Saturday, February 18, 2017

SAINTED SINNERS "Sainted Sinners"

(c) 2017 Frontiers Records

  1. Knight of the Long Knives
  2. Beauty In The Beast
  3. Maybe She's Got Balls
  4. We Are All Sainted Sinners
  5. Blue Lightning Man
  6. The Love That I Have Found
  7. Did You
  8. In Need
  9. Evangeline
  10. Shine Diamond Girl
  11. Truth Is A Lie
David Reece--Vocals
Frank Pane--Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg--Keys
Frederik Burkert--Bass
"Maestro" Berci Hirleman--Drums

David Reece just seems completely unable to sit still, doesn't he.  The guy has been in more bands than I have had cars!  Accept, Bangalore Choir, The Stream, Bonfire, Tango Down, and now this newest project, Sainted Sinners...and I'm sure I'm missing more than a few bands if I really dig deep enough!  However, unlike his previous efforts, Sainted Sinners is less about melodic hard rock and more about solid, 70s-soaked bluesy hard rock in the vein of Deep Purple, Whitesnake, UFO, Rainbow, and even a bit of ZZ Top and a healthy dose of Zeppelin.

"Knight Of The Long Knives" starts things off in an uptempo fashion that is not too far removed from 70s-era Whitesnake in its approach.  There is some really good riffing going on, and the Hammond organ is absolutely killer here (and pretty much EVERYWHERE on this record)!  When Reece's vocals kick in, I'm thinking, "yeah!  I can get into this!"...but then the song just kind of sits there and stagnates.  There's no real hook or lyrical turn, no altering of tempos, and not even an overly memorable solo to just grab me by the ears and shake me...although that Hammond nearly does it.  I also find I'm not a huge fan of the chorus for some reason, and it hasn't snagged me yet, even with repeated listens.

"Beauty In The Beast" is a really uptempo, boogie-woogie number with some pretty cool guitar work from Pane, especially on the bluesy solo, and even more great Hammond work from Doernberg, who is an absolute BEAST all throughout this record!  But again, the song just isn't a big stand-out number for me...nor is the third track, "Maybe She's Got Balls", although this song is a step up from the previous two.  I can't quite figure out why on it, but after a good dozen or so trips through the album, I have pinpointed that for me, the uptempo songs on Sainted Sinners all seem to be missing something.  They are performed with expert musicianship and excellent vocals ("Maybe She's Got Balls" has some really nice female backing vocals, by the way), but none of them really and truly suck me in, which is odd, as I absolutely LOVE this type of bluesy, 70s-drenched classic rock.

"We're All Sainted Sinners" is a step in the right direction, but its also a slight step backward in tempo.  A big, thick guitar riff powers this song in a solid Deep Purple direction, with the icing on the cake being still more potent Hammond from Doernberg.  Reece pretty well dominates this song, also, and the bridge section, with the layered vocals is some really good stuff.  I would love to hear the band do more stuff like this throughout the record.

"Blue Lightning Man" takes about 80 seconds before it decides to get up and get moving, and from there it turns into one of the fastest songs on the record...which, again, means its one of the lesser songs on the record for me.  I even started to question my sanity after repeated listens to this first half of the record, because everything seems to be in place for me to absolutely fall in love with this record by now, but I just don't.  Again, there is no denying the level of musicianship here, as every man on this record cuts loose with some level of excellence on pretty much every track here.  But the fast numbers just don't have...SOMETHING!  Now, "Blue Lightning Man" does have a really cool guitar solo that is part of a big tempo change about 4:45 into the song, but once things speed back up, even with the smoking Hammond work, this song just feels like  about a hudred different album cuts from the 70s that just blend into the background and take up space between a record's singles.

It isn't until track 6 that things REALLY click for me (although, again, "We're All Sainted Sinners" is a darn fine song).  "The Love That I Have Found" is a big, epic Zeppelin-ish number with a rhythm and riff that bears more than a passing resemblance to "Kashmir", but dang if it isn't catchy and performed to near perfection.  That big, chunky guitar riff, the nicely layered keys, and even a hint of orchestration.  This is definitely the pinnacle of the record for me, and I find myself going back to it repeatedly, as it is executed so well.  Excellent stuff, as is "Did You", which holds onto that Zeppelin worship for a bit longer, especially on the introductory instrumentation and another big, heavy riff, before it shifts a bit more into Deep Purple territory, especially with the Hammond firmly in place.

But then things slip once again, and it is the more uptempo material that really seems to expose the band's songwriting weaknesses.  On "In Need", Reece sounds like he is channeling ZZ Top on the verses, and even the music has some of that 70s southern blues n' boogie that ZZ Top is known for, but it just isn't all that memorable.  To be 100% honest, if I'm not spinning the song, I don't even really recall the rhythm of the track, let alone any type of hook.  "Evangeline" also doesn't do much for me, and really, it doesn't fit the style and sound of the rest of the record.  To my ears, it sounds like Reece is singing a left-over Dokken song...with a guitar solo that sounds like something Mr. Big would do, which is cool..., bit like "In Need" before it, there isn't any real hook to catch my attention, at least outside of that solo.

The album closes with two of the best tracks on the record, which is a saving grace.  "Shine Diamond Girl" is one of the true standout tracks here, and I absolutely love it.  This is pure Deep Purple worship at its finest, from the spot-on Hammond sounds, to the soulful guitar work, not to mention the best vocal work from Reece on a non-ballad on the record.  At one point during the extended solo, I swore the band was going to break into "Wild Woman From Tokyo", as that catchy riff wormed its way into the mix, but it was short-lived.

"Truth Is A Lie" has a definite Zeppelin vibe to it, especially with the rhythm guitar riff, and Reece again shines here, as he has done throughout all of the slower numbers on the disc.  A really solid way to end the record, I only wish that a couple of these heavy hitters had been moved more to the front of the record rather than being forced to wade through more than a handful of well-intentioned but still rather mediocre tracks (well...I guess I wasn't "forced", but you get my meaning.).

This is one of those rare records that, at least for me, really seems to be back-loaded, with the track listing almost completely flipped from how I would have expected it.  Perhaps the band was thinking of how this album would work on vinyl, and if that's the case, I kind of get it.  Start relatively strong, settle back, then end with a flourish, which Sainted Sinners definitely does.  The record just spends too much time treading water without enough punch between the best tracks.

From the moment the first 70's Rainbow/Deep Purple-inspired notes hit my ears, I knew that Sainted Sinners...both the band and the album...was gonna be something right up my alley musically, and I was correct.  I just wish more songs had some real bite to them, as the performances are top notch across the board, and Reece sounds right at home working this style of music.  Most of the songs just aren't that memorable and come off as a bit color-by-numbers at times.  Still a decent first effort and I hope that Sainted Sinners will be around for another album or two, as I really do dig this style of music.  I am also willing to bet that if these guys perform live and throw in some Whitesnake, Deep Purple, and Zeppelin cover tunes, they would be a MONSTER band to see, especially in a small, smokey, intimate environment, because they definitely have the chops for this type of music.   Now they just need a few more songs.

Rating:  If I were you, I'd rip this CD, completely rearrange the track order, and burn it back as a monstrous 5-6 track EP (which I did), and then file the disc away in your collection.  There is some truly EXCELLENT music here, which allows me to recommend rocking the disc at 6.5, but the weaker songs keep it out of crankable territory for this reviewer.

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