Michael Lee's Magical Mythical Metal Is No Flashback
Too much is too much, but way too much is perfect. Michael Lee is way too much.
Lee's made his name as an editor and Emmy-nominated producer on everything from E! True Hollywood Story to Super Bowl post-game wrap-ups, but the San Antonio native was suckled at the teat of Van Halen and Judas Priest as a tyke, and has decided to claim the world of music as his own with his debut EP Hold on Till Heaven.
His Facebook page was sent to Rocks Off as a joke. "Hey! Look at this guy 80s guy! What a maroon!" Laugh all you want, but Michael Lee is not some cheeseball nostalgia-gimmick gimp. Sure, his music is over-the-top and unabashedly inspired by metal's more fantastical elements, but like The Darkness before him, an undercurrent of exemplary musicianship and innovation here sets the EP apart from a simple flashback.
Take opening track "Connection" by way of a for instance. Right when you're ready to sneer and shout, "Dokken!You're Sukken! Get off the Stage-n," you pick up on sinister industrial elements winding in and out of the pop-metal guitar riffs. In fact, the whole track made us think of the gritty awesomness of Daniel Ash's last EP, Flame On.
It's important to realize what happens to your mind while you listen to Hold on Till Heaven. You have only seconds to dismiss it as Bill and Ted's bogus soundtrack before the underlying power forces you to appreciate the subtleties woven in amongst the dragons.
And there are dragons! What ever happened to dragons? You fail us, metal, and you fail us band. Not Lee, though. He believes in dragons, angels and vampires. Most of all, he believes that he should sing about them. He even has a song on the EP, "Believe," pretty much laying out the sheer unholy joy of magic and myth.
We fail to see what the hell is wrong with that. Yes, OK, it's kind of cheesy. It was cheesy when Dio did it, or when Rhapsody had Christopher Lee narrate "Unholy Warcry," but it was also epic. Literally epic, not Internet epic. There are artists who explore the wide realm of fantasy as easily as they explore their own hearts and souls. Lee belongs in that temple.
A lush full world demands a pretty lushly produced album, and Hold on Till Heaven is nothing if not stretched to the limit. The album was engineered by Steve Bundrick, nephew of Who keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick who also appears on several tracks on the album.
Incidentally, did you know Rabbit Bundrick was the principal musician on the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack? Judging by Michael Lee's outfits, he certainly did, but what's a little extra outrageousness when you've already gone screaming over the edge like Thelma and Louise on a flying V guitar?