The King Kobra debut was met with widespread acclaim, indeed a mostly sophisticated set of mid 80’s commercial metal.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: King Kobra
ALBUM: Ready To Strike
SERIAL: ST 12386
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Mark Free – vocals * David Michael Phillips – guitars * Mick Sweda – guitars * Johnny Rod – bass * Carmine Appice – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Ready To Strike * 02 Hunger * 03 Shadow Rider * 04 Shake Up * 05 Attention * 06 Breakin’ Out * 07 Tough Guys * 08 Dancing With Desire * 09 Second Thoughts * 10 Piece Of The Rock
Journeyman drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, DNA) was coming off a brief stint with Ozzy Osbourne (having been fired after a merchandising row with Sharon Osbourne) when he decided to put a new band of unknowns together. Appice had been cutting some demos with Earl Slick (David Bowie) and wanted Free to put vocals on them. From this King Kobra was born, Appice enlisting the above lineup, without Sweda initially.
He replaced Mike Wolfe who was the original choice, but he soon left in favour of the future Bulletboys man. Somehow securing a major label deal with Capitol, the debut was produced by Spencer Proffer who had caused Quiet Riot so much grief in the ‘Metal Health’ glory days (as in hording a large share of QR’s takings). The King Kobra debut was met with widespread acclaim, indeed a mostly sophisticated set of mid 80’s commercial metal which beckoned at bigger things for the promising group.
Opening pair ‘Ready To Strike’ and ‘Hunger’ are close to perfection, breathless slabs of energy and melody, essentially heavy metal. The riffs are tight and the choruses are typically desperate, an 80’s trademark. Keyboard use is there, but marginal at best, not intruding on the basic five piece sound. ‘Shadow Rider’ is a medium paced grinder, but the scorching twin attack of Sweda and Phillip’s works well here.
The commercial side of King Kobra appears with ‘Shake Up’, with Free delivering a blazing vocal effort, with intricate guitar fills adding to a made for radio hook. In no capacity is it as obvious as 86’s ‘Thrill Of A Lifetime’ AOR excellence. ‘Attention’ moves at pace, but the main chorus has a cornball element in the harmony which is charmless to say the least.
This cannot be said of ‘Breakin’ Out’ a genuine classic with soaring layers of melody and a relentless dual riff war between the guitar duo. An inevitable power ballad is included in the form of ‘Dancing With Desire’, an endless acoustic ridden escapade, which bores more than it entertains. The situation is barely rescued by ‘Second Thoughts’, a faceless melodic rocker, and ‘Piece Of The Rock’, an attempt at an anthem which fails to sustain a winning hook needed for such a track.
When King Kobra reappeared in 1986 with ‘Thrill Of A Lifetime’, the sound was AOR personified, the basic hard rock/metal sound of the debut Forgotten. Rather than being a bad thing, it was an improvement on the debut, which veered between the memorable and the forgettable. Listeners were turned off by sweat inducing tunes like ‘Feel The Heat’, ‘Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)’ and ‘Second Time Around’.
Thus King Kobra were unfairly dumped by Capitol which led to the departures of Free, Sweda and Rod. Rumours had it that Free was unhappy with the direction of the band’s sound, but ironically, his turn with Signal was in keeping with ‘Thrill’s AOR direction more than the metal influence of the debut.
In summation ‘Ready To Strike’ put the band on a platform they tried hard to stay on, it allowed them to tour with Iron Maiden and Kiss, but wasn’t as good as many thought. When they met their potential with their next two albums, the audience was gone, leading to the inevitable split.