How Twisted Sister fought back with ‘Under the Blade’

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Twisted Sister had an interesting motto that spoke to their ethos: they “look like women, talk like men, and play like motherfuckers.”

under the blade arrived on September 18, 1982, as proof – even though they would not break out until 1984 stay hungry. Twisted Sister had already learned to use everything they had learned as a bar band, creating a never-say-die attitude while battling in clubs for years.

“We’ve been turned down more times than a bedsheet and returned more times than Freddy Krueger,” guitarist Jay Jay French once told this writer. “You may not like it, but respect the hard work that went into it.”

This debut album became Twisted Sister’s unvarnished, thrashy mission statement to the world. While originally born in New Jersey, the Long Island band appeared to be an NWOBHM import. So it makes sense that their initial taste for attention came courtesy of Secret Records, the UK indie label that signed Twisted Sister to their first recording deal.

However, they also showed plenty of other influences, lending a blues-rock tinge to “Day of the Rocker,” the AC/DC-esque track that wraps up the album. The title track unfolds like a suspenseful monster movie, with frontman Dee Snider outlining the bloody storyline piece by piece, punctuating the opening stanza by spitting out “blade” with particular emphasis and venom.

Listen to “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” by Twisted Sister

Later, he lets out a spine-crushing mid-scream that deserves its special place in a heavy metal hall of fame somewhere. Equally impressive is the French guitar duo paired with Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda. They team up time and time again on fast, frantic runs up and down the neck, all backed by the rock-solid bottom end of bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza and drummer AJ Pero.

It’s safe to say that the primitive sound of the album is actually a major plus, as it provides a perfect lens for appreciating under the blade. This additional scrappines gives context to the gritty feel of songs like the album opener “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” that wouldn’t feel the same if they had smoother production. (Unsurprisingly, the reaction was negative when Atlantic Records, Twisted Sister’s future US label, later remixed the record.)

Secret Records secured a barn in England for the band to use as a recording location, bringing in a mobile unit owned by famed British producer Mickie Most for the sessions, which were overseen in part by UFO guitarist Pete Way.

This led to primitive Spinal Tap-like conditions when recording: “We used hay bales – yes, hay bales – around AJ’s drums and Eddie and Jay Jay’s amplifiers” , Mendoza explained during interviews for a 2011 reissue of this album.

Once they painstakingly mapped out the ideal locations, they encountered additional wrinkles. “Okay, we have to take the kit apart,” Pero recalled. “’Break down the kit? Why?’ “Well, they’re having a barn dance tomorrow night. You can’t have that drum set in the middle of a barn dance! »

Listen to “Under the Blade” by Twisted Sister

During those same interviews, the French said they came to like what the original process brought to the sessions – and that they weren’t alone. Motorhead’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke guest-starred on “Tear It Loose,” long before he became Way’s future bandmate on Fastway. He quickly got into the spirit, insisting on recording his standing guitar parts in what French describes as the “haystack column”. Marshall amps. The sound reached 180 decibels according to French, who had argued that they had to record their parts outside the barn with headphones because of the volume.

Even as they worked on their debut album, Snider already had his eye on the next one. He had plenty of time for himself to do other things while the band members worked to file their parts for under the blade. “I sat alone in the band van or in a guest room or in my hotel room, whatever was available to me [while] develop those song ideas,” Snider wrote in his 2012 memoir.

The song that would later serve as the title track of their next album, You can’t stop rock ‘n’ roll, was actually recorded during early album sessions, and later designated as the title track of their debut album. Secret Records chairman Martin Hooker put the kibosh on the idea, as Snider revealed in his book: UK’ Hooker argued that if they accepted that as a title, the project would be dead in the making. water before fans hear a note.

In the end, the choice of title was probably irrelevant. Twisted Sister will have to wait a bit longer for widespread fame. But Snider retains a lot of reverence for where they started and the “trepidation” he felt back then. “There are really crazy scars all over my back and my body,” he told UCR in 2016. “So I remember every bump, bruise, fall, trip, crawl, scrape, and kick. fist.”

Snider’s songwriting—and ultimately, the band’s trajectory—also changed as a result of their shared experiences. “Songs like ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, ‘I Wanna Rock’, ‘You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll’ were born out of that,” he said during the same interview. “They were born out of that refusal to die and that refusal to give up. That’s really what allowed the band to have the success that they have had.

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