Ex-Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith got busy in the mid-1990s, joining Bruce Dickinson‘s solo band and leading his own Psycho Motel at the same time. Welcome To The World would be the last alternative notes from Adrian before his path led right back to Maiden.
Welcome To The World
Released 24 November 1997
Produced by Simon Hanhart
If Dickinson had made every effort to distance himself from the Maiden sound with his solo records Balls To Picasso (1994) and Skunkworks (1996) before returning unapologetically to more traditional heavy metal with the Smith-assisted Accident Of Birth (1997) and The Chemical Wedding (1998), Smith himself stayed in grungy alternative rock territory with his second Psycho Motel record.
The Motel’s previous album State Of Mind (1995) had featured singer Solli, a much more 1980s type of rock voice, while new singer Andy Makin bears the distinct hallmarks of grunge singers like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and particularly the late duo Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots. So this second Motel album labors to sit right where the most popular rock sounds of the 1990s were.
None of the early tracks on the album provide any sense of lift-off, Smith’s and Makin’s compositions merely copying the hard rock style of the day and thus becoming pale imitations of greater bands and greater songs: The Last Chain, A Quarter To Heaven and Rain are all professionally played and sung, certainly, but they are no more than sub-par grunge songs.
Not suprisingly, the first song with a touch of original style about it is the more traditionally melodic Believe, in which Smith and Makin restrain their grunge urge just enough to let themselves shine through the facade. The notion presents itself that maybe Smith and Makin could have made a good pop-rock record at the time if they had ignored trends and been themselves with no apologies.
This idea is further supported by the following track, the ballad With You Again. When the solo spot blends Smith with none other than Dave Murray, it’s hard to ignore the potential that was infulfilled for so long in the 1990s. Iron Maiden’s contemporary records The X Factor (1995) and Virtual XI (1998) would practically tremble with the loss of Adrian Smith’s playing and songwriting…
Way too many songs on Welcome To The World are completely forgetable. There is no addictive hook to the groove of Into The Black or the title track, there is no memorable melody line to Underground or No Loss To Me. And on it goes. There is another glimmer of decent Smith/Makin pop towards the end of the album, the promising but unrealized Innocence, where songwriting is credited to drummer Mike Sturgis. But it’s too little and too late.
Simon Hanhart‘s production runs circles around Smith’s own production of the previous record (the guitarist possibly realising what Steve Harris would not for a while yet: his own insufficient ability at the sound desk), but a nicely polished hard rock sound is just not enough when you don’t have the songs.
The bottom line is that Adrian Smith never did too well when he chased trends. His first solo record, ASAP’s Silver And Gold in 1989, was the first instance of the guitarist (and in that case also singer) trying to catch the charts, so to speak. Despite the odd good song here and there, none of these solo efforts would ever match the power and influence of Smith’s work with either Maiden or Dickinson. Clearly, Iron Maiden is a sum bigger than its parts when the right people are involved.
Adrian Smith’s music outside of Maiden would sadly remain disappointing.
Christer’s verdict: 2/6