- Golden Days
- We Are The Atoned
- You Don't Have To Go
- Your Move
- Get Ready
- The Love
The production is solid here; not polished or shiny, but with the variance of styles, it really shouldn't be. The instruments get a lot of room to work here, especially Rudd's top-notch bass work, and the guest guitar solos meld flawlessly into the mix of both songs. A special nod has to be given to drummer Chris McNeill, who handles all the various styles and tempos in amazing fashion! All the more impressive is the fact that McNeill is probably best known for his nearly two decades behind the kit in Glass Tiger...yes, THAT Glass Tiger...who while catchy, are decidedly NOT metal! You would never know it with the machine-like drumming that McNeill lays down on this record, flawlessly changing tempos and bouncing between styles seemingly without effort! I'm not sure if McNeill is someone the guys can round out their band with, but even if they don't, they certainly show that they are capable of delivering solid hard rock/metal music on Riveting Truth, and I am sure the addition of a drummer would be an undertaking the guys took very seriously before moving forward.
Very short at less than 18 minutes, the time factor hurts this EP a bit, but Roxx has the EP special priced at just $7.77 right now, so if you want to snag a copy, head over to www.roxxrecords.com to pre-order now.
Rating: I generally hate rating EPs due to their brevity, and the style changes on this one will throw some people, no doubt. Still, I crank this to a 7, as Riveting Truth handles both the melodic hard rock and the heavy/thrashy metallic styles equally well. Definitely an eye-opening debut.
Rating: Aside from a couple of lesser ballads, this is a great example of melodic rock in 2020 and a really strong effort overall. Fans of melodic hard rock, AOR, and "Westcoast" melodic rock should seek this out and crank it to 7.5!
That is not to say this LA Guns is bad, they just don't really sound like LA Guns. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Kurt Frohlich sounds very little like Phil Lewis, and Scott Griffin, who is a very talented guitarist in his own right, doesn't sound all that much like Tracii Guns with his style and approach. Additionally, the songwriting approach of this version of the band is less Hollywood sleaze and more straight-ahead, gritty hard rock. Oh sure, there are some notable tunes here, but don't look for a "Sex Action", "Ballad of Jayne", "Rip And Tear" or "Malaria", as that classic sound is generally not to be found on this record.
The album kicks off with the lead single, "Crawl", which is definitely one of the best tracks on the record and starts things off on a good note. While not a "classic" LA Guns sounding track, it isn't far off, at least as far as the bones of the song go, from the dirty rhythm guitars to the tight playing from both Riley and Nickels. But there is something not quite sleazy enough, not punkish enough to be a full-blown LA Guns track. And no, I'm not asking for a rehash of that 1987-91 classic sound from the first three records, but I am asking that the band sound at least akin to their namesake. "Crawl" has some nice guitar work from Griffin (formely Ratt's bassist), and its no surprise that Nickels and Riley are absolutely rock solid here, but their are some distinct differences that hold this track back. First, God bless him, but Frohlich just doesn't have Lewis's vocal prowess; there's no spit, no sneer, no snarl. Granted, I'm willing to be Frohlich is a better SINGER, but he is not the VOCALIST that Lewis is, at least for the style of music LA Guns is associated with. Secondly, where the heck is the down-n-dirty guitar solo?! Nickels lays into an extended bass run that could be classified as a solo, I suppose, but where the heck is Griffin? He never steps up and just blazes his way through the string-melter that you know Tracii would have slathered all over this song. In fact, for me, that missing guitar solo is really what takes this song down a notch from being a potentially great tune to just a pretty good one. Check it out and see if you don't agree.
"Why Ask Why" picks up the pace just a bit, and Griffin comes more prepared to play on this track, even ripping through a couple of nice lead runs, both after the second chorus and on the outro of the song, but again, the lack of Lewis is seriously felt here. On the verse sections, Frohlich sounds more like a higher-registered Sully Erna from Godsmack than he does the frontman for LA Guns, and on the chorus, things are just way too smooth. Again, a pretty good song, just nothing that is going to stick with me for very long.
And so goes much of the record. "Well Oiled Machine" really had me feeling pretty jazzed at the outset, only to have the weak chorus and predictable song structure leave me seriously wanting. The rhythm riffs hint at classic LA Guns, but the rest of the song is a letdown after a promising start. "Lost Boys" drops into mid-tempo territory on the verse sections then kicking things up a notch on the chorus sections, but those choruses are just so...weak? lame? tired? lyrically, and lack energy in the performance. At one point, the song feels more like a lesser version of the classic MSG tune "Anytime" than it does something that should end up on an LA Guns record. Griffin offers up one of his best solos here, no question, and again Nickels and Riley are every bit the rhythm section you would expect of two such-seasoned veterans, but the song is just not there.
