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Even By Eighties Standards, Mötley Crüe’s Shout At The Devil Is A Hilarious Heavy Metal Flop

Written by camjameson
/ 11 mins read

When you hear the name Mötley Crüe, chances are the first things that pop into your head are buxom blonde strippers with fried hair dancing on the Los Angeles strip, shiny leather getups of the S&M variety adorned with little metal studs & an excess of cocaine that epitomizes the whole Sex, Drugs & Rock’N’Roll culture, right? Well, while the contents of Girls, Girls, Girls would eventually come to define the band as the go-to choice for exotic dancers from 1987-onward, the band’s earlier entries were far from the image of Heavy Metal godliness you envision when thinking about them, their second record Shout At The Devil being one of their biggest flops in terms of sonic identity; It’s thematically directionless, compositionally messy 7 has some incredibly laughable lyrics that display in exquisite detail how adolescent the scene was at the time, making their steady climb to success all the more captivating when looking back at such numbers – But why, then, am I taking a stab at such a universally-panned record when everyone already knows how cringeworthy it is to return to? To be honest, it’s really nothing more than a curious itch of mine, as I’ve been venturing into the deep past of today’s most famous musical acts in an effort to see if my prior prejudices were warranted or not, the progress of time helping me be more accepting of anachronistic music from which the modern Rock scene has evolved rather than simply ignoring music people tell me to overlook. You see, I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I was exposed to Punk music from a very early age & based my entire personality around being a crass individual with an anti-establishment mindset throughout the nineties & noughties, but I didn’t actually find a taste for Metal music until the early-noughties when music television channel VH1 started airing a series all about the greatest songs of Metal history, finding a world of magnificent demonically-themed music just begging for me to consume it over the course of a summer. In this series, Mötley Crüe accounted for a healthy handful of the tracks discussed, with their most famous pieces like “Kickstart My Heart” & “Dr. Feelgood” lighting up the pleasure centers of my Jazz Theory-trained brain, causing me to download as many of their tracks as I could off Kazaa & Limewire so I wouldn’t look like a fool when talking about Metal with my new hesher friends; Regrettably, I didn’t venture much further than their certified hits, leaving a major gap in my knowledge that has persisted until today, my interests leaning far more in the Black-, Doom- & Thrash Metal scenes of the overarching Metal genre since Glam- & Heavy Metal had long faded from popularity – So, without further ado, let’s take a look at one of the most unintentionally-comedic records I’ve ever lain ears on.

A Snapshot Of Heavy Metal’s Rocky Beginnings

Naturally, the first song you have to take a gander at when listening to Shout At The Devil is the titular track itself, “Shout At The Devil.” With it being the title number & all, you’d expect it to be the very best of what Mötley Crüe have to offer, bringing together the very essence of their character & packing in as many memorable, hard-hitting riffs as humanly possible, but the reality is actually quite underwhelming, as all the elements of greatness are present but not a lot of technical skill is there to back it up. You get this really mean, abrasive attitude across the entire number, with the guitars wailing away in delightfully-overdriven fashion over a bold, in-your-face drum sequence that feels very warrior-like, supported by a precession of shout-chorus vocals – of course – that make you feel like you’re taking part in some sort of mob mentality that feeds off your human urges to cause a ruckus, but Vince Neil’s somewhat-monotonal timbre ends up drowning out a lot of this attitude by forcing you to listen to the most nasal melodies in the business; I mean, they’re falsetto & edgy, just as all good Heavy Metal vocals were back then, but he has incredible difficulty enunciating even a single sentence, so much so that the narrative storyline underneath is lost in the margins, resulting in a track that may sound unique but ultimately offers little in terms of content – That said, if you jump to other tracks on the album like “Looks That Kill,” you’re greeted with a soundscape that’s unmistakably eighties-era Metal down to a tee, offering a captivating sequence of chugging guitar riffs that’re just raunchy enough to get your motors going, crunching along with delightfully legible melodic distortion that feels grand in scope, making up for the relatively-juvenile manner in which Tommy Lee beats down on his drums in an almost Butt Rock fashion; Combined with the much more expressive range of Vince Neil’s voice in this number & his imaginative lyrics, you get a song that embodies the spirit of Metal itself, like one of those wild airbrushed Conan The Barbarian-style posters come to life, thrusting you into an alternate reality of constant warfare & primal urges that’s nothing short of brilliant, clearly taking inspiration from their Heavy Metal predecessors Judas Priest & Megadeth to give audiences a much more refined interpretation of the beloved style – Though these tracks still aren’t as spectacular as future releases would come to be & have more than their fair share of utterly stupid parts, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them for being the Metal staples they are.

