Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 13: “Welcome to the Ball”

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Picture of Geoff Thorpe
Geoff Thorpe

Vicious Rumors is another band that never got the attention they deserved back in the days. If you’re into US Power Metal with blistering dual guitars and top notch vocals, the Vicious Rumors albums should definitely be in your record collection. I was a huge fan of the band in the early 90s. They released the debut album Soldiers of the Night back in 1985. Well-known guitar virtuoso Vinnie Moore (later a longtime member of UFO) actually played guitar on that album, but he left before it was released. The album also featured a different vocalist (Gary St. Pierre) than the band would be known for later. I didn’t buy this album until years later.

The first time I heard Vicious Rumors was in 1989, while studying German in Berlin. The infamous wall actually came down while I was there! In a closed down train station turned market, I found a small record store selling second hand vinyls. One of the albums I bought was a compilation of songs from bands on Shrapnel Records, called Guitar Masters. The first track on the album was the title track from Vicious Rumors’ 1988 album Digital Dictator. I became a fan instantly! I bought the album as soon as I could find it and it has become one of my all time favorite albums. Their new singer Carl Albert was awesome and the twin guitar work by Geoff Thorpe and Mark McGee blew me away.

Vicious Rumors ‘ self-titled album (1990).

I eagerly awaited the next album that would be released in 1990, simply called Vicious Rumors. It was only available via import in Norway when it was released. I had a deal with a small record store in Oslo called “Hot Records” to borrow albums for my radio show if I gave them a shout out. I always dropped by to see if they had something new every time I was in the neighborhood.

The day I found the new Vicious Rumors album in the record store, I had just had a mandatory medical check to see if I was fit for my upcoming military service. I had gotten the day off from school so I was in no rush to get back home. Some of the other guys attending told me it was tradition to drink beer after the medical assessment. I wasn’t hard to convince, so we bought a few cases of beer and went to the park behind the royal castle in Oslo and got good and wasted. I kept the new Vicious Rumors gem in a plastic bag, which is not the best way to keep a borrowed imported vinyl record safe when you’re partying. The album wasn’t totally ruined during this impromptu outdoor party, but it was in a non-returnable state so I had to buy the album. I still have it in my collection.

It is a damn good album so I would have bought it at some point anyway, but I probably would not have bought the expensive import. Before the album was released I read somewhere that it would be entitled Welcome to the Ball, but it turned out to be the self-titled album. The year after the band actually released an album called Welcome to the Ball. I never remembered to ask the band if the working title for the Vicious Rumors album actually was Welcome to the Ball, but I guess it must have been. Welcome to the Ball was another fabulous album from the band. Some say it’s better than the self-titled album. Maybe it is. I like both.

Vicious Rumors – Word of Mouth (1994, import). Signed by Geoff Thorpe.

I was a fan, but Vicious Rumors was still a foreign band to many in Norway. They didn’t get much press in the magazines I read, and they certainly didn’t come all the way up to the cold north to play shows. Just like I discovered the band by coincidence in the first place, I dropped by a little second hand store in 1994. It wasn’t a record store, but they had a few CDs on a shelf. What did I see? Another Vicious Rumors album called Word of Mouth and it had an IMPORT sticker on it. I wasn’t aware of the new album at all and I was more than surprised to find it in a place like that. It must have been pretty new at the time and of course I had to buy it. The album was a bit different from the previous ones. It doesn’t beat my favorite Vicious Rumors albums, but still it is a really strong release. The track “Thunder and Rain Pt. 2” is dedicated to the memory of the late and great guitarist Criss Oliva from Savatage who was killed by a drunk driver in 1993. RIP Criss!

Picture of Geoff Thorpe
Geoff Thorpe

Speaking of tragic car accidents, in 1995 I worked as a sound engineer on the morning show at the Norwegian TV channel TV2. We had to be at work at 4 in the morning. It was insane! Every morning we had a meeting in the office to go through today’s show. On one of the desks there was an open newspaper and I just noticed the headline: “American Rock Vocalist Killed in Car Crash”. I grabbed the paper and noticed it was about Vicious Rumors’ singer Carl Albert who had been killed in an accident the day before. Carl was one of my all time favorite singers. On top of being at work at an ungodly hour I got this very sad message. It was a terrible morning. It is still hard to believe that a Norwegian paper would write about Carl Albert, and even more unbelievable that the paper was open on that very page the moment I passed by the desk that morning.

