Thursday, December 27, 2012

ADLER "Back From The Dead"

(c) 2012 New Ocean Media

  1. Back From The Dead
  2. Own Worst Enemy
  3. Another Version Of The Truth
  4. The One That You Hated
  5. Good To Be Bad
  6. Just Don't Ask
  7. Blown Away
  8. Waterfall
  9. Habit
  10. Your Diamonds
  11. Dead Wrong
Jacob Bunton--Lead Vocals, Mandolin, Guitar, Piano
Lonny Paul--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Johnny Martin--Bass, Backing Vocals
Steven Adler--Drums and Percussion

Additional Musicians
Jeff Pilson--Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Slash--solo on "Just Don't Ask"
John 5--solo on "Good To Be Bad"
Michael Lord--Piano on "Waterfall"

I am always a bit leery of bands who use the name of one of their members for some reason.  I mean, yeah, things worked out pretty well for Van Halen, and Dokken has done well enough, even if they have had their personnel problems.  But usually, it comes across as just a grab to play off the strength of that person's name and the project ends up being a showcase for one guy with the others just being hired guns or bit players.  Adler had every chance for that to happen, as Steven Adler is not only a former member of one of the biggest hard rock bands to ever blast the planet, but he lived on that legacy for several years after being relieved of the drummer's seat in Guns N Roses with his own personal GnR tribute band, Adler's Appetite.  But in spite of the recipe for potential disaster, this album comes out smoking, cranks up the intensity, and never looks back in a no-holds-barred effort to make the listener completely forget what they may have thought they were going to hear when they picked up a Steven Adler project.

Perhaps the first thing I should do is dispense with the word "project", because that is not what Adler is.  Adler is a band, period.  This is patently obvious when the album is given it's first spin-through.  There is a cohesion to the band that is missing in most pieced-together project albums.  This is due in large part to the fact that the songwriting was handled by lead vocalist Jacob Bunton and lead guitar player Lonny Paul, with contributions from Dokken bassist, Jeff Pilson, who not only handled all of the bass tracks on the album but also produced it (Adler picked the songs that were used but did not contribute any credited writing).

Another important aspect of this band, and this album, is that neither makes an attempt at being the next Guns N Roses.  Jacob sounds nothing like Axl, and none of these songs sound anything like an Appetite... or an  ...Illusion song.  While it is easy to hear Bunton performing the lower-range GnR classics such as "Mr. Brownstone" or "Live And Let Die" in a live setting, he is himself 100% on this record, owing more to his approach in his other band, Lynam, than to anything that GnR ever did.  Likewise, the music is melodic and catchy, but owes more to modern radio rock than to the underbelly of 1985 Hollywood.  Don't take that to mean that there is no sense of urgency to the music, or that it lacks bite and grit, but this is an album with HUGE production and a modern slant to the sound, but without the bland sameness of sound that so many albums seem to have now.  Each track here sets itself apart from the others, with songs running the gamut here from the intense, upbeat, blues-rock of the title track, "Back From The Dead", to the bass-driven thump of "Dead Wrong", to the jaunty, sassy sing-along of "Good To Be Bad".  Back From The Dead truly has no weak spots, no bad songs, and no filler tracks to these ears, as all have the potential to garner the attention of active rock, modern rock, and satellite rock stations 

Just because everything here is good, don't think that means nothing stands out.  The three biggest numbers for me are the sweeping, emotion-drenched "Just Don't Ask", which features a certain top-hatted axe slinger contributing a HUGE melodic solo that only Slash can deliver, the equally powerful and melodic "Waterfall", and the totally out-of-left-field "Your Diamonds" which, as Bunton explains in a G2G interview, was written with 70's-era Journey in mind (trust me, you can't miss the inspiration once you have heard the song).  "Own Worst Enemy" is another big time number with gospel-styled backing vocals on the chorus and a big, Lonny Paul guitar hook that just embeds itself in the listener's brain.  Similarly, "Another Version Of The Truth" features a big, powerful chorus, a catchy hook, and a driving rhythm that is very hard to get out of your head once you have given it your full attention.  "Habit", the semi-biographical story of Adler (the man) is another infectious track that builds over the top of some solid, crashing drums and a great guitar riff before dropping into a sparse arrangement for the verses then kicking back into full-blaster mode on the choruses.      

I have heard some ignorant fools bag on this album as lacking in the GnR sound, but those people miss the point.  This is NOT Guns N Roses any more than Slash's solo stuff (or Duff's...or Izzy's...) is Guns N Roses.  Perhaps Adler brought some of this upon himself with his Adler's Appetite years, but people need to understand from the very moment they push play on this disc that there is NO intent, NO desire, NO effort to sound like Guns N Roses here.  This distinction is one of the big reasons Adler, the man, didn't want the band to be named after him; he wanted this band to stand on it's own.  If you are willing to be fair and honest with this record, then stand on it's own is what it does.  If, however, you are looking for "Welcome To The Jungle" or "Sweet Child O' Mine", you are going to be sorely disappointed...and you are going to miss out on one of the best records of the year.

Rating:  Pure crankability here!  Crank Back From The Dead to a smoking 9!

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