Surprise, Surprise – It’s Not All Shit

As I’d mentioned at the jump, I initially chose to sift through this album with an open mind to what gems might possibly be hidden within Shout At The Devil’s walls, but the unanimous vitriol surrounding its contents nevertheless set me up for an underwhelming listening experience, causing me to doubt I’d find anything of note whatsoever past the few tracks I already knew; Imagine my surprise, then, when half of what I heard actually managed to bring a smile to my face in more than a comical manner, grabbing my attention in ways that made me think ‘wait a minute, are these tracks actually good?’ – At the start, I was immediately drawn to the song “God Bless The Children Of The Beast,” in no small part because I’m an absolute sucker for anything even slightly-related to Satanic imagery as well as having an affinity for longer sentences in track titles; Unfortunately, once I got past my initial infatuation I realized it was little more than a slightly more beefed-up version of Led Zeppelin’s legendary “Stairway To Heaven,” comprised of some highly-compressed lead-guitar lines with a Spanish influence & a wicked awesome air of doom leading you from beginning to end, though this would soon be usurped by a selection of genuinely tantalizing numbers I couldn’t pull myself away from – To kick things off, “Red Hot” fucking rips beyond belief, again dipping into that Judas Priest wavelength with an arrangement overflowing with momentum, driving forward ina furious rage with frenetic double-bass the likes of which I didn’t think Tommy Lee was capable of yet & scratchy guitar lines that ring out with astonishing power, forming a verifiable banger that’d be right at home blasting from the speakers of a chopper-crew riding down the highway to cause some trouble, throwing a big middle-finger to society along with a fairly satisfying solo for good measure. Then you have others like “Too Young To Fall In Love” which I’ve gotta say is surprisingly the highlight of the album, featuring an admittedly goofy rhythm that – if turned up a little – is easily about one step away from being an early Slayer tune, though even with the somewhat rudimentary beat it continues to power through with an immense sense of scale & a compelling vocal narrative full of groovy vocal harmonies more in line with Blood Sweat & Tears than your average Heavy Metal joint, thereby allowing this song to exist outside the realm of expectation to satisfy the listener in seriously interesting ways; I especially love the chromatic-upscale chord progression towards the end of the song that leads the listener towards a tonal resolution that never seems to come, instilling you with a wash of hope & pride that you just can’t ignore, not to mention they throw in a mesmerizingly off-kilter guitar solo with frenetic finger-work in the very middle of the track rather than saving it for the 3rd act, as is usually customary in these type of jams, again going against the grain to produce a top-notch track worthy of your attention.

Retroactively Receiving A Passing Grade

After giving the album a good college try, I’m comfortable with saying I came out the other say far more impressed than I would’ve guessed at the beginning of the event, leaving me feeling a little conflicted in whether or not I believe the harsh criticism Mötley Crüe received all these years was actually deserved; Even so, though Shout At The Devil certainly has some outright hits amongst the filth, at the end of the day it really isn’t the best representation of what the band has to offer & doesn’t truly showcase the future potential they had itching at their fingertips, consisting of a smattering of goofy tracks I would’ve never let my fellow bandmates release were I a part of the writing process. I completely understand that the era was all about being as loud & ferocious as possible, hitting your instruments with immense force & thrusting your overinflated egos onto unsuspecting audiences as if it was your birthright, but in one too many cases they manage to miss the mark so incredibly hard that it makes you wonder if Mötley Crüe were even sober enough to realize how bad the majority of these mixes were; I mean, songs like “Ten Seconds To Love” take this to a detrimental extreme with some of the flattest sonic fidelity I’ve heard in a song in a very long time, its tonal balance so weak it sounds as if the band recorded their mix through a walkie-talkie in their garage & the accompanying drum beat feeling so amateurish it’s actually embarrassing to listen to in public, a factor I have to imagine was as obvious & persistent when the record came out as it appears to me today – Seriously, if it weren’t for the flashy drum fills & thrilling guitar solos dispersed amidst the album, you’d be confronted head-on with Vince Neil’s complete & utter inability to write a compelling vocal narrative & that’s the last thing anyone wants, ‘cause the fool couldn’t write himself out of a paper bag even if he tried. Thankfully, though it has its own moments of tonal imbalance that leave certain sections quieter & less-impressive than they could be, numbers like “Danger” seem to pick up the slack a bit, coming across as a thought-provoking cinematic experience with a collection of riffs that constantly up the ante bar after bar, made even more engaging when the simple implementation of symphonic synth strings build up during each chorus – In summation, I suppose my point is that yeah, there’re definitely a lot of reasons to be unimpressed by Shout At The Devil & you shouldn’t feel bad about discounting it when there’re so many stellar jams Mötley Crüe delivered in the years that followed, but there’re also moments of pure genius hiding within that can provide you with joy if you just come at the record as a learning experiment, trying to connect the dots to techniques the band would improve upon later & enjoying the immense comedic value of how absolutely cringeworthy these earlier mixes were, kind of like looking at old middle-school pictures of yourself & thinking ‘why the hell did I think that outfit was cool?’ Maybe I’m just less cynical than my teenage self was, but there’s more than one way to enjoy a piece of music & that’s got to be worth something to someone, eh?

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