I had no idea what would happen with the band after this tragedy. The Internet became a thing shortly after and I constantly searched for my favorite bands. One day I found an article that said Geoff Thorpe was working on a new Vicious Rumors album and that he would be singing himself. Guitarist Mark McGee had left the band. Hmm… OK, I was curious as to what this would sound like. Not long after I found a fan page for Vicious Rumors. There was an article there where they said they had no idea what was going on with the band right now. I sent them a message that Geoff was working on a new album and that it would be called Something Burning. They posted it and made a thank you note for me on the page saying something like: “Thank you Stig G. Nordahl for information during dark times.” I might be wrong but I think the die hard fan behind that website went on to set up the official Vicious Rumors page later.

The Something Burning album was released eventually. It’s a dark and depressing album. Geoff’s voice wasn’t bad, but compared to Carl Albert it didn’t stand out. It was obvious that Geoff should stick to playing guitar, doing backing vocals and writing killer songs like he would do again soon after.

Now with the band’s official website it was easier to keep yourself up-to-date on the band. Luckily they found a new excellent vocalist named Brian O’Connor and released the album Cyber Christ. It isn’t a milestone in their back catalogue, but there are several great tracks on the album. I listened to it a lot when it was released. It still contains some of my favorite Vicious Rumors songs like the title track and the closing song “Faith.” This line up also recorded a solid track called “Fight” that never got a proper release, but they actually did make a video for it.

I went to the Bang Your Head!!! festival in Germany in 2001 and Vicious Rumors was on the bill. Finally I would get to see the band live. On top of that they did a warm up show in a local club the day before the festival started. I passed Geoff Thorpe on my way into the club. He was dressed for the show, but had to pick up something from a car. I still sometimes wonder why I didn’t go over to say hello, but fortunately I got to meet the band the next day. It was awesome to see the them two days in a row. After the band finished their set at the festival I ran into the them backstage and did an impromptu interview. They were riding high on the great response during their set so it was a lively interview to say the least.

It didn’t take long before I saw the band live again. Later in 2001 they supported Savatage on a tour that also included Norway. It was the first visit to my home country for both bands. I did an interview with Geoff Thorpe before the show. Vicious Rumors has never been big in Norway so that place wasn’t exactly packed during the show. I felt like running around to tell people how good the band really was, but of course the music spoke for itself. It’s just sad that I never got the chance to see the line up with Carl Albert and guitarist Mark McGee. Fortunately, the band has played for bigger audiences in Norway later.

Geoff Thorpe (Vicious Rumors) and Jon Oliva (Savatage).

In 2002 I attended the Wacken Open Air festival. I believe it’s the biggest Metal festival in the world. Tons of bands were playing and Vicious Rumors were in the line up. They delivered a good performance that was filmed and later released. There was a wild after party in the backstage area that night. I’ll tell more about that later, but I got to hang out and share some drinks with Jon Oliva from Savatage and Geoff Thorpe from Vicious Rumors; these are two of my all time favorite bands. That was cool.

Unfortunately, the new singer, Brian O’Connor, left the band after this album and subsequent tour. He formed a new band called Deadlands that released the album Evilution in 2012. It leans more towards Thrash Metal, but it’s definitely worth a spin.

The next time I met Geoff Thorpe was in 2011. The band came to Norway again, supporting Hammerfall along with Blaze. They had a new line up again, welcoming original drummer Larry Howe back into the ranks, and they had just released the album Razorback Killers. The album showed that the band was back in good shape. Instead of doing a regular interview we recorded a rockumentary about the band going through all the ups and downs and all of their albums. It’s worth listening to if you are a fan or would like to learn more about Vicious Rumors.

Nothing will ever beat the classic Vicious Rumors albums from the late 80s and early 90s, but the band has released several good albums since then. Even though Vicious Rumors will never be among the biggest bands on the planet, Geoff Thorpe holds the Metal flag high. I am happy he does so and admire him for that. Keep it up!

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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