|Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock||Produced By: Vic Rivera & John Kivel|
|Record Label: Kivel||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 49:59|
AdrianGale returns following a ten-year hiatus with both a new album in Sucker Punch!, its fourth from the fall of 2013 on Kivel Records, and revised sound giving prominence to that much more edge and attitude. Not that the group needed an “extreme makeover” in that its previous outing from 2004, Crunch, held up quite well with its immediately accessible joining of melodic rock and commercial hard rock. On Sucker Punch!, AdrianGale treads similar musical waters - if it is not broken then there is no need to fix it, right? - but takes the next step musically in pursuing a heavier direction rooted in bigger guitars and the stauncher low-end.
Perhaps unduly motivated to stay true to the albums strongly worded Sucker Punch! namesake, but founding members guitarist Vic Rivers and vocalist Jamie Rowe lend an element of toughness not always associated with past AdrianGale releases. It begins with Rivera, who layers things with the full and weighty rhythm guitars that contribute to that noted “edge and attitude” in question. No, not metal but not that far removed either and certain to appeal to those whose tastes trend accordingly. Jamie Rowe, of Guardian fame, returns with his trademark raspy and soulful vocal style but this time rooted in a lower register aligning with the more assertive musical environs at hand. Similar to other eighties vocalists to recently go the comeback route - Michael Sweet (Stryper), Les Carlson (Bloodgood) and Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance) - one cannot help but be impressed with how he has not lost anything in terms of range over the years.
That heavier direction best embodies itself in the albums title track, crunch-laden and with plunging bass lines but not forsaking the group’s penchant for the commercial either. Maintaining the steadfast but accessible disposition is ‘The Black And Blue”, upbeat with its rollicking guitars and unmistakable catchy hooks, and “When I Said You’d Be The One”, driven and snarling from its blues based hard rock leanings. “All About The Money” delivers a high energy sound with complementary shouted backing vocals, while “Believe” and “Give Me A Sign” plow and grind from embracing a weighty mid-paced heading.
When AdrianGale backs from the strapping penchant results are mixed. The group remains at the top of its game on ballad “You”, poignantly charged by piano and underpinning rhythm guitar, and melodic rocker “Could Have Been Me”, from its uplifting demeanor and heavy doses of pristine vocal melodies. The only potential missteps are shorter but lighter pieces “What Will You Do” and “The World We Knew” due to lacking much of the inherit punch and energy characteristic to the albums better material (my opinion only).
AdrianGale shines when throwing a curveball, as it does on Satriani inspired instrumental “Temporis Intermisso” in which Rivera and co-guitarist Eddie Campbell showcase their multifaceted abilities: Acoustic traces, jaw dropping harmonies and soloing ranged from the jagged edged to the jazzy to the fusion based. All the while Matt Mahoney decorates the backdrop with his proficient bass lines. If Rivera recorded a full-length album in this direction I would buy it.
Production breathes of life in ranking with the finest this reviewer heard from 2013. Bass punctuates the mix (this is where that “stauncher low-end” comes into play) in aligning with a decisive rhythm guitar presence and even placement of vocals (both lead and backing).
No, AdrianGale is not a Christian band, while Sucker Punch! is by no means a Christian album. That said, Rowe either wrote or co-wrote lyrics to six of the albums ten vocal tracks. Yes, you will find hints of his faith throughout (Rowe includes Galatians 6 as part of the albums liner notes), but otherwise lyrics focus on being strengthened by the adversities of life, confronting self-righteousness people, the damage greed can do to relationships and the importance of loyalty. More details, of course, in the track by track.
Sucker Punch! adds up to a very good melodic hard rock album on the heavier side of things (not that I am complaining). In the end, however, I place it a notch below Crunch from not being quite as consistent- unfair comparison in that I would rate Crunch among the top two or three albums from 2004. Either way, I find a new release from Rivera and Rowe (one of the better guitarist and vocalists combos you will find) a welcome addition and look forward to hearing more from them in the future (hopefully they will not keep us waiting another decade for the next chapter from AdrianGale).
