One of the most notable of the second division heavy US metal acts of the 80’s were LA’s Malice, who at the time were tipped to be the next big thing. Obviously this never happened.
Written by: Dangerzone
ALBUM: Licence To Kill
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: James Neal – vocals * Jay Reynolds – guitars * Mick Zane – guitars * Mark Behn – bass * Clif Carruthers – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Sinister Double * 02 Licence To Kill * 03 Against The Wall * 04 Vigilante * 05 Chain Gang Woman * 06 Christine * 07 Murder * 08 Breathing Down Your Neck * 09 Circle Of Fire
One of the most notable of the second division heavy US metal acts of the 80’s were LA’s Malice, who at the time were tipped to be the next big thing. Obviously this never happened, as it didn’t for hundreds of other similar acts. Malice were formed in the early part of the decade, the band apparently refugees from Portland, Oregon having relocated to California in search of the big break.
With appearances alongside Metallica and gracing the original ‘Metal Massacre’ compilation, it’s easy to see why Malice were held in such high esteem. Could you imagine a major label competing for bands such as this in 2006? Atlantic must have considered Malice a coup, but it never quite panned out. Why? All I can confirm is what others have said, that yes Malice were pure Judas Priest clones, and unfortunately vastly inferior, for which ‘License To Kill’ spells it out very clearly.
I was taken aback the first time I heard ‘Sinister Double’, as it appears to be the work of the best Priest cover act on the planet. Take Priest at any juncture in the 80’s and this is exactly how Malice sound. Could a more direct picture be painted?
In that regard it’s difficult to tell if Malice are paying tribute to Priest or ripping them off for a fast buck. I actually consider it a tribute, but at the risk of losing individuality it was a huge mistake. Neal could have replaced Halford such is the similarity. The title track has a hint of melodic rock thrown into the basic metal attack, and this has a lot in common with Lion.
The spitfire riffing of ‘Against The Empire’ has some worth, but the blaring power metal direction is so formularised that it leaves me motionless. Legendary 80’s themes arise in ‘Vigilante’, which isn’t nearly as classic as it appears, with shades of Riot thrown in the mix.
‘Chain Gang Woman’ actually rouses matters to life with the chanted chorus, but in reality is Priest’s ‘Turbo’ album in disguise. It’s the same story with ‘Murder’, more Priest ripoff fare and ‘Breathin’ Down My Neck’ actually sounds dated and amateurish for 1987. The underwhelming feeling finally concludes with another metal clunker, ‘Circle Of Malice’, amidst zero melody, riffs and imagination.
As much as I hate to say it, this is nothing more than a dated relic. Seldom has heavy metal ever been more dull. There was a reason bands like Malice were mired in the lower leagues, and this is it. Boredom. That the band went nowhere and split not long after doesn’t seem surprising. I actually anticipated hearing this for years based on the album title, but such youthful fancies are obsolete now.
Interestingly Paul Sabu joined the band after Neal left, for a four song album called ‘Crazy In The Night’ in 1989, which I cannot confirm was AOR or not. Disco perhaps? (it is metal Alun, but he only played on one track, Ed) While Malice may have had talent, an original style may have been the difference. The simple reason Priest are still around today is because no one has properly replaced them. Copied? Certainly. And Malice paid for it with their demise. Metal to avoid.
License To Kill
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[David] I think Metallica supported Malice, when they played in either LA or SF. What was the 1980s film that had a few minutes of Malice in concert?
[DaveT] I think it was Vice Versa, the 1988 movie.
[Gdazegod] The novelty of this band wore off as soon as I started playing the ‘In the beginning’ LP over and over again. Very derivative. If I want to listen to Judas Priest I’ll listen to the real deal.
[Hadley] Guess I’m in the minority as I thought this was killer traditional metal, as was the debut (never heard Crazy in the Night save for the title track). But hey, that’s just my opinion.