Alice Cooper's first studio release in six years shares many of the same elements as 2011's "Welcome 2 My Nightmare", which was a reimagination of Alice's first solo effort, 1975's "Welcome to My Nightmare". The album was intended as a collection of standalone songs to contrast with the previous "concept" offering, and on it, original ALICE COOPER group producer Bob Ezrin once again returns. In addition to production and assorted collaborative duties, Ezrin serves as co-songwriter and instrumentalist. "Paranormal" also echoes "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" with a long list of musicians, songwriters and special guests.
The only member of Cooper's excellent current touring band utilized on "Paranormal" is guitarist Tommy Henriksen, who also serves as co-producer along with Ezrin and guitarist Tommy Denander. Henriksen and Denander play guitar — usually along with guest guitarists — on all the tracks of this release's main section, disc 1. Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.. of U2, is listed as a special guest but actually plays on nine of the ten tracks here. The extras, including the much-anticipated mini-reunion with the surviving members of the ALICE COOPER group, are included on disc 2.
Ezrin, before working on "Paranormal", had recently completed work on DEEP PURPLE's "Infinite". It probably was no coincidence that Roger Glover, himself a great producer, was invited to be involved here. In fact, the documentary included with "Infinite", which details the writing/recording process, does a great job displaying the tactics and negotiation that Ezrin uses to coax the results out of an artist. Glover co-wrote and plays bass on the well-crafted title track, which includes a searing dual-layered guitar break. Lyrically, Cooper is in familiar territory — a sad self-narrative about an apparition stuck in another dimension. A great start to yet another nightmare.
In "Dead Flies", Alice doesn't need supernatural stimuli to terrify us. An 'in-your-face' Texas roadhouse guitar sound is the backdrop for a series of solemn warnings about the world and society including, "Your phone knows more about you than your Daddy and your Mother". Mullen is very convincing here on drums as he is on the rest of the disc.
Ignoring DEEP PURPLE's classic 1971 album and title track, the next song is called "Fireball". Original ALICE COOPER group member Dennis Dunaway co-wrote and plays bass, with Alice narrating the hellish, apocalyptic scene with a megaphone vocal. It's a great song about justifiable paranoia.
"Paranoiac Personality" is the first single and featured in the live set on the current tour. Jimmy Lee Sloas offers up a bass line not dissimilar in feel to ARGENT's "Hold Your Head Up" as Alice seems to defensively explain away his persistent paranoia, seemingly to deaf ears. But for now, the nightmare is over and it's time for some fun.
Apparently inspired by the "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" series of TV commercials, "Fallen in Love", is assisted by ZZ TOP guitarist Billy Gibbons on an eight-beat guitar riff. All the guitars soon lumber in, somewhat comically. If you don't like guitars, it's too late now. "Dynamite Road" has everything needed for a Hollywood movie. Sung in a "Smokey and the Bandit" style of delivery, the storyline includes cars, car crashes, SKYNYRD tunes, the Devil and even a built-in punchline! "Private Public Breakdown" has a sort of grunge feel and is helped along by guest guitarist Parker Gispert. "Holy Water" is also a gas, with a horn section and a wah-wah solo from longtime guitar collaborator Steve Hunter — known for being the one of the ghost guitarists on AEROSMITH's version of "Train Kept A-Rollin'".
The proceedings come to a superb end with "The Sound of A", a song that Dunaway and Cooper first started working on 50 years ago. The PINK FLOYD vibe is magnified by Ezrin on organ and guitar by Nick Didkovsky — Nick also plays on "Fireball", the other Dunaway tune.
The bonus disc kicks off with the boasted two-song mini-reunion of the ALICE COOPER group, which requires some clarification. Yes, these two songs have Dunaway along with guitarist Michael Bruce and drummer Neal Smith playing on it, but it also features additional guitars from Steve Hunter and Tommy Denander on both tracks and Nick Didkovsky on the second track. All three ACG members also play on "Rats" on the main disc, and of course Dunaway co-wrote the previously mentioned two songs on the main disc. Additionally, all three appeared on "Welcome 2 My Nightmare".
"Genuine American Girl" contains the lyrical highlight from both discs: "I'm only thirty out of fifty shades of grey". Appropriate 1973-vintage guitar sounds dominate "You and All of Your Friends", but with all the guitars, it's difficult to tell who's playing what. The best representation of an ACG reunion here would probably be "Rats". A European tour later in 2017 will feature a segment with the original members.
The bonus disc also contains an above average 2016 live recording of Alice's current band captured in Columbus, Ohio. The entire package is a great reminder that we will always be welcome to Alice's Nightmare. The set is also available in several formats including double-LP, so get out there and buy some product!