Shock Tactics


Sanctuary Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's interesting to listen to Bruce Dickinson's career, in that you can almost hear when he's losing interest in a band by the quality of his singing. By the time he made his exit from Iron Maiden, you could hear almost complete indifference on Fear Of The Dark... which I know we haven't reviewed yet, and I know will result in someone getting pissed off by what I just said.

In the case of Samson, you could hear Dickinson's vocals taking a turn for the bored on their 1981 album Shock Tactics... which ironically is also the band's best album to that point.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What changed - for the better (in Samson's case) and for the worse (in Dickinson's)? It's easier to pinpoint the former: the songwriting took an upwards turn. Tracks like "Nice Girl," "Bright Lights" and "Blood Lust" showed off what this band seemed to know they were capable of all along. I still wouldn't call this top-notch work, but compared to their two previous albums, this is a major improvement. Even some of the weaker tracks, like "Grime Crime" and "Communion," have many more redeeming features to them.

It's harder to say what was up with Dickinson. Obviously he wasn't bored with heavy metal; after the band's performance at the Reading Festival, Dickinson would be tapped to become the second lead singer for Iron Maiden. It probably wasn't that Dickinson was frustrated as a songwriter; only one song (Russ Ballard's "Riding With The Angels") wasn't written by Samson as a band, at least as far as the liner notes claim. I don't claim to know what was up, and I honestly think speculating on why he did choose to leave Samson would be counter-productive.

But there is no doubt that Dickinson's vocals sound a little more tired than on Head On."Riding With The Angels" is called Samson's best-known song, yet it's here where Dickinson seems to have the least amount of kinetic energy... and that's kind of disappointing. That streak continues on songs like "Earth Mother" and "Once Bitten"... and even to a lesser degree on the quality tracks on Shock Tactics.

I'm not insinuating that Dickinson deliberately delivered a sub-par performance on Shock Tactics. But when looking back at this album, and knowing Dickinson's history, it's hard not to notice a change which people probably didn't hear (or didn't know to hear) way back then.

I've been kind of hard on Samson in these pages, so I will say this to close our look at Shock Tactics: it is kind of a shame that Dickinson left the band at this point in their career, since this is the most comfortable the group had sounded to this point. One has to wonder what Samson would have accomplished had Dickinson stayed.

Rating: B-

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