Welcome 2 My Nightmare Era
Welcome 2 My Nightmare is the 26th 'Alice Cooper' studio album and was released in September 2011. The album is a sequel to the 1975 hit Welcome To My Nightmare (see what he did there!) and again focuses on the nightmares of Alice's alter ego Steven.
Despite there being 36 years between them, the albums are closely linked with references to the original release present in the overall concept, the musical content and even the front cover. Another thing in common is Bob Ezrin as Producer, who returned for the first time in this role since the Dada album of 1983. He was joined by songwriter Desmond Child (the mastermind behind the hit Trash album) and a host of stars including Steven Hunter and the surviving members of the Alice Cooper Group for easily his most ambitious album in more than 20 years.
The album opens with the soaring power-ballad I Am Made Of You, which begins with the familiar piano intro to 'Steven' from the original Nightmare album. Alice has likened this track to Hello Hooray from Billion Dollar Babies, but I personally think it bears more in common with the equally epic 'Might As Well Be On Mars' from Hey Stoopid (in terms of its sound anyway, with the common link being Desmond Child). It is, in all fairness, a superb song which sets the bar exceptionally high. It's also unusual in that Alice's voice is clearly manipulated by a Cher vocoder-style effect. Based on the context of the song however, it's a bit of a masterstroke as it helps to give meaning to the lyrics. By this I mean that the song is clearly based on Alice discovering his faith, with him essentially plucked out of the darkness and into the light (cue end of effect).
The ambience of I Am Made Of You is quickly shattered by the fanfare introduction to Caffeine (you know straight away that the album will provide considerable variety as the first two songs are as different as you could imagine). This is a great track with Alice playing the part of sleep-deprived Steven, who will do anything to stay awake. His voice has a wonderful desperation to it as he screams "Caffeine, Caffeine"!
The Nightmare Returns takes us through Steven's decline from being drugged up to his eyeballs, to tiredness, to fast sleep. This has a real Nightmare On Elm Street Feel to it with the nursery rhyme style introduction which is tremendously creepy. The arrival into the nightmare is brought on in crashing style with a similar arrangement to This House Is Haunted from The Eyes Of Alice Cooper album.
Finally, we’re into the nightmare (or at least on the train to it) as Alice teams up with surviving Alice Cooper Group members Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith on A Runaway Train, a track based on the song Subway from Dennis' 2006 solo album Bones From The Yard. It’s a triumphant return too on a song that, unusually, has no chorus.
Last Man On Earth is one of the standout tracks on the album. With the train having crashed, and Steven believing himself to be the last man on earth, we are treated to a musical bravado from Alice that gives a nod to the classic Some Folks from the original Nightmare album. I really like this one, especially the snarl to Alice’s lyrics, a definite classic! The track ends and is followed by....................... muted applause!
The Congregation has the feel of a more modern rock / metal track and would not have been out of place on Dragontown. Similarities have been drawn between this track and material by The Beatles (and to a lesser extent, Oasis) but I don’t see this personally. It’s a good track which is only slightly spoilt by a rather under-par appearance from Rob Zombie, who appears as 'The Guide' but is no Vincent Price (who played the role of 'The Curator' on the original album). I particularly like the concept though, with the song based on the type of people you’d probably find in hell (not the devil, but lawyers, pimps and mimes!).
The first single from the album, I'll Bite Your Face Off is an upbeat rocker, which has drawn comparisons to some Rolling Stones material. This is probably true and is no bad thing as this is a definite radio friendly toe-tapper (even if there is a somewhat irritating 'corkscrew' noise present in the background). An interesting point is that the riff for this track is derived from the song Evil Voodoo Moon by Neal Smith, which featured on his Killsmith Two album (also released in 2011).
If the wheels came off the track on A Runaway Train then Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever is where it happens a little for the album itself. It’s not a terrible track but it’s so far removed from the rest of the album (disco music mixed with rapping!) that it doesn’t sound right here. Now that’s saying a lot bearing in mind there is so much variation here anyway! I love the concept again though, with Alice summing up life in a nightclub pretty much perfectly. The guitar driven element towards the end of the song is a nice twist and Alice should be given credit for doing something very different. It's not the first time though as the song demonstrates several similarities to You Gotta Dance from Goes To Hell.
