The Battle Rages On...

Deep Purple

Giant, 1993

http://www.deeppurple.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/23/2008

Staying true to the rollercoaster nature of the band, Deep Purple’s 1993 album, the ever fittingly titled The Battle Rages On, saw another major lineup change with the return of vocalist Ian Gillan for the first time in several years, thereby once again reuniting the classic Mark II incarnation.

Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice, and Blackmore made a strong comeback in 1984 with Perfect Strangers, followed by the tension-fuelled, mediocre The House Of Blue Light three years later, after which Gillan departed as a result of the usual falling out with Blackmore (who is said to be a control freak). Joe Lynn Turner, who had been the frontman for several years of Blackmore’s Rainbow (the band he commandeered while Deep Purple was dissolved for nine years), was hired as the singer for the 1990 album Slaves And Masters, almost unanimously considered to be by far the worst album of Deep Purple’s career. Now with Gillan back, the question no doubt circling in every fan’s head at the time must have been: “Do they have any magic left together?” The answer is a resounding no.

You could certainly be forgiven for not anticipating what a turd this album is based on the impressive opening title track, a hard, angry song with all the elements that made Deep Purple in the past so great -- extraordinary drumming by the underrated Paice, a dark, heavy riff by Blackmore that stands among his most memorable, and great vocal melodies by Gillan. This song would have fit in perfectly on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Perfect Strangers rather than left stranded on a lousy album where fewer people will get a chance to hear it.

A real lost opportunity is “Anya,” an Eastern-flavored epic. Blackmore really outdoes himself here, with a stunning acoustic intro showing his true abilities around a fretboard (and which foreshadows his jump into more traditional Renaissance-styled music a few years later with his Blackmore’s Night project), following with a powerful, Iron Maiden-esque riff. Lord’s organ lines add a stately quality as well. The song is ruined, however, by the terrible vocals, which for some bizarre reason are harmonized to the point of reminding me of Def Leppard; Gillan’s inhuman sounding shouts of “Aaaaaaaannnnnnnnyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” are profoundly irritating.

You have to dig pretty deep to find much else on The Battle Rages On that’s worth listening to. Aside from the mysterious “Solitaire,” which is the ultimate hidden gem, full of eerie melodies that remind me of the best Blue Oyster Cult songs, and the muscular main riff -- that sounds like Blackmore’s attempt to create another icon à la “Smoke On The Water” -- of “One Man’s Meat,” which is an otherwise embarrassing song, there’s nothing.

The rest of the album sinks in cringe-inducing sludge of sub-90s Aerosmith-style cock rock sleaze (“Lick It Up”), stabs at radio friendly rock (“Time To Kill”), the most generic blues-rock imaginable (“Ramshackle Man,” which would even offend the blue collar sensibilities of George Thorogood, the king of that lousy genre), and other totally forgettable, half-assed songs like “A Twist In The Tale” and “Nasty Piece Of Work” -- one fast, one slow, yet it makes not a whit of difference when you have no ideas.

I find that a disproportionate amount of the blame for the disc’s failure lies with Ian Gillan. Even during those rare periods during the album when his singing isn’t awful, his vocals has a maddening amount of effects layered on, usually the aforementioned harmonizer, whose use is found in ridiculously distracting proportions. Compounding these problems is the fact that he couldn’t come up with any decent melodies. Often it sounds as if he’s just shouting out a bunch of lyrics without bothering to add a hook of any kind.

The Battle Rages On was a critical and commercial failure upon release, and it’s easy to see why. It is the last album recorded by the Mark II lineup, a rather sad testament to how far Deep Purple’s creative talents had dropped from their heyday. Blackmore left the band after its release seemingly permanently (as he has said he isn’t interested in rock music anymore, and Gillan, as of 2008, still refuses to ever work with him again). Download the two (or two-and-a-half, including “Anya”) great songs and chuck the rest.

Rating: D-

User Rating: D+


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© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Giant, and is used for informational purposes only.