ALCATRAZZ has returned after years of silence. Sure, they've reared their ugly heads occasionally for live performances, but it's been over 30 years since the renowned act released their last album. For many, they're a footnote in metal history for being a starting point for shred god Yngwie Malmsteen, who was replaced by Steve Vai, no less. Legendary IRON MAIDEN drummer Clive Burr was even a member during the band's early days. Never mind the depth of their impressive pedigree, the band's trio of albums — "No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll" (1983), "Disturbing the Peace" (1985) and "Dangerous Games" (1986) — were a riveting amalgam of classic prog rock and frantic heavy metal. Now, during the world-changing pandemic, ALCATRAZZ breaks their long-standing recording silence with "Born Innocent". The form is true to the essence of ALCATRAZZ, and the content is fortunately up to par with their classic output.
The founding core of bassist Gary Shea, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo and vocalist Graham Bonnet (formerly of RAINBOW) have forged ahead and reassembled. They're flanked by guitarist Joe Stump while drummer Mark Benquechea pins everything down behind the kit. What's more, a slew of friends and musicians from Bonnet's storied career contribute guest performances to the release. Chris Impellitteri wrote the title track and performed the shredding guitar parts that set the stage upon which Bonnet's robust vocals take us on a journey back to the eighties when OTT heavy metal reigned supreme. Elsewhere, Bob Kulick (RIP) wrote and played guitar parts on the triumphant "I Am The King", Steve Vai wrote "Dirty Like The City" in a manner that clearly bears his stamp, and ANNIHILATOR maestro Jeff Waters lays down a ripping lead (the second one) on the DEEP PURPLE-esque "Paper Flags".
ALCATRAZZ's return is clearly ripped from the pages of eighties rock and metal, but their long-awaited comeback album is anything but a lazy cash-grab. The songwriting and performances are not rigid, and all feel natural and true to the band's template. The maturity and cumulative musical experiences of the seasoned musicians on hand clearly shine through. Bouncy and nimble guitar work takes "Finn McCool" through Irish folk terrain boldly and with success. And "Dirty Like The City" is intentionally loose at moments, fittingly since the track is an ode to sleaze and good times.
Time will tell us the extent to which ALCATRAZZ's comeback will be revered as a part of their catalogue. Regardless, "Born Innocent" is a well-rounded effort that's true to the band's identity without being stubbornly stuck in the past. In the same way that the band's original trio of releases referenced the seventies as well as the contemporary metal of the day, "Born Innocent" bridges classic metal and rock with today's heavy prog style. ALCATRAZZ is back and in a big way. Hopefully they'll be able to perform again for metal maniacs much sooner rather than later.