Monday, November 28, 2016

DIMINO "Old Habits Die Hard"

(c) 2015 Frontiers Records

  1. Never Again
  2. Rockin' In The City
  3. Can't Stop Loving You
  4. The Rain's About To Fall
  5. Even Now
  6. Tears Will Fall
  7. Mad As Hell
  8. Sweet Sensation
  9. Tonight's The Night
  10. The Quest
  11. Stones By The River

Frank Dimino--Lead Vocals
Justin Avery--Keyboards
John Miceli--Drums
Danny Miranda--Bass

Guest Musicians
Oz Fox (Stryper)--Guitars
Punky Meadows (Angel)--Guitars
Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint)--Guitars
Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister)--Guitars
Ricky Medlocke (Blackfoot)--Guitars
Pat Thrall (Hughes/Thrall)--Guitars
Paul Crook--Guitars

Every now and then, I get releases that completely seem to come out of left-field, totally unannounced, and 100% unexpected.  DIMINO did exactly that for me when it was sent to me for review, and this was for a couple of reasons.  First, the album is over a year old (didn't know that when I got it), and was just NOW sent to me.  Second, I hadn't heard ANYTHING from Dimino since his days in Angel, although I had heard he has made an appearance or two with the Sin City Sinners out in Las Vegas.  Other than that...nothin'.

Then Old Habits Die Hard shows up out of the blue.  And, I have to say, I'm actually pretty glad it did!

The first thing that most people will grab onto is the fact that this is essentially Dimino with an all-star backing band, of sorts.  Not only does he have a total Who's Who of guitar players on board here, but even his "band" is a bunch of recruits from Meat Loaf.  Secondly, with the addition of Punky Meadows as a guitar player here, there are likely to be those who wonder if this record will sound anything like Angel.  The answer is a short, sweet, but emphatic...NO.

One thing to note immediately is that Dimino has brought his vocal range WAY down from the rafter-scraping heights it sometimes reached in Angel.  Yes, he can still belt out a pretty good, high-pitched scream, as evidenced in "Sweet Sensation", for example, but on this record, Dimino uses a much more blues-based, mid-range tenor than the falsetto some people will remember him for from the 70s with Angel.   Think of the range of Biff Byford from Saxon, Dave Meniketi from Y&T, or possibly David Reece from Bangalore Choir/Accept/Tango Down as far as where his vocals tend to center themselves pitch-wise.  

What we have here is a nice collection of bluesy hard rock that runs the range from galloping rockers, like the album opener, "Never Again", the straight out of the 80s metal scene, "Rockin' In The City", to the amped-up, hard-charging "Mad As Hell", which reminds me musically of a classic mid-80s Y&T.  All really, really good stuff that had me grinning from the get-go, but nothing even remotely Angel-esque in its approach.  

In fact, a lot of this record has a solid 80s-era Y&T feel to it, which may be why I find myself digging it so much, as Meniketti and Co. has long been a Top15 band for me.  Take the previously mentioned "Sweet Sensation", for example.  We have some really good, hard power chord rock here, a soulful-yet-edgy vocalist who can let a wail rip when he wants to, a conservative use of the organ in the background, all running atop a simple bluesy rhythm section with a nice hook and a fairly impressive guitar solo.

"Tonight's The Night" liberally borrows from "Johnny B. Good" in its guitar approach on the intro and leading into hyper-simplistic chorus sections, and is a fun, if not overly memorable, rocker that flashes one of the catchier guitar solos on the record.

For those who are looking for a bit of 70s nostalgia, there are a couple of songs that will likely fit the bill.  "Tears Will Fall" has a definite 70s classic rock sound, but it has more in common with Rainbow than Angel, in my opinion, both musically and vocally.  "The Quest" is going to be another nostalgic choice here, and it is done very, very well and is probably my second favorite song on the record.  The driving guitar riff and harmonic solo, the excellently integrated Hammond in the background...and then on a solo of its own...the layered "dreamy" vocals on the bridge, and the simple-yet-sharp drums all hearken back to a time when Angel was making it's cult presence know, but Angel, this is not, as once again, Dimino's vocals are huskier and, dare I say, more powerful than they ever were in Angel. 

