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Malice - 1987 License To Kill

ARTIST: Malice
ALBUM: Licence To Kill
LABEL: Atlantic
SERIAL: 81714-1
YEAR: 1987
CD REISSUE: 2004, Wounded Bird, WOU 1714


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 eighties 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.

The Songs
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.

In Summary
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.. 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.

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#1 | reyno-roxx on July 18 2008 16:11:55
Maybe I was the only one who thought this record was brilliant. It certainly beat the first album in terms of production.
Malice were a great live band as well but bizarrely put on a woefully mis-matched bill opening for Slayer in the UK on the back of this album that just succeeded in supplying them as cannon fodder for the drunken punks in the front row who spat at them every night.
#2 | rkbluez on January 08 2010 22:56:24
Your not alone Dave I think both Malice albums are brilliant and so much better than some of the more popular LA bands of the time...these guys were more true metal than most.
#3 | dude24 on August 14 2017 17:29:11
I feel that both Malice albums were solid releases, Priest clones or not. I prefer ITB over LTK. Got to see them live in 1987 opening for Motorhead in Old Forge, PA.

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