"A generation which ignores history has no past and no future." Robert Heinlein
By Sam Graham
It was 1988. And Justice for All… was released, Thatcher was still running England, Ronald Reagan was in his last year of presidency, it was a leap-year, Die Hard came out that June andFriday the 13th was up to part VII. Few knew that in this year, over in Canada, a glam rock band known as Killer Dwarfs released their third album: Big Deal.
This album kick-starts with Tell Me Please and a riff that pretty much sums up the album: it’s a little bit heavy, a little bit dirty, and all cool. The pre-chorus and chorus that come next are chant-able enough to keep you listening, carried out by vocalist Russ Graham (Russ Dwarf). Russ’ voice is hard to pinpoint. It’s somewhere between the nasal tone of Vince Neil (Motley Crue) and the sleaze of Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) and suits the music really well. After a couple of chorus’ the solo is all glam-rock. It more flashy than it is technical, with the classic Poison-esque fret-wank at the very end.
We Stand Alone is the second song on Big Deal and it’s another chanter. It doesn’t sound much like it, but it has a similar feel to Crue’s cover of Smokin’ in the Boys Room (1985). It’s a mid-range head banger that’s easy to find yourself happily singing along to. The song features a melodic breakdown that leads directly into a juicy solo that I can only describe as being very Bill and Ted. In fact, this whole song wouldn’t sound out of place on a Wyld Stallyns album. I for one keep hoping that will one day happen.
The next song, Startin’ to Shine´ busts in with a lot of umph and carries through to the chorus. Again, like the previous, the chorus is a sing-along, but the rest of the song is heavier, ballsy and a little bit angry. It’s a good departure from the happy-go-lucky glam that precedes it. The song that follows (Breakaway) sounds straight out of C.C Deville’s riff book. The whole song sounds like a Poison track. It’s sleazy and it reeks of permed guys in clothes that are far too small for them and is not as chantable as the previous tunes; this song is carried by the guitar and as well as Poison, it also has hints of Alice Cooper during his Hey Stoopid (1991) days.
The classic ‘thoughtful’ one of the album comes in Union of Pride. It’s the longest song on the album, and that’s usually the first give-away. Its beefy intro drops into a clean verse, then the lyrics ‘together we stand, together we fall’ are preceded by the chorus, chanting about freedom. The guitar solo (played by Bryce Trewin (Bryce Dwarf)) is everything you’d expect from a song like this. It’s slower than usual, and its many bends make it sound more emotional. If this song was about a relationship or a woman, it’d definitely be classed as a power ballad.
Although Union of Pride is Big Deal’s powerful song, Lifetime is a close second. While it lacks the mellowness that Union of Pride has, its lyrics are more real. It’s a song about waiting your whole life for something and as the song says, time will tell… Someday. It’s got some nice lead guitar work and the drums, played by Darrell Millar (Darrell Dwarf), isn’t laid on too thick.
The album then takes a turn for the metal with the riffage of Power. Its metal done by a glam band, but it’s still the heaviest song on the album. The repetition of the title in the background of the chorus is brilliant and the verses are littered with short licks here and there that make the song, pun intended, all the more powerful.
Out of nowhere, and I mean seriously, you’d never have thought a song like this would be on Big Deal, comes the penultimate song Burn it Down. It’s a veritable shred-a-thon from beginning to end. It doesn’t let up like the other songs do, even in the chorus where glam tends to favour vocally-led passages. This song is guitarist Bryce Dwarf’s showcase. At first listen, people will most likely say ‘oh, it’s a Malmsteen rip-off’ and disregard it. While it does have some Rising Forceriffage, the solo is more Paul Gilbert (Racer X). If you really feel the need to brand this song as a rip-off, just remember: this was 1988, before everyone was doing it on YouTube.
In short, this song comes out of nowhere and is nothing short of awesome, regardless.
Has Big Deal stood the test of time? While it wasn’t Killer Dwarfs’ most successful album, that honour went to Stand Tall (1986); it’s still a class album. Although I’m not sure how many people today actually know of them? I’ll be surprised if it’s many. I first heard this album because I saw it in a friend’s vinyl collection and wanted to know what a band called Killer Dwarfs sounded like. Straight away I was hooked. The album has some real gems on it that are worth going out of your way to listen to. The recording quality is good and each song has something distinctive about it, whether it be the music or the lyrics. A lot of the songs wouldn’t sound out of place in another band’s catalogue, but everyone shows influence: Metallica – Diamond Head, Slayer –Venom, Trivium – James Hetfield, so it’s not worth being a stickler over. Nobody likes a stickler.
Whatever the case, Big Deal by Killer Dwarfs is a great album and well worth it if you like your glam rock 80’s and not too serious.
Devil-Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \n