Originally Published: July 17, 2008
Author: Stuart A Hamilton
Well, it looks like the garage rock years are over, as Alice returns to his old stomping ground - the concept album! This time it tells the charming tale of a serial killer named Spider, whose trademark is wrapping his victims in silk. Hurrah! But don't worry, this is cuddly 21st century Alice, so he gets his comeuppance when he goes all girly and falls in love with one of his victims. Boo!
He's stuck to his road band for this trip to the studio, so Kiss drummer Eric Singer, bassist Chuck Garric and guitarists Keri Kelli and Jason Hook handle the majority of the work on the album. And all that time spent touring has paid off. They sound like a proper band, not just a bunch of session guys who've popped in to pay the bills. There is room for some guests, though, and Guns n' Roses / Velvet Revolver fella Slash lays down an excellent solo on "Vengeance Is Mine", one of the highlights on the album. In a novel twist Ozzy Osborne whips out his mouth organ for some, well, pedestrian harmonica work on "Wake The Dead", where he also gets a co-writing credit.
It's a surprisingly heavy album, especially considering that for studio album number 25, Alice has brought in a new production team in the shape of Danny Saber, formerly of Black Grape, and Greg Hampton who's been working on an album project teaming up ex Guns n' Roses guitarist Buckethead and Bootsy Collins. But any fears that this would end up a dance crossover are firmly dashed, despite some heavy synth work on "Catch Me If You Can", which I'm sure will get pushed as a single.
Despite the return to the concept album, the sound is more similar to his Brutal Planet and Dragontown albums than it is to the seventies sounds of Welcome To My Nightmare or From The Inside, especially the large amounts of riffing laid down by Keri Kelli and Jason Hook. The one track that totally fails is the big ballad, "Salvation", which just pales besides older material like "How You Gonna See Me Now". Luckily, there is an array of material that rocks out and will, doubtless, slot happily into his never-ending tour. "Wrapped In Silk" and "I'm Hungry", for example, are custom built for audience sing-a-longs. Finally, things come full circle in the closing track "I Am The Spider / Epilogue", when an old, old friend pops in for a cameo.
He may have turned 60 this year but there's no sign of him fading away, as this really is a good Alice Cooper album, one that tries to tie in the various musical strands he's pursued over his career, and will be a delight for anyone whose followed him on the way.