Tuesday, April 3, 2012

LIBERTY N JUSTICE "Hell Is Coming To Breakfast"

(c) 2012 Roxx Records

  1. Hell Is Coming To Breakfast--Seann Nichols (Adler's Appetite/Tarsha), JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ)
  2. Madhatter--Donnie Vie (Enuff Z'Nuff), JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Chris Dickens (Mission Of One), Tommy Denander
  3. Whack A Mole--Johnny Lima, JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Jerry Johnson (Saint), Richard Lynch (Saint)
  4. Thanksful Heart--Phillip Bardowell (Magdallan/Unruly Child), Lynn Louise Lowrey (Vixen/Testify), Anthony Gravely
  5. Nakatomi Plaza--JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Greg Bishop (X-Sinner), Scott Weisenborn (Testify)
  6. Stretch Armstrong--Louis St. August (Mass), JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper/Ratt/LA Guns)
  7. Get Down--Tony Mills (TNT/Shy), Mark Allen Lanoue (Chasing Karma/Biloxi), Anthony Gravley
  8. Your Memory Just Won't Do (previously unreleased on CD)--CJ Snare (Firehouse), Alex Grossi (Quiet Riot), David Cagle
  9. Thy Will Be Done (demo version)--Jamie Rowe (Guardian/Crunch)
  10. What Do You Believe?--Mike Ledesma (Far Cry), Vic Rivera (Crunch)
  11. Monkey Dance (Alternate Mix)--Jack Russell (Great White)
  12. Sin (Acoustic Version)--Jani Lane (Warrant)
Justin Murr--Bass
A LOT of famous people doing a lot of other things!

Justin Murr and a bunch of his friends, namely Vic Rivera and JK Northrup, have been hard at work for the past couple of years on the next Liberty N Justice project The Cigar Chronicles, an ambitious, two-disc project of both new songs and cover tunes.  However, that process has taken much longer than initially planned, and Murr wasn't happy with leaving his fans without new LnJ music for that long.  Additionally, some of the songs that he had recorded for Chronicles didn't seem to fit the flow of that project, and the project's label asked that six songs be replaced.  So, rather than just discard the tracks, Justin took the songs to Roxx Productions, added in a couple of demos and alternate mixes, and...BAM...a new Liberty N Justice record was born!

Now, don't misunderstand; just because the "major label" didn't want these songs, this does not mean that the songs on Hell Is Coming To Breakfast are secondary tracks or lesser in sound quality or style, because they are not.  In fact, several of these tracks are among the best I have ever heard come out of the LnJ camp, which says a lot, as I have probably heard more songs in more forms than anyone except Justin!  No, these songs are not leftovers or wannabe's at all.  Rather, these are songs that had to be heard, regardless of who put them out.  It would have been a horrible shame if this album had not been made and these songs had never had the chance to be heard.

One thing that people will likely notice is that the songs are a bit more aggressive in nature than a lot of LnJ's previous material, and the production has a bit of a modern feel in several spots.  The songs still hold a melodic quality that fits well with the sound and style of the vocalists that have been chosen for this release, but there is no denying there is an edge not present on the Chasing A Cure album, for example.  Now, that edge does NOT carry over into the lyrics, at least in most cases, or the song titles, as these really show off a fun, goofy side of Liberty N Justice that many people may not have heard before.  With such great track titles as "Nakatomi Plaze" (Die Hard fans rejoice!), "Whack A Mole", and "Stretch Armstrong", it should be apparent that LnJ is mining some new territory here, or at least taking a new approach to delivering the Christian-based message that always shines through on Liberty N Justice songs.

The album's title track starts things off in the right direction, with a powerful vocal performance by Seann Nichols, formerly known as Sheldon Tarsha of Adler's Appetite.  JK Northrup of King Kobra/XYZ handles the guitars here, as he does on several tracks on this album, and there is a nice solo in this track that should keep fans of the melodic LnJ style very happy.  The follow-up, "Mad Hatter", continues the album in this melodic direction with Donnie Vie's unmistakeable vocals shining on top of Northrup's smooth, melodic guitars.

Track three is where things take a bit of a modern swerve off the typical LnJ musical path, but it works very well.  The most aggressive song on the album to this point, "Whack A Mole" really fits its title well, as this is a song that just keeps popping up in my head (and on my mp3 player), as it is extrodinarily catchy and features some great guitarwork from Northrup along with Jerry Johnson and Richard Lynch, both of Saint.  Lyrically, this song has a great message and the chorus is EXTREMELY infectious!  To be honest, I think I would enjoy hearing an album of nothing but this type of aggressive sounding music from Liberty N Justice, even if for just one album.  This is a well-executed, well-written song that people should give a chance before saying, "it's not my style".

"Thankful Heart" steers things sharply back into the more melodic, more typical Liberty N Justice sound...and then takes things in an almost praise and worship direction.  I really like Bardowell's vocals on this cover of a Petra tune that, quite frankly, I had forgotten about.  The guitars, which are handled by Anthony Gravley, compliment the smooth vocal delivery nicely, with a cool little solo that fits the song perfectly, not trying to steal the spotlight from the rest of the track.  The blatantly Christian lyrics and keyboards are what push this song into that praise and worship sound that I mentioned, but LnJ keep just enough guitar and drum in the song to keep it from crossing over into pure P&W pop territory.  Again, this is a style I would like to see Liberty N Justice explore for a full album...a more contemporary praise and worship style.  An excellent song with a great message.

