The Deadscape

Alice Cooper
Raise Your Fist and Yell

Album: Raise Your Fist and Yell
Release Date: September 28, 1987
Label: MCA

We’re back once more to bring you another album from the Deadscape – a landscape littered with the dead carcasses of worn out cassettes and scratched up vinyl from yesteryear. This time around we venture through the year of 1987 to find shock rocker Alice Cooper revelling in a major comeback, fueled in the 80’s though the excessive use of horror imagery and churning out some fine heavy metal.

As I have often stated; horror and heavy metal go hand in hand and I can’t think of a better rock performer than Alice Cooper to find his place in the annals of a decade fueled by metal and horror films. Of course the 80’s began a new love affair for Alice Cooper that started with Constrictor in 1986 – featuring songs like “Teenage Frankenstein” and “He’s Back” (The Man Behind the Mask) – dedicated to one of the 80’s most beloved cinematic slashers Jason Voorhees.

Constrictor was important for many reasons; not to mention that Alice came out of retirement to record it, but he also sought out the services of heavy metal guitarist Kane Roberts and bassist Kip Winger. Heavy metal was a new sound for Alice Cooper to tap into and with both musicians recruited for the band, a winning combination was found. This new style would forever associate Alice with the horror genre and after having the song He’s Back appear in Friday the 13th part VI – it proved the second coming of Mr. Cooper would remain strong down the road.

In fact the following year would prove to be a fruitful one for Alice’s newfound horror persona. They began a new tour called “Live in the Flesh” that was notorious for graphic violence and theatricality, incorporating all the usual staples from the singer’s stage antics, but also upping the extremity to reflect the imagery seen in horror films of the time. At one point the show featured a person impaled from a bike, and backed by more stage deaths and copious amounts of stage blood to really hammer this point home.

Alice Cooper was going for the throat in his new incarnation and much of it was inspired by horror movies of the time. The stage gimmick of impaling a victim with his own bike obviously was culled from a similar scene in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness – given how Alice actually had a small role as a homicidal vagrant in the film. It was also said that Alice was a big fan of these movies, so the show drew much inspiration from these cinematic nasties. Ultimately, Carpenter’s film inspired a song called Prince of Darkness that appeared on Cooper’s 17th studio album Raise Your Fist and Yell.

Released on September 28, 1987, Raise Your Fist and Yell was the exclamation point on Cooper’s 80’s comeback. Not only were the songs heavier, but the lyrics really brought out a mean spiritedness based on a loose concept of a serial killer. The unnamed killer is obsessed with horror movies, prowls the night picking up prostitutes and does his best impersonation of slasher’s like Jason, Michael or even Freddy in gruesome fashion.

The opening number “Freedom” kick-starts the proceedings rather emphatically, when you examine the lyrics. There’s definitely a defiant attitude coursing through the song and it was the only single released from the album. It reached # 50 on the UK charts in early 1988, but sadly it never made it to the charts in the US though. Following Freedom was “Lock Me Up” and this song utilized the voice talents of Robert England (Freddy Kruger) to really help get the song over. England’s guest appearance continued Cooper’s love affair with 80’s slasher flicks, and to hear Freddy Kruger’s maniacal laugh just made the song that much more wicked to listen to.

"Alice Cooper was going for the throat in his new incarnation..."

What makes this album more pronounced than Constrictor was Cooper’s attitude towards the lyrics. Songs like “Give the Radio Back” and “Step on You” showed how defiant Cooper could be and this rebelliousness is often found in heavy metal songs of the time. Certainly one can draw a comparison to Guns ‘n Roses and maybe other bands who started in the thrash metal pantheon of the late 80’s. I think it helped Alice to be accepted in the horror community and obviously this rebel attitude provided the spark he needed to pursue his musical endeavors all throughout the 80’s and into the early 90’s.

The song “Prince of Darkness” helped matters greatly and more importantly it aligned the rock star with horror director John Carpenter. Most horror fans will remember that vivid memory of watching Alice play a nasty vagrant and wearing a walkman that was playing the song Freedom. That scene paid the musician turned actor a nice homage, acknowledging his cult status in the horror genre.

The remaining songs on Raise Your Fist and Yell really push the envelope in terms of illustrating the murderous frenzy of the unnamed serial killer, so when we get to tracks 7 and 8 you know he means business. I think “Time to Kill” and “Chop, Chop, Chop” is the most ‘metal’ of the songs on the album. What we get here is the killer’s love for his craft, as he refers himself as the ‘engine of destruction – the perfect killing machine’ detailed in the song Chop, Chop, Chop. You can tell Cooper is really having some fun with this number and his vocal delivery is over the top, but it fits together so well with the booming metal score. The song fades into the next one called “Gail”, setting up some creepy keyboard arrangements courtesy of Paul Horowitz.

There is a lyrical reference here to a young woman named Mary with whom the killer sees, but reminds him of a woman named Gail that he previously stabbed to death. The number is only two minutes and thirty seconds long, but it stands out among the more standard metal tracks. I felt this song was a throwback to a number like “Steven” from Welcome to my Nightmare. It certainly had some merit here and bleeds nicely into the closing song “Roses on White Lace.”

Again we get that throbbing metal score compliments of Roberts and Winger, and Cooper is in fine form, spitting out lyrics about the killer breaking into the room of a bride to be and slicing her up into pieces, and then hiding them away. I think this number provides that punch to the gut effectively, capping off a truly splendid album. I can see how this album gets compared to Cooper’s 2008 concept record Along Came a Spider, but I prefer Raise Your Fist and Yell a whole lot more. The songs have bite, the music is mostly metal and I love the album cover art of Jim Warren. It all seems to fit nicely into a snug and gruesome package that proved to be a product of the time.

Raise Your Fist and Yell did wonders for Alice Cooper’s newfound persona. The album charted at number 73 on the Billboard 200, made it to number 48 on the UK Album chart and came in at number 15 on the Swedish Album chart. Just based on these album chart positions alone, Alice Cooper was reborn in the 80’s as a horror/metal god. He was loved all over Europe, Canada and the states and if you had the chance to catch him live, you can bet the tour was going to be a unique experience. Alice was dangerous again and relevant once more to the young headbangers coming out to metal shows.

For this fact alone, we here at the Deadscape have correctly chosen the right album to talk about. 1987 was a vintage year for dedicated rockers and gorehounds to come out and party their asses off and why not do it with the newly anointed king of shock rock – so for that we salute you Alice Cooper – may your ghoulishness help to preserve your legacy long after you are gone.

Kenneth Gallant, Editor-in-Chief HMS

Read the previous installment.