"You Can't Walk Away" slows things down to near ballad territory and is one of the better tracks on the record, but not for the reason you might expect. It's not because mental images of "The Ballad of Jayne" are conjured up. No, it's because this sounds for all the world to me like a song written by and for...Tesla. Honestly, if Tesla were to record this song 30 years ago, I think it not only makes an album, but it might even get released as a single. I really, really like this song and Jeff Keith would have NAILED this song's style and delivery. In fact, if I close my eyes and really try, I can make myself hear this on Psychotic Supper as it has a kind of "Song And Emotion" feel to it. An honestly great song to my ears, just not for this band.
"Witchcraft" is a nice, dirty rocker that probably comes the closest to capturing the spirit and sound of classic LA Guns, and Griffin is likely at his peak here as a lead player. There's even an edge to Frohlich's vocals that really doesn't show up for most of the record that really adds to the song. And while still overly simple, the chorus has a sleazy sass to it that nothing else on this record really has, which helps the overall feel of the track immensely. So, two of the three best songs come back-to-back on the record here, but they are buried in the middle of an album that a lot of people will likely have given up by now. And in both cases, you can't help but know in your gut that the Lewis/Guns version would have performed these songs better.
"All That You Are" is just not a good song, despite the best efforts of Nickels who delivers some excellent bass work here. From all the "na na nas" and "hey! hey!s" to the overly extended "cry-e-i-e-i-e-in'" the lyrics are forgettable and their delivery...including the compressed, cliched "singing into a megaphone" delivery is so below LA Guns standards that the song makes me cringe. Riley sounds bored, quite honestly, and Griffin is again relegated to more of a gun-for-hire role as the lead player than the de-facto guitar god that an LA Guns player should be.
Things don't really pick up with "Would", either. In fact, as a largely acoustic ballad, it would be nearly impossible for "Would" to be a pick up, but you know what I'm getting at. Once again, not a terrible song, but this is just so not an LA Guns song. There's just nothing meaty to grab hold of here, which is a shame, because the performances aren't terrible. In fact, I like the music of this track which I really think would fit nicely into an Alice In Chains acoustic record, where you would expect something moody like this to show up. Overall, if nothing else, songs like this one, like "All That You Are", like "Well Oiled Machine" really show how much the Riley/Nickels version of the band pales in comparison to the Lewis/Guns version in the songwriting category. It's really not even close, honestly.
"Renegades" should be a daring, snarling song, but it absolutely is not. In fact, despite the fact that it is the title track, this has to be one of the most bland songs on the album and is completely forgettable. "Don't Wanna Know" brings the record to a close with a Guns N Roses kind of vibe...minus the big Slash solo...and is one of the songs that fits into the best half of the record, but it is far too late to do anything to salvage this album.
Overall, this isn't a terrible record, it's just not a really good record, and definitely NOT an LA Guns record for the most part. It's a generally solid listen with a couple of really good tracks and a handful of decent tunes, but a few songs find the band going through the motions and a couple are just flat-out misses for me. The production is good, overall, and the musicianship is above average, as well. The feel is just not LA Guns, however, and that is going to turn a lot of people off and likely cause them to distance themselves from this version of the band in the future. Would I go see the Riley/Nickels version of the band live? Probably once, just to see how Frohlich handles Lewis' vocals in the live setting, but I wouldn't be going to hear these new tunes. On the other hand, I would go see the Lewis/Guns version anytime, not just to hear the classics, but to hear the great new stuff they have released on their latest efforts, The Missing Peace and The Devil You Know. And, I guess therein lies a big chunk of the difference.
Rating: Rock this to a solid, if unspectacular 5.5 and wait to see how the other version of the band responds.
It is no secret I am a huge fan of the band Marenna, as I think they are producing some of the best melodic hard rock that you have likely never heard over the past decade. Since the Brazilian powerhouse vocalist jumped to Denmark's Lion's Pride Music, Marenna has released a tasty little tease of an EP with his self-titled band, and now this full-length follow-up with monster axe-slinger, Alex Meister! If you are a fan of the melodic hard rock style of the 80s, but with cleaner, beefier production, then this new "super group", Marenna/Meister is going to be exactly what you are looking for!
The album kicks off with the hard rocking "Out Of Touch", which I thought was a typo at first since the album's title is Out Of Reach. Turns out, this is simply one of those albums that doesn't have a title track. Regardless, this is a top-notch intro to this album, and right away the change in guitarist styles is different. The guitar players Marenna has used in his solo band have always been of high quality, especially on his debut, My Unconditional Faith, but with this album, things are ramped up quite a bit. The melodic quality is definitely still there, but Meister has a shred quality to his playing that was not as obvious in previous efforts. Marenna's powerful tenor is on full display from the start, and when the rhythm guitars kick in, it is obvious there is something special going on here. A solid bottom end from the bass and drums helps support the catchy song structure, and a massive solo ripping through the core of the track is pure icing on the cake, with the flash and flair from Meister bringing an additional spark to the always strong songwriting that Marenna brings to the table. A fantastic start to this record!
