Album Review: Vinnie Vincent Invasion

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In the guitar-playing world, few players are surrounded by such mystique and reverence as Vinnie Vincent. In the year 2019, it's difficult to understand why.

Vincent is primarily known for doing two records and two tours with Kiss, first as "The Ankh Warrior" character, and then later as one of the unmasked members of Kiss during the Lick It Up period. Despite writing nearly a dozen songs between the two Kiss albums and playing guitar shockingly well (especially by Kiss standards), Vincent's personality put him at odds with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and he was eventually kicked out of the band.

From there, he formed Vinnie Vincent's Invasion. Or is that merely the name of the album? It's hard to tell. Combined with the two Kiss albums, Vinnie Vincent's Invasion solidified his reputation as an amazing guitar player, even though he had already been a successful songwriter for years by that point.

Stylistically, I would place Vinnie Vincent's Invasion in the same basic category as Ronnie James Dio's solo albums, which is to say that it is a heavy metal album with a decidedly East Coast writing style and ample room for lightning-fast guitar solos. (The vocals aren't nearly on that level, however.) For the most part, the songs are mid-tempo rock songs familiar to any fans of early glam-metal, back before thrash metal had won over the metal crowd and before bands like Poison Poison-ed the well of pop metal.

Some of songs, such as "Twisted" could plausibly have been found on a Motley Crue record, albeit with that unmistakable East Coast twinge that I personally, could rather do without. The album's high point, a power ballad called "No Substitute" that evokes Cheap Trick and Journey while hinting at the power of the late 80s, sounds far less dated than the rest of the album.

Throughout the album Vincent shreds his guitar basically as hard as he can. In hindsight, it's hard to understand why he's such a revered player. His solos are certainly fast, but they're also tasteless. Vincent prefers quite a dry tone on this album, contrasting against the reverb-draped rhythm tracks. The effect makes his guitar stand out, but not in a good way. It doesn't sound like he's playing with the band, it sounds as though he's playing right on top of them. His note choice might best be described as a scramble. It's as though he's trying his hardest to cram every available note into every available solo. When it works, it can be nice. When he's not playing so fast that it becomes sloppy, he has a few interesting licks to offer the listener. Unfortunately, most of the time, he's so focused on speed that the listener misses out on a lot of the content of the solo. It reminds me a bit of the way Ted Nugent plays -- so fast and so constant that most people don't even realize he's changing keys and doing interesting things.

Now, there are a few reasons why a guitarist would be playing like that in the 80s. It very much sounds like Vincent is high on cocaine while playing these solos. I don't know whether or not that's true, I only know it sounds like it to me.

All that being said, Vinnie Vincent's Invasion is not the kind of album a music fan with a long-range vision of what music should be like will ever care to enjoy. Even as a historical curiosity, a representative moment of 80s heavy metal, the album fails to really captivate. As such, it's a great example of Vinnie Vincent himself: there is plenty of talent on display, it's just put to poor use, and ultimately unmemorable.

Having said that, this album doesn't need my approval to be legendary. Metal fans have been holding this album up as an example of greatness for years. Maybe they're right and I'm wrong. Or maybe this album really is a solid C-.

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