Keel’s 1984 debut album Lay Down The Law is an appropriate example. You listen to it, and you can’t help but realize just how stuck in the ‘80s this album is. Don’t confuse that with it being awful, as Lay Down The Law has cheesy charm oozing from every crevice.
Keel is not an intelligent man’s music. There aren’t any profound messages or high expectations for grandeur. This is speedy glam metal, with hooks all over and a cloud of hairspray emitting from every song. Ron Keel is precisely what was both great and horrible about singers in the ‘80s. He has passion and a delivery that many singers would love to have, yet compounds it with a screeching wail that is way overdone, bordering on obnoxious.
The music is divided between fist-throwing, stereotypical anthems and the occasional sappy ballad. There is little deviation from those two styles, save for the average cover of The Rolling Stones “Let’s Spend The Night Together” that closes the album. If it wasn’t for the sheer forceful nature of the band, these songs would have been drivel that could be replicated by any garage band of wannabe rock stars.
Though younger fans getting into metal will sneer and cackle at these songs, they should pay attention to raucous tunes like “Speed Demon” and “Metal Generation.” Very few bands out there today can write songs with the same level of appeal as those two. “Till Hell Freezes Over” is the least gag-inducing of the ballads (that reaction is saved for the “emotional” awkwardness of “Princess Of Illusion”), with a heavy middle saving what starts out suspect at best.
The band’s best attribute is guitarists Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay, who sling the style of frantic riffs and over-abundance of shredding solos that defined many ‘80s guitarists. The name Ferrari should be familiar to hardcore Pantera fans, as he produced their albums I Am The Night and Power Metal, as well as played guitar on “We’ll Meet Again” and “Proud To Be Loud” from the latter album.
Sophomore release The Right To Rock would be the big album for Keel, which took three songs from this album (“Let’s Spend The Night Together,” “Speed Demon,” and “Tonight You’re Mine”) and re-recorded them.
Most have not given Lay Down The Law the same respect, and though it’s not top-shelf art, its mindless, jock metal is hard to completely knock. For standing out just enough to be more than a third-rate glam metal album, Lay Down The Law gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.