Originally Published: July 2008
Author: Zane Ewton
Few artists, except maybe Pete Townshend, have the same success with concept albums as Alice Cooper. On the heels of two straight garage rock records, Cooper returns with the serial killer love story that is Along Came a Spider.
In a career that has spanned nearly 40 years and 25 studio albums, Alice Cooper is rock and roll's original villain. The scourge of parents and the hero of disaffected youth. He is also an incredible showman and songwriter. Artists cannot forge a 40-year career without there being something special about them.
Eight years after his last concept album, Brutal Planet, this new story places Alice in the role as Spider, a serial killer that traps, kills then wraps his victims in silk. All of the Alice elements weave into Along Came a Spider. This maybe a concept, but it is also a rock record and Alice does not skimp on the big riffs. Concept albums fall into a rut during tracks that are nothing more than filler to move along the story. Cooper has written a strong set of songs that each stand on their own. Tracks such as "Wake the Dead," "Catch Me if You Can" and "Wrapped in Silk" are as good as anything Cooper has done in the last few years, which is saying something as tracks from his last few records have fit into the live show seamlessly with the classics.
Slash guests on "Vengeance is Mine," but the dual guitars of Keri Kelli and Jason Hook give several of these songs that vintage Alice Cooper sound that has been around since "Is it My Body."
Only two ballads made the cut and unfortunately they are rewrites of past, better Cooper ballads. The rock wins the day, and so does Cooper's lyrics. The man has always had a way to mix campy, creepy and vicious into a catchy chorus. Cooper strings up striking visuals with his lyrics and you begin to forget you are singing along with a psychopathic killer.
Always a visual artist as much as musical, Cooper's packaging and imagery that accompanies Along Came a Spider is equally striking. Several short YouTube clips and a series of posters released over a few weeks unveiled the album more as a horror film rather than an album.
Along Came a Spider is not the album that will frighten parents, certainly not in 2008. What is scary is just how good Alice Cooper still is thirty years after his riotous rise to the top of the rock heap.