Album closer, "Stones By The River" starts off with a really cool blues rock riff and a simple kick drum leading in a song that has something of an old time gospel song feel to it.  Once again, Dimino's vocals are directly in their wheelhouse here, as his new bluesy rasp fits perfectly on this slower, more laid back number.

Dont' go into this album expecting a resurrection of Angel or that style, and I can pretty much guarantee you are going to love it, especially if you love blues-based 80s -era hard rock (NOT hair metal) like Y&T, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, etc.  However, if you are looking for a throwback to the Angel days, you are bound to be sorely disappointed, as this is NOT the record for you.

Not sure why it got here so late...but really glad it got here!

Rating:  Really good stuff here.  Crank this up to 8 and let the rocking begin!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

OTHERWISE "From The Roots: Volume 1"

(c) 2016 Another Century/Century Media

  1. For The Fallen Ones 
  2. Love & War
  3. Crimson
  4. Vegas Girl
  5. Die For You
  6. Never Say
Adrian Patrick--Lead Vocals
Ryan Patrick--Guitars
Tony Carboney--Bass
Brian Mederos--Drums

So...apparently the MTV Unplugged movement didn't die with the Stripped series which featured a lot of the hair bands of the 80s offering up acoustic renditions of their biggest hits.  Las Vegas rockers Otherwise have also decided to...not rock?  Well, kind of.  From The Roots: Volume 1 is an all-acoustic set or songs from the foursome, featuring three new renditions of songs from their major label debut, True Love Never Dies, plus three from their most recent studio effort, Peace At All Costs.

One thing to note on these acoustic re-workings here is that they are just  The arrangements are altered, which was more than necessary in a couple of places, and more for effect in a couple of others.  So, if you are a purist who only wants to hear songs in their original format...why the heck are you even picking this EP up in the first place?!  Anyway...

The first two tracks come from Peace At All Costs, with "For The Fallen Ones" and "Love & War" getting the first run at things.  Both are done very well, with the interplay between the Patrick brothers being a focal point not only here, but throughout the record.  "For The Fallen Ones" has some of the coolest percussion on this entire EP, with the tambourine and snare being the main instruments used, but it also sounds like some maracas or shakers of some sort are also being utilized, giving the track a bit of a Latin percussive element.  "Love & War" is an interesting turn on a pretty hard rocker, and I think it works pretty well in this format.  It has something of a country rock feel to the track in this format, although Adrian doesn't slip into any twang territory vocally.  Obviously there are some dynamics that are changed when you venture into the acoustic realm, but I think the band handled it very well on these first two tracks, as well as follow-up, "Crimson", from True Love Never Dies.  Here, Adrian softens up his vocal approach, giving an extra bit of emotion to the track and really driving home the feeling on one of my favorite album cuts from the band.

The only real stumble for me comes on track 4, as "Vegas Girl" comes across like an acoustic lounge song, although the arrangement allows for the song to morph entertainingly into "Horse With No Name" for one verse and a chorus, before flowing seamlessly back into the original track.  I will guarantee this is a hit in a live setting, but here, while cute a few times, it wears itself out after repeated listens.  And, while it's humorous to hear Adrian drop the f*bomb in this track (he REALLY emphasizes the "ck" at the end of the word with just makes it completely pop out of the acoustic setting it is surrounded by), as I've stated before, I can easily live without a bunch of swearing in songs...especially this word...and it sounds rather juvenile after a time.  That being said, I can't deny it made me chuckle the first couple of times I heard it.

"Die For You" stays the closest to its original song structure, and probably works better than any of the re-recorded material presented here in that aspect, which makes sense since it is the biggest hit the band chose to rework on this effort.  Ryan uses a flamenco-sounding style on the solo here, which is really cool, and Adrian, again, shows just how powerful his voice can truly be.  Also, Tony's bass work is a bit more noticeable here than on other cuts.  I'm not sure if he's using a traditional acoustic 4 string...I'm assuming it's not an upright...but he definitely gets some feel going here.