Next up is the album's lead single, "The Price Of Love", and the melodic goodness continues in a big way! Adding in a few keyboards, Marenna/Meister unleash an absolute must-hear track here, complete with big, layered vocals that intro the track and a driving guitar line that powers its way through the track. To me, this is the kind of melodic hard rock that was delivered so perfectly by bands like Baton Rouge and Babylon AD back in the day, and Marenna/Meister nails the sound and style here! Once again, Alex lays into an absolutely huge guitar solo here making the listener wonder why they have never had the chance to hear him bend strings before. The guy can flat out get after it! Excellent stuff, to be sure, but you can check out the lyric video below to get your own listen.
"Gimme All You Got" is another big, melodic rocker that is chock full of big hooks and a massive solo from Meister that really leaves me wondering why the guy isn't more well-known outside of South America. Seriously, this guy has guitar god charisma dripping off of him, he has the look, he has the chops, he has speed, he has melody...so why doesn't anyone know who he is??? Anyway, this track is so typical of the greatness that Marenna exhibits with his solo band, and it is only bolstered with Meister on guitars. Excellent melodic hard rock with Marenna's powerhouse vocals, some great layered vocals on the chorus sections, a strong bass presence throughout the track, and rock-steady drum work; what more could one ask for?
"I Don't Wanna Lose You" slows things down just a bit, teasing at a ballad with the intro before laying into a rifftastic mid-tempo rocker that absolutely nails the style! The opening guitar riff is reminiscent of something from Def Leppard before giving way to a song that feels more like a Tyketto track or something similar. Meister's solo here is among the best on the album as his finger do some serious flying up and down the frets and Marenna is dominant as usual. This is definitely a top three track for me on this record.
The opening guitar riff on "(There's So) Many Things" screams 80s hard rock radio...heck, the whole song does for that matter. The production on the drums is absolutely 1988, which is a GREAT thing, and the bass line locks in tight to support the solid rhythm guitars and yet another screaming solo from Meister. I've noticed that a lot of Marenna's accent is gone from this record, which makes his vocals all that much better even if the accent was never really a major issue for me in the first place.
"Sleeping With The Enemy" opens with a gritty guitar riff and a massive wail from Marenna and this dirty rocker is off and running! Probably my favorite track on the record, "Sleeping With The Enemy" really has everything an 80s rock fan could possibly be looking for, from a catchy guitar hook, a fret-burning solo, a simple, sing-along chorus, big arena-styled drums, and some really good backing vocal work. Were this 1989, this would likely be all over Headbanger's Ball.
"It Ain't So Easy (Loving You)" slows things down quite a bit, but I wouldn't really call this a power ballad so much as a slow-tempoed rocker. Marenna drops into the lower portion of his range, with the backing vocals following suit, and Meister lays into a smooth, soulful solo that is dead-on perfect for the track. This reminds me of something that Tyketto might have put out in their earliest days, with a lot of power backing the polish of the song, and I would again have to put this in the top three or four songs on the record. Love this tune.
"Dangerous Minds" has a funky bass riff and some excellent riffage going on and the song is a bit reminiscent of something Electric Boys were doing in their "Lips N Hips" days. Definitely more melodic in the vocals department, but you get the picture. And the album closes in fine fashion with another riff rocker in "Feel The Hunger", giving the listener one more chance to hear Marenna's vocal dominance and Meister's amazing guitar skills, including yet another scorching solo run. An absolutely great closer to an equally great record.
The CD comes with a bonus track, but unfortunately it was not provided to me for this review. This seems to be a licensing issue with some European labels, as rarely do I get bonus tracks in digital review packages. Such is life, I suppose. I am sure the track is of very high quality, as well, or Marenna would likely not have allowed its inclusion.
The production is very good, if not perfect. The mix is definitely top notch, and the guitars are very clear sounding, as is Marenna's vocals. There is a bit of an older sound to the production, which I found a bit odd considering how clean and melodic the material is, but after a couple of listens I honestly didn't even notice it any longer. Again, the production isn't muddy or dead sounding (dry, flat drums, lacking bass, etc.), it just isn't as...shiny as I might have expected. Honestly nothing lost in what is presented, however.
As much as I have loved Marenna's solo stuff, I have to say that I think I could find myself falling in line with Marenna/Meister even more, as the aggressive edge and enhanced guitar work really adds even more to what was already a favorite of mine. I hope that this is not a one-and-done project because I feel like M&M could really be onto something special here, which is a sentiment I think nearly everyone who hears Out Of Reach will agree with. Excellent stuff well worth seeking out!
Rating: Crankable in a big way! Crank this to 8.5!