PICTURE, Eternal DarkĀ  (1983, Backdoor)

The skull:
This guy. This poor, naive guy. He primped and preened till his hair was just right; with help from his sister, it’s a shaggy mane all the Joe Elliott-lovin’ girls are gonna fall over themselves to stroke just once. One lucky lady just might get more than a chance to get her sexy bejeweled fingers all over this macho mane, and maybe other hairy parts too, know what I mean? And that silver-studded black choker, oh yeah, gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight at the Picture show. He’s so happy about all of this, you just hate to spoil it and remind him he’s missing an eyeball and has no skin anymore. He’s turning the color of moldy cheese too. Chicks don’t dig that. Girls gonna keep a wide berth tonight.

The music:
I’m not the biggest fan of Picture’s albums prior to this, or even after this, but Eternal Dark is one all fans of ’80s Euro metal should be familiar with. Along with tighter playing and better songwriting from the instrument-wielders, this album bettered Picture’s prior work by featuring new vocalist Pete Lovell. Lovell has a smooth midrange that finds all the right notes, and while something like “Make You Burn” is sub-NWOBHM that serves no good purpose and cannot be saved by the vocalist’s charms, other tunes like the title track, “Flying in Time” and “Into the Underworld” are colorful, infectious Euro metal burners. More than once I’m reminded of Washington state’s Fifth Angel — you can imagine those dudes worshipping Eternal Dark while they were putting their own band together and writing the songs that ended up on their great 1986 debut. Picture sounded like a clunky also-ran before and even after this album, but somehow everything lined up nicely in 1983, finding them with an album that could have at least shot them to the status of Krokus or Saxon. That didn’t happen, as we all know, but it should have. Although maybe there were one too many filler tunes or dorky lyrics or even an ineffectual label keeping them from grabbing the brass ring. Oh well — they’re apparently back together on the nostalgia circuit for those who still care.

— Friar Wagner