The album closes with "Never Say" from Peace..., and, again, the band tinkers with the song structure a bit, but the punch of this rocker still shines through more than on any of the other tracks.  I would actually go so far as to say I prefer this version, to be honest, and I am anxious to see if it makes it into the band's live set, as I think it most accurately conveys the personality of this typically high-energy, high-interaction band.

The name of the album leads one to believe that there will be a second acoustic EP at some point in the future.  If they do decide to go this route, I hope the band steps a bit out of their comfort zone and tackles some of the harder/heavier songs in their catalog.  I would be particularly interested to hear "Coming For The Throne", "Darker Side of the Moon", and "Soldiers"...maybe even "Demon Fighter"... given the acoustic make-over, just to see where they decide to take the tracks.   

Musically, this EP is extremely clean, with no squeaks and squawks from the acoustic guitars, and Ryan really gets the chance to showcase just how good of a guitar player he is.  That's one thing about an acoustic record that I love; your strengths and your weaknesses are really laid bare for the listener, without a lot of production tricks to cover up mistakes or musical deficiencies.  Likewise, Adrian's vocals are very strong and very clear, with no real backing vocals used anywhere on the record.  I'm guessing that this album was tracked and not just recorded as a single in-studio jam session, so there could be a good deal of cleaning up that was done here, but it doesn't bother me either way.  The quality of the final product is what matters, at least to me.  The band has nothing to "prove" to me with this set.

The packaging is very simplistic, with just a simple thank you list to the bigger contributors to this fan-funded effort, and a single black and white band photo under the clear disc tray.  My copy is autographed by the band (my scanner is down at the moment, so I had to snag this picture from the 'Net), and, yes, I was a campaign contributor.

All in all, this is a cool little set that I have played several dozen times already.  Will it become a long-laster for me?  Honestly, I doubt it, as acoustic albums don't do a ton for me unless there is new material on it, but I can see myself putting it in from time to time, much the same as I do with Alice In Chains' or Godsmack's acoustic efforts, or even Bon Jovi's, for that matter.  There is certainly nothing wrong with the performances here that would deter me from popping it in when the mood strikes.

Rating:  Taken for what it is, rock this at a really good 6.5.  Once the shine is off the humor of "Vegas Girl", it drops things for me just a bit, otherwise this EP would likely have reached crankable territory.  Still very much worth picking up, especially for fans of the band or for fans of acoustic rock in general.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

SCATTERED HAMLET "Swamp Rebel Machine"

(c) 2016 Buck Moon Productions

  1. Battle Hymn
  2. Whip-Poor-Will
  3. Stonewall Jackson
  4. Four Barrel Mojo
  5. White Trash
  6. Swamp Rebel Machine
  7. Green Bastard (featuring Johnny T. Crash)
  8. Outlaw Breed
  9. Rimfire
  10. Buckshot
  11. The Lesson
Jake Delling Le Bas (Drums, Percussion, Vocals)
Adam Joad (Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar)
Adam Newell (Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals)
Richard Erwin (Bass, Vocals)

Okay, before you read any further, I want you to do three things.  1)  Look at the album cover...I mean really look at it.  2)  Check the names of the songs here.  3)  Look at the instruments played by band members.

Got all of that done?, the image you get in your mind is probably nowhere near as sleazy, swampy, or southern as Scattered Hamlet actually is!

To best describe this band, all I can say is imagine taking a southern rock band, with the Confederate Rebel flag AND the Don't Tread On Me flag both in tow, mixing in a handful of Harley Davidson motorcycle grease and about 10 gallons of swamp water, a thick dollop of sleaze metal....and then stirring it up with the moan of a slide guitar...and you have a decent idea of where Scattered Hamlet is coming at you from, musically.  And even then, you may find yourself blindsided by this band whose members probably only come to town every now and then because there's electricity to plug their instruments into!

The CD opens with some swamp sounds...frogs, birds, water, etc...leading into the marching drum cadence you would likely expect from a song called "Battle Hymn", but it also utilizes the type of horror movie vocal overlays that Rob Zombie likes to infuse into his songs to such great effect.  When I first popped the disc in, I thought I was probably looking at another intro, which we all know I'm not that into, but then a shotgun blast hits and Joad's vocals come snarling up from beneath the green film of the swamp these guys have crawled out of, with guitars gurgling right up alongside that voice, chug-chug-chugging their way to the surface to grab you by the throat and commands you to sit your ass down and listen.  