Musically, things get back on track with the splendid beach-rocker Ghouls Gone Wild. Unlike many, I like this track, which has a similar style to the Keepin’ Halloween Alive single. However, it's place on the album is a little questionable and I can't help thinking that this track, plus the previous one, spoil the storyline a bit.
I’m not totally sure how Something To Remember You By (the Grammy-nominated customary Alice ballad) fits into the nightmare theme either. It is, however, an extremely classy track (well, as nice as you can get if you're singing to a corpse) and one that was apparently written many years ago by Alice and Dick Wagner. My only criticism is that it sounds very similar to previous offerings such as Every Woman Has A Name and Killed By Love.
When Hell Comes Home, which features the Alice Cooper Group, is a tremendous, intensely dark track, and reminds me of the equally classic Dead Babies from Killer. The lyrics focus on the domestic problems caused by an abusive, drunken father and see Alice and co. at their sinister best.
What Baby Wants, the unlikely duet with pop star Kei$ha (who plays The Devil) is surprising in that it’s rather tolerable. What strikes you the most is that it has a very similar sound to Michael Jackson’s classic hit Beat It.
I Gotta Get Outta Here, the Escape of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, is a great track in that it retrospectively pulls together the album's story. It’s also great fun as Steven learns, to his horror, that there is no escaping the nightmare this time round, as he is in fact ............ Dead!
Closing the album out is The Underture, a marvellous collection of orchestral pieces from both Nightmare albums that are joined seamlessly. The featured tracks are:
> Welcome To My Nightmare;
> The Awakening;
> Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever;
> Only Women Bleed;
> Something To Remember Me By;
> Devil's Food;
> The Black Widow;
> Ghouls Gone Wild;
> I Am Made Of You;
> Years Ago; and
Creating a sequel to such a classic album was always going to be a bit of a risk. But, all-in-all, Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a triumph, as it stays true to the original version, but in an uncontrived and fresh manner that proved how versatile Alice and co. continued to be after so many years.
In total, there are four bonus tracks associated with this album, which could be obtained by purchasing different editions of the release. I have reviewed them below, which might help you to decide which version(s) to purchase:
Under The Bed (available on the Classic Rock Collector's Pack)
A criminal exclusion from the album and a song that everyone should possess (apparently, it was left out as it didn’t quite fit into the theme). I would draw comparisons to this song with Wind Up Toy from Hey Stoopid which just happens to be one of my all-time favourite Alice tracks.
A Bad Situation (available on the iTunes edition only)
A fairly laid back rocker with a comical edge to the lyrics. Not a bad track but not essential by any means.
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (available on the standard and 'Deluxe Edition' CDs only)
A cover of the 1965 track of the same name by The Animals, this is more than bearable, but has nothing in common with the nightmare theme.
Flatline (available on the vinyl edition only)
This has to be one of the most obscure 'songs' Alice has ever done. It is basically a series of beeps and is, I guess, supposed to depict Steven’s death (as announced in I Gotta Get Out Of Here). The track interested many when it was announced but, as it turns out though, it is pretty pointless, especially as it is the only track on Side B of Disc 2!
Welcome 2 My Nightmare Vinyl Album
2011, Spinefarm Records, 602527805474
The European vinyl copy of Welcome 2 My Nightmare features a gatefold sleeve and includes 2 translucent 'Blood Red' discs, a striking double-sided poster, a large glossy booklet and a coupon allowing you to download the album in MP3 format.
As with Welcome To My Nightmare, the front of the sleeve features an image of (an older looking) Alice / Steven emerging from a dark triangle surrounded by bugs. Sadly, the subdued majesty of the original is not matched, as the new incarnation is based on a rather poor, comic-like, photograph that not only looks somewhat tacky, but also negatively impacts your initial perception of the album. A further image, with Alice's back turned away, is provided on the rear of the sleeve.
Inside the gatefold sleeve, some impressive further artwork is provided including a nice re-creation of the original Welcome To My Nightmare album cover (which would have looked much better on the front!). The large booklet contains further impressive artwork and includes track listings, lyrics and credits. The double-sided poster features the re-created Welcome To My Nightmare image on one side and a really sinister looking drawing of Alice, which is the polar opposite of that found on the album front cover!
Like other editions of the album (below), this version features an exclusive bonus track. This time it's Flatline, which is not really a track as such and more a series of beeps from a life support machine in a hospital. Certainly not essential by any means, but it does provide an interesting alternative end to the album!
