Album review: BLACKTHORNE – Afterlife/Don’t Kill The Thrill (Graham Bonnet, Bob Kulick)

BLACKTHORNE - Afterlife

Hear No Evil [Release date 02.09.16]

Cherry Red have embarked on a fairly extensive trawl through Graham Bonnet’s back pages, ahead of some UK dates and a generally higher profile.  We’ve reviewed some of his solo material which is frequently fairly disposable.  After his stint in Rainbow he joined Michael Schenker Group and then Alcatrazz with Yngwie (and Jimmy Waldo).  The Alcatrazz albums have also seen a reissue campaign but are also somewhat patchy.

Fast forward to 1993 and Bonnet teamed up with Bob Kulick (Kiss), Waldo, Chuck Wright and Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot) to form Blackthorne.  The combination of excellent songwriting and purposerful playing makes Afterlife a lost classic from the early-1990s.  It will surely appeal to lovers of Dokken, post-Dokken George Lynch, and more recently the likes of Last In Line or The Dead Daisies.

Bonnet had a particular high register style in Rainbow but in Blackthorne he was apparently encouraged by Kulick to sing  more like a heavy metal vocalist so there is more alignment with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson or even Ronnie James Dio. This may have come as a shock both to Bonnet and to critics at the time.

There’s a  consistency and darkness to this album and some real gems, including the title track, ‘We Won’t Be Forgotten’ , ‘Over And Over’ and the quite wonderful  ‘Baby You’re The Blood’ (a co-write with Autograph guitarist Steve Plunket).  Others were brought in to assist on the sessions, including rock writer Steven Rosen and Bob Kulick’s brother Bruce on guitar.

This reissue is now expanded with a couple of acoustic versions recorded for Japan TV and a 19 minute “rehearsal reel” from December 1993.  In the useful liner note, Bonnet  reckons ‘Afterlife’ was not a good career move and he’s never given it much attention.  Contemporary music reviews were evidently indifferent.  There is no denying however that viewed in the context of Bonnet’s varied output over the years and the pre-grunge years in particular, ‘Afterlife’ emerges as a heavy metal masterpiece.  ****

To complete the Blackthorne story, Don’t Kill The Thrill brings together the band’s demos for a never-to-be follow-up album.  By the time of these recordings, the band was effectively just a trio: Kulick, Waldo and Graham Bonnet.  However, Bonnet left for Australia soon after preferring to spend quality time with his family and seeking another musical direction.

Those who like the first album will want this because it follows on in terms of the heavy, straight-ahead approach with a raw edge that can only come from material that is not over-produced or processed.

If the songs are also not quite as polished as the debut, there is  the excellent ‘Skeletons In The Closet’ once again co-written with Steve Plunket whilst  ‘Man In The Black Hat’ and  ‘Insanity’ were among six tracks co-written with David Glen Eisley (Giuffria, Dirty White Boy) who for a time was considered as Bonnet’s replacement.  What actually happened was that Kulick and Waldo formed a new band ‘Murderer’s Row’ who released their debut in 1996 with Eisley as vocalist.

This disc is bolstered by interview clips and live tracks recorded at the heavy metal music convention ‘Foundations Forum’ in 1994 which is continued on the second disc (featuring the non-album ‘Desert Song’)  along with live material recorded in August 1992.  The live recordings are almost certainly from the mixing desk and are more of historical worth than sonic brilliance.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Graham Bonnet UK dates 2016

8 November – Boston Music Room, London
9 November – Stourbridge, River Rooms
10 November – Warehouse 23, Wakefield
11 November – Pwllheli, Hard Rock Hell
12 November – Manchester, Club Academy
13 November – Edinburgh, Bannermans
15 November – Doncaster, Diamonds
16 November – Think Tank, Newcastle Upon Tyne
18 November – Derry-Londonderry, Nerve Centre
19 November – Limelight 2, Belfast
20 November – Monroes, Galway, Eire
21 November – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin, Eire
22 November – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Album reissues (Graham Bonnet)


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