"Whip-Poor-Will" continues the gut-wrenching sludginess, with Joad's vocals at times recalling a slightly less pissed off Phil Anselmo if he fronted a biker band in a dive bar in the deep south.  Some classic guitar rock elements combine nicely with metallic edginess to churn the sound to an angry, sleazy froth with a solid nod to the drumming of LeBas here, as he labors fast and furious to keep the track thumping along, not allowing it to drift off course at all.  "Stonewall Jackson" one of my favorite tracks, musically, follows suit, as the slide guitar solo, alongside the much more punkish-sounding guitars that are also utilized on the solo, really give it a southern-fried metal sound that serves the band well.

"Four Barrel Mojo" is the required metallic shuffle song on the record, although the chorus section breaks out of the breakneck two-step pace and into more of a mosh-pit mentality.  Joad's vocals here carry hints of Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat at times, especially in the way he phrases the verses and the little snarl he adds to the end of certain words.

"White Trash" is another fun rocker that is a definite nod to the sleaze rock of old, again utilizing a Faster Pussycat approach to the spare use of instruments underneath the verses before fully ripping into the chorus sections.  Easily one of my two or three favorites here,

The title track revisits that swamp scene I mentioned at the outset of the record, but it doesn't take long for the bottom end of the guitars to start muddying up the serene scene, churning up the waters and leading the vocals into the slowly building mosh that is stirred up to full force by the time the chorus hits.  There are a lot of moving parts musically on this track, with tempo changes, a breakdown of sorts, and a pretty cool guitar solo to boot.

"Green Bastard" is as much punk as it is biker rock or metal, especially in the chorus section, while "Outlaw Breed" drives the band back to the more sleaze-styled approach used on "Four Barrel Mojo" and "White Trash".  The harmonica intro to "Rimfire" doesn't do anything to warn you of the full-throttle fist-pumper of a biker-boogie track that is to follow just 30 seconds later, and "Buckshot" revisits the Anselmo-lite vocal style of vocals in a slow build of a track that eventually breaks out into a pretty cool bluesy-metal guitar solo in a rather surprisingly uptempo track.

The album closes with the band's epic track, "The Lesson", which clocks in at nearly 8 minutes in length. Opening with a very "For Those About To Rock" AC/DC styled riff and build, the band backs off to give Joad's angry vocals room to build and name-drop Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues", Waylon Jennings, Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Simple Man", and all things southern-fried country...but with a bucket of sludgy metal thrown in for good measure.   As unmatched and unrelated as all those things may seem, "The Lesson" has a definite Outlaw country feel to the lyrics and to the meaning behind the story, kinda like what David Allen Coe did with "The Ride" (look it up), while the music allows the band to showcase any number of musical influences without ever letting the listener forget that this is deep-south biker metal, not Nashville-slick country or LA styled glam.  Surprisingly good and again, one of my top three tracks here.

The mix is very well done here, and the production is a sleaze fan's delight, particularly in the treatment of the guitars and vocals.  The packaging is every bit as simple as you would likely expect it to be, with a simple single-fold insert with a band photo and credits, but no lyrics.  

Not sure what I expected when I popped this in, but what came out was NOT my expectation...and that's a good thing.  Scattered Hamlet is so much more than I anticipated, and deserves your attention...and will demand it if you don't give it willingly!  There is really very little to not like here, but if I had to drop a track, it would be "Green Bastard"...and that's only if I was absolutely required to make some sort of change.  

Rating:  Crankable, no doubt.  If the sleaze and sludge on the dial doesn't keep you from being able to grab hold, make sure to turn this up to 8!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

IN THE VERSE "Transformer"

(c) 2016 Independent Release

  1. Compassion
  2. Dying Words
  3. Already Are
  4. Shatter To Pieces
  5. Alone
  6. Your Sacrifice
  7. Transformer
  8. Final Days
  9. Mid-life's Night
  10. Afterlife
Dave Hanson--Guitars, Bass, Guitar solo on "Shatter To Pieces"
Noah Hulbert--Vocals, Bass, Guitar solo on "Already Are"
Chris Cerfus--Keys
Devin Schumski--Drums, Bass

Christian rockers, In The Verse, return with their first full-length album on December 9 with Transformer, a GoFundMe fan-funded effort that finds the band expanding to a full compliment of four members with the addition of Schumski on drums.  Combining elements of modern hard rock with smaller doses of classic rock and some nice keyboard sections, this Wisconsin-based quartet seeks to expand upon the surprising-to-some success of the band's EP Hostage, and it's single, "Disaster", which continues to garner large Christian rock radio support.