Discogs Link: Click Here
Welcome 2 My Nightmare 'The Radio Show' Promotional CD
This USA CD was produced for radio shows as a means of promoting the Welcome 2 My Nightmare album. It is hosted by Gary Moore and features a biography, generic interviews with Alice and extracts of tracks from the new album (i.e. I'll Bite Your Face Off, Last Man On Earth, Runaway Train, Something To Remember Me By, Caffeine and I Gotta Get Out Of Here) and some of his classic ones (I'm Eighteen, Welcome To My Nightmare, No More Mr Nice Guy and Poison). It is spread over 3 segments which presented radio stations with the opportunity to easily slot adverts between. Also included are 2 short promotional soundbites.
The CD comes in a jewel case complete with simple paper inlay. On the back are track listings and together with information for radio stations. A release date of Tuesday, September 13th 2011 is stated.
Both the CD and rear of the case state 'FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY - NOT FOR SALE'.
Discogs Link: Click Here
Welcome 2 My Nightmare CD Album
2011, Spinefarm Records, 0602527805276
This European CD version of Welcome 2 My Nightmare comes in a jewel case and includes a simple booklet featuring track listings, lyrics and credits.
In addition to the standard 14 album tracks, this version contains the bonus track We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, which is a pretty decent cover of the 1965 song of the same name by The Animals.
Discogs Link: Click Here
Welcome 2 My Nightmare CD Deluxe Album
2011, Spinefarm Records, 0602527805504
This 'Limited Edition Deluxe Album' CD version of Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a nicer offering than the standard edition (above). It comes in a 'Digibook' case and offers a superior booklet with lots of additional artwork, a beautifully illustrated 'Nightmare Express' ticket and the excellent double-sided poster that was included with the vinyl version (above).
This version also includes 3 bonus tracks, which are We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (again) plus live versions of No More Mr Nice Guy and The Black Widow from the 2011 Download festival). I have to say, I'm not a fan of live material being included on studio albums, so don't really understand why it was thought necessary to do this.
Discogs Link: Click Here
Welcome 2 My Nightmare Classic Rock Collector's Pack
2011, Future Publishing, 1-858704-20-0
Welcome 2 My Nightmare was subject to a 'Limited Edition' UK release as a Classic Rock Magazine 'Collector's Pack' in September 2011 (nearly a month before the official album release date). The packs were available via mail order and at music stores / newsagents and cost a very reasonable £14.99. Similar releases had previously seen artists like Slash and Whitesnake featured. To entice fans further, the following was on offer:
1. The CD album in exclusive Digibook format including 2 bonus tracks (the exceptional Under The Bed and a non-essential live version of Poison from the 2011 Download festival). The booklet was the same as that provided in the Deluxe Edition CD (above) only that it was part of the Digibook;
2. A fantastic 132-page magazine almost entirely devoted to Alice, which included a track-by-track guide to the album, a biography, reviews of historical releases, a pick of the top 40 Alice songs from across his career to-date plus some other interesting material;
3. A metal pin badge;
4. A double-sided Alice poster; and
5. An Alice card face mask.
Furthermore, those who pre-ordered also received an additional double-sided poster with their name printed in small writing on one of the images. Last but not least, some packs also come bundled with an unadvertised Alice make-up set. My version includes both of these items.
All-in-all this is an outstanding offering with the magazine and, of course, the album itself being the highlights. It was therefore well worth the asking price and I highly recommend hunting out a copy if you don't already have one!
Discogs Link: Click Here
Welcome 2 My Nightmare Classic Rock iPad App
2011, Future Publishing
Following hot on the heels of the Classic Rock Collector's Pack (above) came this innovative iPad App. It essentially included the same content in digital form as the magazine from the original Collector's Pack, but with the addition of some great video interview with Alice (in full make-up). Users are also treated to the promotional video of I'll Bite Your Face Off plus some footage from the iconic Club 100 gig in London from 2011.
Also included was a digital copy of the album and links to iTunes versions of Alice's back-catalogue. There was, of course, none of the physical items that came bundled with the original Collector's Pack but it was still good value for the £14.99 charge.
Which Version of Welcome 2 My Nightmare Should I Buy?
There are 6 different UK versions of the album for fans to choose from (all featured above):
> Vinyl edition;
> Standard CD edition in jewel case;
> Deluxe Edition CD in Digibook case;
> Classic Rock Collector's Pack CD in Digibook case;
> iPad App; and
> Digital download (including a further original bonus track, A Bad Situation).
