Hailing from Denmark in the early 80's and given their name by none other than Metallica's Lars Ulrich, five young metalheads known collectively as Maltese Falcon were stamping out their name on the Danish music scene when their debut album Metal Rush was released in 1984. Built upon the basic foundations of a throbbing and powerful rhythm section paired with driving guitars and a gruff Brian Johnson-esque vocal delivery, Maltese Falcon stood poised to take the heavy metal formula and run with it full steam, utilizing a certain amount of forcefulness that reminded listeners of acts such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Judas Priest. Unfortunately, the band was not able to attract much mainstream notoriety, nor did they develop the underground word-of-mouth that their metal contemporaries enjoyed. As a result, Metal Rush remains the only document of their time together as a band. A collection of simple, emphatic rockers, this album has a tight, compact feel, with a running time of thirty-five minutes spread over eight tracks. And while uptempo tunes are the name of the game, the band does include one semi-ballad towards the end of the record. Not a revolutionary concept by any means, but it does show Maltese Falcon were willing to look beyond the simple conventions of metal and try to shake up the formula a bit. Does Metal Rush live up to its name and deliver high quality metal that's the equivalent of a shot of adrenaline? Let's take a listen and find out…
The album begins in fairly massive fashion with the rocker "Alive," comprised of squealing guitars, thunderous drums, gang-style background vocals, and a few high-pitched vocal screams for good measure. If you're a fan of early Queensryche and were especially fond of the "The Warning," then you'll hear similarities almost immediately. Lead vocalist Srren Peter Jensen exhibits the range of Rob Halford or Geoff Tate, but with less pristine delivery and more raw throatiness. Perhaps that made Maltese Falcon a metal version of AC/DC in a sense. Following up the fast pace of "Alive" comes the menacing "Rats," which works off a slower groove and simple, chugging power chords. The lead guitar work on this song is especially nice, featuring a bright, cutting tone that breaks through the mix with authority. The lyrics are a bit pedestrian and cheesy, a problem that also hinders the following track, "Mammas In Town" (that's correct, no apostrophe). "Hey babe to the magic force, I'm sure I'm scared with remorse, when I first saw your mamma in the head, I know I had to get you in the bed." Not any band's finest lyrical moment, but it seems Maltese Falcon take a page from the Scorpions' early 80's playbook, using simple lyrical structures and basic rhyming schemes to get their point across (the lyrics are secondary to the riffs afterall). A musical highpoint arrives in the album's fourth slot via the pounding "Heavy 'N' Loud," which starts with a quiet classical style guitar progression before exploding out of the gates with equal amounts ferocity and abrasiveness. The band definitely succeeds in creating a wall of sound that, while maybe not "epic," is certainly massive sounding. This track also benefits from a simple, yet memorable guitar motif. The fast, trashy "Rebellion" is the perfect follow-up, with a relatively catchy chorus and shredworthy guitar solo. Combined with "Heavy 'N' Loud," it makes for the most powerful one-two punch on the album.
Conversely, "Headbanger," a slow, plodding number, is a prime example of where Jensen's lead vocals start to wear on you like nails on a chalkboard. Suffering from a lack of chorus and even featuring simulated crowd noise, this is definitely the lowpoint of the album. In fact, Metal Rush closes out on a bit of an anti-climatic note. "On Fire," the previously mentioned ballad that goes away from the standard vocal screechiness for a better-rounded, deep vocal delivery, features nothing in the way of a memorable hook or riff, and the title track, while full of energy, simply features a lot of high pitched wailing and little to no chorus.
This is an album that starts out reasonably strong, reaches it's zenith towards the middle, and then totally deflates towards the end. Its by-the-numbers metal that features some tasty guitar playing, but nothing overall that's going to make you sit back in amazement. The lead vocals sound powerful towards the beginning and really work in certain spots, but become increasingly grating and over-exaggerated by the end. Maltese Falcon is basically a second-rate Judas Priest. Musically, a lot of what you hear on this record would sound right at home on British Steel, but whereas that album stuck the perfect balance between the heaviness of metal and the marketplace's desire for pop hooks, this album falls flat with a severe lack of memorable melodies and cheesy lyrics to boot. Metal Rush is recommended for anyone who wants to check out second-tier heavy metal in the vein of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.
3) Mammas In Town
4) Heavy 'N' Loud
7) On Fire
8) Metal Rush