One of the most noticeable things about In The Verse has to be the rich tenor of Noah Hulbert, which seems to glide effortlessly across the fuzzed-up guitars and pounding rhythm section.  Not a screamer, at least for the most part, although I do wish he would cut loose just a bit more than he does (we'll get to that in a minute).  He's also not one of those pseudo-death singers who scrape the bottom-end of their range only to completely lose those of us who actually care about what is being sung.  Hulbert instead focuses on staying solidly within his comfort zone and actually sings a lot of the vocals on this record.  That's right...sings.  Now, that doesn't mean he steers completely clear of adding some edginess to his vocals in places, but never are his lyrics unintelligible, and never does he drift into that "I'd rather hear a cat scratching a chalkboard" emo-whining that continues to be popular with so many bands today.

The album starts off on a huge note with my second favorite track of the record, as "Compassion" leads-in with some cool synth tones from Cerfus, soon to be greeted by the chunky rhythm guitar of Hanson and the pounding of Schumski's kick drum and some really tight snare rolls.  When I first heard this song, I had a mixture of 70s arena keys interwoven with current guitars and drums from the 80s and 90s combine, and I think that this still stands as a fairly accurate representation of what "Compassion" does musically.  I really, really enjoy this track, although I would be lying if I said I didn't wish Hanson would cut loose with a totally ripping guitar solo during the bridge section, but as it is, this is a really nice table-setter for the record that is to come.

"Dying Words" changes the tempo up, utilizing more of a piano sound than a synth sound on the keyboards, and Hulbert has to negotiate some lyrical acrobatics to get through the verses, but I really like the different musical approach utilized here.

As far as the rest of the songs go, there are any number of really good radio rockers here, but for my money, nothing touches the aggressive, metal-infused churning of the debut single "Shatter To Pieces", my favorite track on the record.  The track kicks off with some excellent rhythm guitar work from Hanson, along with some jackhammer drumming from Schumski, before  a nice chord progression leads Hulbert's vocals into the fray.  This song is the most logical follow-up to "Disaster", and is a song that was instantly embedded in my brain within a couple of listens.  There is a ripping guitar solo near the midpoint of the track, as well, and "Shatter To Pieces" is a perfect example of the band blending more classic rock/heavy metal sounds into a modern hard rock number.  Love it!

"Final Days" is another solid rocker that actually features some true harsh vocals from Hulbert, and I think the contrast between his regular singing vocals and the screams actually works very well.  This is a song that I can hear in my head in a live setting, with the power chords of the chorus just exploding from Hanson's guitar as Schumski wails away and abuses his drum kit...all before Cerfus provides a calming, soothing keyboard interlude for about thirty seconds before the band comes crashing back in.  This is another track that I would imagine has to end up garnering some significant Christian rock radio airplay.

One thing that I really think speaks volumes about In The Verse is the way they can jump from the hard and fast aggression of "Shatter To Pieces" only to flow directly into the piano intro of "Alone", a much more radio rock sounding track, without missing a beat or making it sound forced or out of place.  Similarly, "Your Sacrifice" shows a band that is able to really downshift from an uptempo, charging rocker through the verses into a much more sweeping, melodic approach on the choruses, with little effort.  Cerfus is a huge part of holding the sound together on a track such as this because his keys are such an integral part of the musical tapestry on a song like "Your Sacrifice", without trying to force their way to the front and dominate the song...which they absolutely shouldn't do.  It's also nice on this track to hear Hulbert cut loose a couple of times with the angst vocally, which adds yet another nice contrasting element to the song.