If I was going to have only one then it would definitely be the Classic Rock Collector's Pack. If you can still track it down (original retail price was £14.99) then it's a must have product as it comes with the CD in hard back case, an Alice magazine and some other goodies. It also features the excellent Under The Bed, which is easily the best of the bonus material that's available.
If you can't find a copy of the Classic Rock Collector's Pack, and are lucky enough to own an iPad, then go for the Welcome 2 My Nightmare App, which features most of the Collector's Pack magazine content plus video introductions from Alice himself. A major downside is that the music does not become available on iTunes and therefore cannot be burnt to CD or moved onto your other digital music players.
Welcome 2 My Nightmare SHM CD Album
2012, Spinefarm Records, UICY-15123
The first thing you notice about this release is that it's not a replica Mini LP like all the other Japanese Alice Cooper SHM CD's (which cover the period from Pretties For You through to From The Inside). This is a bit of a shame as they were such impressive products. Instead, the packaging is similar to the standard CD version (above) but with a near identical version of the Deluxe Edition booklet. An additional black-and-white bilingual lyric booklet and external 'Obi Strip' are also provided (both of which are common features of Japanese music releases).
The most notable difference, however, is that this version comes with yet another variation of material to all the UK releases. Here we get the standard 14 tracks plus Under The Bed and Poison live (originally from the Classic Rock Collector's Pack version) and No More Mr Nice Guy and The Black Widow live (originally from the Limited Edition Deluxe Album version).
Being an SHM version the audio (apparently) sounds louder and crisper than the standard UK versions, so this is probably worth picking up and using as your master copy.
Discogs Link: Click Here
I'll Bite Your Face Off Promotional CD Single
2011, Spinefarm Records
This rare UK promotional CD single comes in a simple folded paper sleeve and includes the 'Single Edit' of I'll Bite Your Face Off (which is very similar to the album version, only with the instrumental section in the middle of the song shortened) and the album version of Caffeine (the disc is a blue CD-R type offering).
The back of the sleeve includes the 2011 UK tour dates. There is also a sticker on the clear wallet stating:
I'll Bite Your Face Off' released August 22nd on Spinefarm Records
Alice Cooper pays tribute to The Rolling Stones on new single 'I'll Bite Your Face Off / Caffeine' released August 22nd, taken from the forthcoming album 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' released September 12th. Recorded with longtime collaborator Bob Ezrin, who produced the original multi-platinum Welcome To My Nightmare album in 1975, the record picks up right where they left off, with Alice trapped in his own warped mind.
'I'll Bite Your Face Off' delivers a Rolling Stones-esque groove featuring an iconic chorus that has already become a crowd favourite at Alice's live gigs around the world.
Both the CD and rear of the sleeve state 'PROMO USE ONLY'.
Discogs Link: Click Here
I'll Bite Your Face Off 7" Vinyl Single
2011, Spinefarm Records, LC 01846
This 'Limited Edition' European 7" picture disc features the 'Single Edit' of I'll Bite Your Face Off (which is very similar to the album version, only with the instrumental section in the middle of the song shortened) and a live version of the song from Download Festival, Donnington, UK on 11th June 2011.
Discogs Link: Click Here
A Runaway Train Promotional CD Single
2011, Universal Music
This USA promotional CD comes in a jewel case and features a single-sided paper insert. On the back is the following text:
"A Runaway Train" is the scorching follow-up up to his Top 5 Classic Rock (#2) and Top 30 Mainstream Rock (#30) first single from Welcome 2 My Nightmare "I'll Bite Your Face Off" - and offers its own powerhouse audio non-stop cinematic thrill ride - and check out that madcap guitar solo break courtesy of Vince Gill!
We hope you get creative with us and celebrate Halloween in true "Alice style" with this killer rock track, guaranteed to shock and spook your audience in the best way - Alice's current tour returns stateside on November 29th, check out the details on www.alicecooper.com - and let's partner up for Halloween and Alice's tour dates in a big way!
Promotional opportunities are available.
Both the CD and rear of the case state 'FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY NOT FOR SALE'.
Discogs Link: Click Here
Welcome 2 My Nightmare Promotional Flyer
This postcard-sized promotional card flyer promotes the Welcome 2 My Nightmare album, with special focus on the vinyl version (above).
For the Paranormal era Click Here.