Two of my three favorite tracks come up back-to-back next.  "Nakatomi Plaza" may win Best Song Title of the Year awards across the board, and "Stretch Armstrong" isn't far behind!  Titles aside, these are two smoking songs, again featuring a slightly more modern sound, that really show the power of this record.  "Nakatomi" has a definitely more aggressive attitude than most of the rest of the disc, especially in the buzzy guitars and the gritty vocal delivery.  I absolutely LOVE the way things from the Die Hard movies are worked into the lyrics, with Holly, the limo driver, yippee-ki-yay, and several other references popping up in lyrically relevant ways.  AWESOME song writing that, while exceptionally fun, also puts forth a great message.  This song, for me, would be the highlight of the disc were it nor for one other song, which I will get to in a bit.  "Stretch Armstrong" continues the more modern, yet still melodic, approach and features some killer axe-work from Keri Kelli.

"Get Down" returns to more familiar LnJ territory as far as style goes, and Tony Mills (TNT/Shy) pulls off one of the best vocal performances of the disc, and Mark Allen Lanoue of Chasing Karma lays down some really nice lead guitar tracks for this song, with Anthony Gravley handling the rhythm and bass guitars.  (By the way, I had never heard of Lanoue or his band previously, so I sought them out after hearing this track and I have to say I am a fan and will be looking to review their material here very shortly!)  This is a cover of an Audio Adrenaline song, but I have to say I prefer this version to the original. 

"Your Memory Just Won't Do" is a song that had never been released on CD before, and it is the last of the "new" songs on this collection.  Despite the fact that CJ Snare is credited on the track, the Firehouse singer does not handle vocal duty here; that distinction falls on David Cagle.  Never heard of him?  Me, either.  However, I can say this:  this self-proclaimed "demo singer" can hold his own vocally, delivering a smooth tenor to this acoustic track that also features Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot fame.  I am not really a fan of completely acoustic songs, especially on an album full of rockers, such as this disc, but this is a good song; it's just a bit out of place.  I think this would have worked really well on the Independence Day EP, which was comprised solely of acoustic/semi-acoustic numbers.  Not a skipper, but not overly memorable here, mostly because of the material that surrounds it.

A couple of familiar tunes find their way onto this album...at least familiar if you are already a fan of the band.  Jack Russell of Great White is featured on a reworked "alternate mix" of "Monkey Dance", which originally appeared a few years ago on the Independence Day album.  The vocal mix is the same, for the most part, but the music is tweaked a bit, especially on the bass line, giving the track a slightly more alternative, somewhat funky, feel.  I like this version, and have had a copy of it for quite some time, but I think I still prefer the original.  Another re-worked song is "What Do You Believe", which people who own the Light It Up album will recognize as "Do What You Believe".  Justin told me that this is the way the song was originally written, and there are some obvious lyrical changes here, especially with the different chorus, but musically it is not much different than the original.  Despite the fact that this is a demo version, vocally, Mike Ledesma from Far Cry does a very good job on this version, but it's almost unfair to have him follow CJ Snare of Firehouse who did the original album version of the track on Light It Up.  In all reality, it is almost like two different songs with the lyrical and vocalist changes, and the track stands up well here.  Also in demo form here is the song "Thy Will Be Done" which appeared originally on the Soundtrack Of A Soul album.  The big difference here is the change of vocalists; the original studio version featured Mark Slaughter and Pete Loran (Trixter), whereas this demo version, which was actually the scratch demo used to record the song, is performed by Jamie Rowe (Guardian/Crunch).  It's a tough call for me as to which version I prefer, as I am a BIG fan of Jamie's, but perhaps the fact that Mark and Pete's version is the one I heard first contributes to my preference for that version. 

This brings me to the album's closing track, "Sin".  I am not sure I can do justice to the power of this track.  Anyone who has heard the electric version of this song knows how well it is written.  However, when the electricity and distortion is stripped away, and Jani Lane's vocals are given the full, haunting range of emotion that he poured into this song, it truly becomes something both breathtakingly beautiful and achingly painful to listen to at the same time.  Despite the fact that this song was not written with Jani Lane in mind (it was turned down by Stryper's Michael Sweet due to time constraints), Lane truly owns this song.  It sounds so confessional when he begs God to "let me be the man I could have been, the one You first breathed Your life into".  It is also a song that I think anyone who is truly honest with themselves can relate to, as we all have sins and shame and temptations and desires that are not in harmony with God's plan for us and, therefore,create a type of war within ourselves.  This lends itself even more to the enormously powerful line "on a hill called Calvary, I repent and end this war".  All of this emotion is magnified even further when you add in the fact that this is the last song Lane would ever record and you allow yourself to ask "was Jani right with God when he died?  Was this how he truly felt as a person?", because this is as close to a prayer set to music as I have encountered in a long, long time.  I still get chills when I listen to this track...and I have literally listened to it dozens and dozens of times. 

Overall, this album may be a tad bit disjointed due to the various styles that are employed here, but that is part of the charm, I think.  This album is not meant to be a cohesive, completely smooth project, but more of a gift to the fans who have been patiently waiting for new Liberty N Justice material to tide them over until the Cigar Chronicles.  To this I need to add...The Cigar Chronicles has a lot to live up to in attempting to equal the best, strongest parts of Hell Is Coming To Breakfast!

To pre-order the album, head over to Roxx Productions by clicking here.

By the way, be sure to keep an eye our here or on the Christian Metal Realm for an exclusive interview with Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice!!!

Rating:  A great effort and well worth picking up!  Crank this to 8...and set "Sin" and "Nakatomi Plaza" to multiple repeats!!!

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