Ahh, KILLERS, a bleeding case of what could've been. Struggling to find a post-IRON MAIDEN identity throughout the Eighties and Nineties, NWOBHM legend Paul Di'Anno ran through a succession of metal acts that made minor blips on the metal radar such as DI'ANNO, BATTLEZONE, PRAYING MANTIS, NOMAD, GOGMAGOG (also one-time home to future IRON MAIDEN guitarist Janick Gers and late MAIDEN drummer Clive Burr) and KILLERS.
In the case of KILLERS, the prospective supergroup first featured RAVEN's John Gallagher, TANK's Cliff Evans and troubadour guitarist Ray Detone. Gallagher and Detone were gone after storming a series of mostly MAIDEN cover gigs in 1991 that culminated in "South American Assault", released three years after the fact.
Before that live document, Di'Anno's refurbished KILLERS squad released a pair of bipolar studio albums, the power pumping "Murder One" and the idiosyncratic agro pill, "Menace to Society", assembled while Di'Anno was serving a three month stint in the L.A. County jail for drugs and firearms possession.
Metal Mind Productions has just re-released the short-lived KILLERS catalog, which is generally recommended if you're a Paul Di'Anno disciple, even if you'd be better off slipping on PANTERA's "Far Beyond Driven" than "Menace to Society". Of the three KILLERS releases, the best is "Murder One", the most appropriate vehicle for Di'Anno's combinations of gravelly snarls and interjecting rises. While derivative of SAXON and ACCEPT in spots, "Operation: Mindcrime"-era QUEENSRŸCHE in others, "Murder One" is a straightforward power metal blast that fell short of sales expectations most likely due to the changing attitudes in the American metal scene by the time it was released.
KILLERS was showcased for numerous American major labels and they were signed to BMG with a staggering $250,000 advance. Coming to the showcase bearing no new material and only IRON MAIDEN covers, it defies logic the A&R reps of the day hadn't done their due diligence. Yet Paul Di'Anno, along with Cliff Evans and fellow guitarist Nick Burr, drummer Steve Hopgood (the latter two having previously worked with Di'Anno in BATTLEZONE) and bassist Gavin Cooper laid down eight new songs and two covers for "Murder One" in a couple of weeks. By now, this album and KILLERS is a footnote in the history of metal but it marks one of the most transitional periods of Paul Di'Anno's career, more for his tumultuous personal circumstances at the time than the music itself.
In many ways insulting that KILLERS squeezed on a pale shade cover of IRON MAIDEN's epochal power ballad "Remember Tomorrow", most of "Murder One" comes out blazing with other little resemblance to MAIDEN. Instead, SAXON plays a heavy hand in the blitzing opening number "Impaler" and also the stamping "Protector". Then Di'Anno and company ride hard on ACCEPT's bullet train with "The Beast Rises" and "Marshall Lockjaw". "Awakening" and "Takin' No Prisoners" ring glaringly like QUEENSRŸCHE with "Takin' No Prisoners" being presented as a modified version of the verse melody from "I Don't Believe in Love". Later in the album, Paul Di'Anno attempts a hike of Geoff Tate in spots on "Awakening" while the song itself treads far too close for comfort to QUEENSRŸCHE's "The Mission".
On the positive side, the near-swooning power ballad (one thankfully devoid of any lovesick clichés) "Dream Keeper" is one of the nicest-penned tracks on this album and also one of Di'Anno's most appealing performances on "Murder One". The metalled-up cover of T.REX's "Children of the Revolution" is less offensive than "Remember Tomorrow" and is actually infectious on the choruses even if its mincing verses are a bit pedestrian.
All three of the Metal Mind KILLERS reissues contain bonus rehearsal footage, this one coming with "Impaler", "The Beast Arises", "Marshall Lockjaw" and "Children of the Revolution" plus an acoustic version of "Dream Keeper". Always fun to hear a band gabbing in preparation for a take, especially with Di'Anno chiding the band (at this point incorporating Brad Wiseman and Graham Bath's services before Cooper and Burr's) "Oh, you're fucking joking! Let's get on to something a bit more constructive!" before ripping into the T.REX cover. The payoff to the bonus section is mostly glued session keepers. The "Dream Keeper" acoustic version is pretty rough but nonetheless reveals a few of Paul Di'Anno's softer touches even if he caterwauls more often than sings. Remember to consider it demo form and you'll be fine.
The Hammer-esque horror shrieking serving up the flurrying speed of "Impaler" is hilarious if unanticipated while the dom-submissiveness theme gooning up "S&M" is hardly the stuff of intellect. Di'Anno might've still been pining for the smutty favors of Charlotte the Harlot while writing this one. "Marshall Lockjaw" sounds like a never-was nemesis in the world of "Judge Dredd". In other words, "Murder One" is a quirky, somewhat silly stab at extending Paul Di'Anno's career into the Nineties. The baffling "Menace to Society" afterwards is more akin to PANTERA than LIZZY BORDEN, though KILLERS might've been better off following the latter's path. It would've made smarter metal chronological sense, anyway.
The endpoint to the KILLERS endeavor is that it clearly shows Paul Di'Anno clawing for a clear-defined personality so much the group's albums are fragmented mirrors of other bands' works. While better acclimated to punk than power metal, Di'Anno's frothing chops are mostly agreeable on this album (he's in his finest form on "Marshall Lockjaw" and "Impaler") if futile as a Phil Anselmo double on KILLERS' second outing. So long as you come to "Murder One" with the understanding of its unabashed compulsions, it's a reasonably entertaining record. John Gallagher and Ray Detone may or may not have made a difference had they stayed, but the fact Nick Burr took off after "Murder One" hit the metal masses says a few things probably best left alone at this point.