, but looking back, if they had of been capped with a great vocal, the band may have had more commercial success. ‘Tokyo Rose’, is not, as you’d expect, another cliché song in the Purple-esque ‘My Woman From Tokyo’ mould, more so it’s a tune which as a concept is a terrific song, an ode to Iva Toguri.

200px-Iva_Toguri_mug_shot

Iva Toguri, Sugamo Prison, 1946

I’m gonna go way off track here so please allow me this indulgence as it’s a little more interesting than Steel and Starlight. American born but of Japanese descent. Toguri was an LA native who was stranded in Japan when she was visiting her family at the onset of World War II and was used as a propaganda puppet of the Japanese Imperial Forces. She was heard on the air by American troops throughout the Pacific a part of the Zero Hour radio program . Her prominence saw her branded as one of the war’s most notorious propagandists, but evidence showed she was not a Japanese sympathizer. Incidentally, she was convicted of treason after Japan’s surrender and was released from prison in 1956. It was more than 20 years before she received an official presidential pardon for her role in the war. Did you know that the Zero Hour was produced by Australian Army Major Charles Cousens who had pre-war broadcast experience and had been captured at the fall of Singapore?  Cousens had been coerced to work on radio broadcasts, and worked with assistants U.S. Army Captain Wallace Ince and Philippine Army Lieutenant Normando Ildefonso “Norman” Reyes. Toguri had previously risked her life smuggling food into the nearby POW camp where Cousens and Ince were held, gaining their trust. She refused to broadcast anti-American propaganda, but she was assured by Major Cousens and Captain Ince that they would not write scripts having her say anything against the United States. True to their word, no such propaganda was found in her broadcasts. In fact, after she went on air in November 1943, she and Cousens tried to make a farce of the broadcasts. The Japanese propaganda officials had little feel for their nuance and double entendres. Toguri performed in comedy sketches and introduced recorded music, but never participated in any actual newscasts, with on-air speaking time of generally about 2–3 minutes. She earned only 150 yen per month, or about $7, but she used some of her earnings to feed POWs, smuggling food in as she did before. She aimed most of her comments toward her fellow Americans (“my fellow orphans”), using American slang and playing American music. At no time did Toguri call herself “Tokyo Rose” during the war, and in fact there was no evidence that any other broadcaster had done so.[23] The name was a catch-all used by Allied forces for all of the women who were heard on Japanese propaganda radio and was in general use by the summer of 1943, months prior to Toguri’s debut as a broadcast host. Toguri hosted about 340 broadcasts of The Zero Hour under the stage names “Ann” (for “Announcer”) and later “Orphan Annie” in reference to the comic strip character Little Orphan Annie. There is great 10 minute documentary about Iva Yoguri that was broadcast in 1976, 40 years prior to her death in 2006. You can view that here.

Anyway, I digressed. ‘Rocked Outta Love’ is more non-descript denim ‘n’ leather fist shakin fare, good riff, totally rockin, but lacking a decent chorus and melody line. Unlike ‘Castle Walls’ which starts off as a reflective, melodic instrumental before the band comes crashing in over the top like waves over a sand castle. That means not called for ! Again, the music and song are pretty solid, but the squawking of Vic is pretty hard to cop. No doubt when I was 17 I was less discerning, and as all metal was good in my world, I accepted vocals that sounded like a screeching prehistoric bird, but not nowadays.  ‘On Your Feet’ has a faster tempo and appealing chorus, whilst ‘Falling For You’ displays some tasty fretwork, and some originality/ progression on the song writing, but the vocals let it down again. Sorry Vic. “Exhibition A’ is also a good tune, and doesn’t digress from the run-of-the-mill quality of all the tunes on display here. Overall there is some good song writing and some interesting guitar work. Many good tunes, but no great ones, and let down by vocals that screech like an owl in heat. Shok Paris have continued on throughout the years and released more albums. Steel and Starlight, gets 5 out of 10 from Cowboy Col.

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Comments
  1. Painkiller says:

    Are Vic Hix’s vocals really that bad? I’ve actually never had a problem with his singing, and you’re honestly the first person that I’ve seen criticize his singing. He’s always reminded me of a cross between Ronnie James Dio and Minoru Niihara.

    Seems like you enjoy the music quite a lot, although because you’ve found the vocals so bad, it’s nothing more than average. Personally, this is Shok Paris’ best album, and a flawless one at that. To each his own, right?

    Thanks for your review.

    P.S. If you haven’t yet, check out Heir Apparent, Fifth Angel, Liege Lord, and Tyrant (from Pasadena, California).

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