Published on December 3rd, 2016 | by Justin G.
Emergency: Martial Law
After his departure from heavy metal band Picture, vocalist Pete Lovell joined an up and coming new Dutch band called Emergency. Lovell left Picture because he was frustrated about the label pushing the band to “sell out” and make more commercially-oriented melodic rock. Emergency, on the other hand, played…commercially-oriented melodic rock. Some things were just impossible to escape if you were trying to make hard rock in the mid-1980s.
Emergency released their debut album, titled Martial Law, in 1989 on a subsidiary of the BMG label. With its catchy hooks and prominent keyboards, you can tell right away Emergency was chasing after the same fans who put Bon Jovi and Europe on top of the charts. Sure, there’s a metal edge, but for the most part this is the kind of polished, radio-friendly melodic rock that you’d expect to find on every film soundtrack in 1989. Lovell sounds absolutely fantastic here, elevating these already solid songs to the next level. He has that combination of power and soulfulness that brings to mind the UFO’s Phil Mogg and the Uriah Heep albums with Peter Goalby. Seriously, shuffle Martial Law with Misdemeanor and Abominog and see how well they all go together. Lovell always sounded great in Picture, but we hear him in a whole new light here.
Martial Law is just a perfect time capsule of melodic rock in the mid to late ‘80s. The vocals are fantastic, the melodies are catchy, and the musicianship is tight. The whole album is full of “A” material, but songs like “Hiding in the Shadow” and “Running Out of Miracles” in particular should have been blasting out of car radios and MTV in 1988. And “Reaching Out” and “Dangerous” would have been perfect soundtrack selections at the time.
As commercially accessible as it was, Martial Law didn’t do well enough to make Emergency a success. It’s a shame given just how good this album is, but that was the reality for a lot of bands at the time. It may not have been a smash hit, but Martial Law is about as good as ‘80s era melodic rock gets. This is a must-have album for fans of Treat, China, Europe, Bon Jovi, Blue Tears and mid ‘80s UFO and Uriah Heep. And of course fans of Lovell’s work in Picture will want to hear this, assuming they have a tolerance for melodic rock.
Reissue Notes: After nearly 30 years, Martial Law was given a fresh look this year by the Divebomb label, who also gave us such nicely-done reissues of those classic Picture albums. Divebomb’s reissue not only puts this lost melodic rock gem back in fans’ hands; it also features newly remastered audio and a nice booklet with a new interview with Lovell and vintage photos. It looks great and sounds better. What are you waiting for?
Summary: Great reissue of a "picture" perfect melodic rock album.