"Mid-life's Night" is a song totally unlike anything the band has done on this record or previously, at least that I have been exposed to, as it has a very 90's alternative-yet-melodic feel to a good chunk of it, with some solid keys and a definite musical flow that has more in common with music of that time period than the buzzy, chunky riffs and crushing drums of today's hard rock scene.  Dont' get me wrong...I really, really like the fact, I'd put it in the top 3 or 4 tracks on the record.  It's just so different it really stands out and bears special mention here, in my opinion.  It is also the perfect lead-in to another really melodic modern rocker in "Afterlife", which features some sweeping keyboard melodies in the verse sections, and a couple of mini-synth solos, of all things, following chorus sections, with the guitars being the underlying support here rather than the driving force.  It sounds backward in my description, I know, but the juxtaposition of instruments here is actually very cool to hear, and is a unique...and promising...way to end the record.  Total proof in these last couple of tracks that In The Verse is not a band that is going to be easy to pigeonhole as far as style goes.

Lyrically, In The Verse remains very open about their faith, not hiding behind obscure "is he singing about the love of God or the love of a woman" type of lyrics, with songs touching on the listener really taking stock of where he/she stands in their relationship with God and whether or not that is where they want to be if the End of Days should come.  A great lyrical example here is found in the opening verse of "Dying Words" when Hulbert sings:

"Specifically, to those who've expelled
The idea of a god that's not themselves...
Well for you then, this isn't gonna end well...
Promises that you can't keep,
Sowing seeds that you won't reap,
Wasting everybody's lives...
Who believed in your lies..."

Great stuff that speaks directly to the listener, challenging our own worldview and our own opinions of ourselves and where we place our relationship with our Creator versus our self.  Lyrics such as these are found scattered throughout this record and are refreshing to hear for those seeking true Christian lyrical themes in these days of politically-correct "positive rock" versus "Christian rock". Sure, topics like loneliness and despair are covered as well, such as in the previously mentioned "Alone", but they are tackled in a manner that shows the performer reaching out to God and His love, and not to human love, to fill that void within.

Is this a perfect record?  No, not at all, but I have yet to find more than a handful of records that even bump up against that ceiling.  There are a couple of tracks that sound a bit too similar for me to really separate them in my mind, but fortunately they are not seated side-by-side in the tracking of the record.  The title track is a bit plodding for my tastes, and something seems to be missing from it that would really make it pop.  The production is slightly thin in a couple of places, but not to the point of distraction at all, and some minor manipulation of my EQ to bump up the bottom end a bit totally compensates for this.  The mix is very nicely done with great separation between the guitar and keys, and the bass and drums, as well.

For a sneak peek...err...listen, In The Verse has allowed us to post this link to their latest single, "Shatter To Pieces" for you to download and check out yourself.  If you like what you hear, you are still able to pre-order the record, Transformer, at their GoFundMe page, which can be found here.

Solidly performed, with some really, really good, aggressive guitar rock in places, followed by truly musical, keyboard infused modern melodic tracks, Transformer is a nice step for the Milwaukee rockers.  Hanson definitely plays to his strengths with his buzzsaw approach to rhythm guitar, and he rips off several nice solos and fills, although the metalhead in me is always down for a couple more truly aggressive guitar solos in a song or two, but overall, very little to complain about on this debut full-length from In The Verse.  I have to say that Cerfus really surprised me here, as I am NOT a keyboard guy in general, as most who have read this site can attest to, but his understanding and interpretation of where the band is going with these songs, and the way he infuses his instrument into these tracks, is a definite enhancer for any number of the songs here, whether hard rockers or more laid back, melodic numbers.  And, it goes without saying that the addition of a live drummer is always a big-time plus, and Schumski handles his place behind the kit very, very well.

