Gun Barrel – Damage Dancer (Massacre Records)

Wednesday, 19th March 2014
Rating: 5/10

Ever find a certain breed of metal acts that for one reason or another never set the charts on fire, or appeal to a broad cross-section of fans? Through the years, we all know a band or two that maybe fly under the radar because they either are too heavy for a crop of causal listeners, yet too commercial in other aspects to appeal to the staunch metal fanatic. Three bands over the course of metal’s historic landscape that can fall firmly in this limbo land are Armored Saint, Flotsam & Jetsam, and Metal Church.

You may ask yourself what does this have to do with Cologne, German quartet Gun Barrel and their sixth studio record Damage Dancer? Well, the group’s sound is straightforward street-level metal that has power-oriented vocals, nothing particular inoffensive and very much 70’s/80’s old school in orientation. Obvious talking points come through Patrick Sühl in his bluesy power warble delivery (picture a whiskey soaked Biff Byford) and the general mid-tempo/anthem nature to a majority of these arrangements.

I can’t fault the Teutonic-style production values for my apathy or lack of investment in mediocre arrangements such as “Building a Monster” or the six-minute Grave Digger-like “Vultures Are Waiting.” It all boils down to proper riffs, engaging hooks, strong choruses, and a sense of energy to keep potential fans from moving on to another band in their collection, and Gun Barrel struggle on all fronts to excel. When you cut and paste riffs from an alternative act like Hole and pass it off as your own for “Rise Up to the Storm” (remember “Celebrity Skin” anyone?) it leaves me wondering where the ideal audience for the band is: power metal, traditional metal, or AC/DC throwback?

Fifty minutes of below average songwriting here, you would be better off digging deeper into your Saxon or Grave Digger collection and leave Gun Barrel to collect in discount bins everywhere.

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