Toilet humor always feels extra weird when it's coming from seemingly clever artists, and they could have gotten away with the "Thinker"-reference if it weren't for them adding a 2nd unit on the back sleeve. Mind you, I didn't even notice the front sleeve pun until I had the original album in my hands. In any case it adds further strange to AWOL's one and only self-titled release, which carries a distinct one-man's-madness vibe, or rather two-men's-madness, seeing as the line-up is made up of two brothers. 'Madness' is too strong an expression perhaps, it isn't total Batshit-Bonkers-Metal, but it is a genuinly original release - 'peculiar' is perhaps the best word to describe it.
There's no big secrets or cliffhangers here, for better or worse they blast off with the highlight of the album and if you're not falling for "And Then There Were None" and it's wonderful mix of noodly guitars, Maiden'y vocals, bendy riffing yet still Prime US Metal-feel
there's not a chance you will like the rest of the album either. The second track starts off on a great note but as a whole the nicest thing I can say about it is that it's 'interesting' and at least carries one pretty nifty Metal riff. For the most parts is some sort of clownish jazz-Van Halen affair with too many things going on at once. It has its moments but it's the low point of the album so don't let it scare you away from the rest of the material ...like the ace "Feet On The Ground" for instance! This is AWOL at their most Metal, sounding like something Manilla Road could have rejected from "The Deluge" for being just a little bit too quirky, or even a Manowar tune from an alternate universe where everything is a whole lot more proggy than here.
Side B opens with
another jazzy hardrocker, but it has a great groove to it and doesn't come off as kooky as "Right Way". "No More Games" follows and it felt a bit like a filler at first, but the chorus grows on you after a couple of spins and it's possibly the catchiest tune on the album. The Bruce Dickinson-influence in Ron's vocals are especially evident here. The mandatory 'it's all over baby'-power-ballad is conveniently stuck at the end so you can easily turn it off and pretend it isn't there.
To sum it up, it's always rewarding to hear something from artists that haven't been 'corrected' and told what to do and how to do it by a 'professional' producer. Isn't this why we love Private Metal so much?
As a footnote, another unusual aspect of AWOL is that main songwriter Ron Thal didn't disappear into complete obscurity after the private debut, but went a few steps further. In the late 90's he released 2 albums
on Shrapnel Records and by the start of the new millenium the band BUMBLEFOOT was born, first a quirky sort of FaithNoMore/Mr Bungle type thing, nowdays more in the Modern Hard Rock style (...and he was also in Guns'n'Roses, but let's not hold that against him. A man's gotta eat.)