Rating:  A solid effort, crank this to 8 and keep your fingers crossed that we will be able to see these guys out on tour in the near future.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

SWEET CREATURE "The Devil Knows My Name"

(c) 2016 Diet Records

  1. Not Like Others
  2. Time To Move On
  3. Burning Midnight Oil
  4. The Devil Knows My Name
  5. Purpose In Life
  6. Away From You 
  7. Our Life
  8. Fifteen Minutes
  9. Perfect Day

Martin Sweet--Vocals, Guitars
Michael TxR--Drums
Linus Nirbrant--Vocals, Guitars
Tin Starr--Bass

With Martin Sweet being one of the founding members of Crashdiet, and with members of Gemini Five (Starr),  and Toxic Rose (TxR), it would be easy to guess that Sweet Creature would be an extension of the modern style of glam/sleaze that the represented bands play as their main style (we won't cosider that Nirbant's main gig is in a death metal band...).  And while that would not be wholly wrong, Sweet Creature is definitely not a sound-alike duplicate of any of the aforementioned bands, with more of a 70s classic rock sound mixed in with obvious 80s influences such as Motley Crue, for example, while also tossing in minimal doses of the 90s.

Take for example the album's lead single, "Not Like The Others".  The song is instantly catchy, with the chanted chorus leading off the track in a very Crashdiet-sounding way, but the guitars are much more straightforward, with no crazy antics or soaring leads to take away from the almost grungy take on song structure, with thick chugging riffs, while the thumping bass and drum lines fall more in line with bump n grind songs like "Pour Some Sugar On Me".  In fact, it's really only that insanely catchy chorus that even teases the listener with an idea of where some of the band's members come from.  Its an odd combination, I know, but you know what?  I really, really dig this track and I was hooked right from the get go.

"Time To Move On" has some quirky tempo changes that make it a fun listen, and one of the more Crashdiet-like songs on the album, as it reminds me of some of the stuff they put onto their second record.  "Burning Midnight Oil" is another really good hard rock number with a definite nod to The Crue in the guitars department, especially on the intro and the pre-chorus sections sounding very much like what Motley was writing in the Girls, Girls, Girls era.  

The title track is an interesting combination of Jane's Addiction and Crashdiet, as the verse sections have that acoustic guitar base that Jane's Addiction used to such effect in songs like "Jane Says", (and Sweet's voice even takes on a slightly Perry Farrell tone as he works through the verses), while the heavier guitars scream in on the chorus sections.    

"Purpose In Life" is quite possibly the peak moment on an already solid debut record, and is one of my two or three favorites here, with a sweet acoustic guitar lead-in and a big, power ballad feel that is easily the most reminiscent of the 80's scene that Sweet and his previous band, Crashdiet, have always been most closely linked with.  That being said, there is also a 70s classic rock vibe going on throughout this track that is really cool, and the guitar work here is nicely underplayed so it doesn't dominate the entire track and turn it into a big, over-produced mess.  Despite the lackluster effort at rhyming some of the verses here (possibly a language issue), this is a really, really good song that will likely slot in as one of the best ballads of the year.

The rest of the album is much the same: a very solid, if not overly flashy record, that shows Sweet taking tiny, baby steps away from the tried-and-true mold of the hugely successful Crashdiet.  Will Crashdiet fans find plenty to like here?  There is no doubt about that, but don't expect a carbon copy of Rest In Sleaze or Generation Wild because that is not what you will get here.  What you will get is a fun, slightly diverse record with some really big rockers, an excellent ballad, and a couple of slight-misses ("Our Life", for example, really doesn't grab me for some reason...), that equate to an overall enjoyable listen that is well worth seeking out.  There is no doubt that the first half of the record is stronger than the second, but "Away From You" and "Fifteen Minutes" are solid efforts that hold the record together in the later stages.

The production is very good throughout the I mentioned, not flashy, not sugary, and not bloated...and the overall performance of the band is what you would likely expect from a group made up of members of previously noteworthy bands.  The interplay between Sweet and Nibrant on guitar is especially strong, which is actually the area I was most concerned about since Nibrant's death metal background is a LONG way from where this record goes!  It will be interesting to see if this is also the touring version of the band should Sweet Creature hit the road, and I'm imagining that gigging together will only make the band that much tighter on a follow-up record.

I look forward to further growth from Sweet Creature in the future, and feel that if Sweet's old band is truly dead and buried, then this band is a suitable successor, even if there is likely little chance of supplanting a once-in-a-lifetime band like Crashdiet.

Rating:  Crank-worthy, but with room for growth.  Crank this to 7.5 and keep your eye on Sweet Creature in the future.

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