The albums title track represents its most commercial. Opening to a cheering audience in the backdrop, “Sucker Punch!” rumbles forward to a pronounced bass line as guitars gradually build until impetus explodes for a big hook chorus that has play me on the radio written all over it. Twenty-five years ago this would have dominated the airwaves. Lyric snippet:
We are fighting for the ultimate prize
And it’s one we’re determined to win
You see the fire burning in our eyes
Ring the bell – let the games begin!
You say that you’re down
That you’re down for the count
But there’s always a fighting chance
We’ve all the power to turn it around
I think you’re starting to understand
“The Black And Blue” maintains the forthright momentum. Layered vocal melodies play a dominant role, as do catchy hooks and the crunch heavy guitar based focus to match. Separating this one are several moments when impetus slows to a crawl as vocals move to a prominent place in the mix. Lyric snippet:
I’m black and blue
But I still rise
No you’ll never keep me down
I’m black and blue
But I always fight
You’re not the only game in town
I’m black and blue
But it makes me strong
There’s nothing I can’t do
The strong survive the black and blue
“When I Said You’d Be The One” slows things to a gritty mid-paced grind. Snarling guitars power in and out of the mix as the song plows ahead, running roughshod over its verses and melodically tinged chorus taking the lighter and more tempered tone. Lead guitar, fittingly, takes an added blues heavy role. Lyric snippet:
Don’t be afraid of letting go
Is what my momma always said to me
Pretty roses, the thorns still grow
That’s the way it’s always gonna be
So here we are at the scene of the crime
See the broken people all standing in line
They’ve got the angels working overtime
Everybody’s got a story – this one’s mine
A faster and more athletic piece can be found in “All About The Money”. This one represents up-tempo all the way, faster and more aggressive than its predecessors with a fitting riff driven mentality and shouted backing vocals shoring up the heavy hitting chorus. What we have in the end is one of the albums more powerful. Lyric snippet:
Greed only makes you bleed
When you’re all about the money
Fire burning even higher
When you’re all about the money
A million dollars starts with one
And you may have this battle won
But you sacrificed integrity
Because that dollar bill belonged to me
The quirky keyboards at the start of “Believe” give way to heavyset guitars. The song proves a joining of distortion mixed with venom the rest of the way, grinding ahead with periodic outbursts of polished vocal melodies serving to lighten the trenchant setting. Lead guitar is on the blistering side of things. Lyric snippet:
An empty space
Is all that’s left behind
When happiness is hard to find
A fall from grace
Is always hard to take
The choices are so hard to make
Do you believe – that love will come again
Do you believe – that anger has an end
Do you believe that light will chase the dark
Do you believe – that hope will find its mark
A booming low-end defines “Give Me A Sign”, an ominously mid-paced four minutes carried by mean spirited guitars and Rowe’s every present gritty and raspy proclivities. Initiative picks up temporarily for the uplifting chorus only to return to the grinding for the trenchantly done verses. Lyric snippet:
You tell me things will get better
You say it’s under control
Then why am I working harder
But still getting deeper in the hole?
You made their money our master
You sold us out one and all
You act like none of us matter
We’re not invited to the ball
“What Will You Do”, the albums shortest at just over three minutes, strains for a melodic rock based sound. Ultimately, guitars are reduced a touch, while backing vocals play the more prominent role. As a result, missing is that extra spark of inspiration defining much of the albums material (and places the song in the above average to good category as a result). Lyric snippet:
What will you do
When there’s nothing?
How will you prove
The truth in a lie?
When will you see
That there’s nothing?
Where will you be
For the rest of your life?
And there’s nothing you can do
When it all comes down on you
“The World We Knew” also presents with a lighter melodic based sound. The song starts calmly to acoustic touches before guitars kick in thick and firm. This one works better than “What Will You Do” from a more forthright disposition and greater energy throughout. Not the albums best but good nonetheless. Lyric snippet:
Everywhere I look – everything I see
Leads me to believe – the future’s gone
Every road we took – was a dead end street
If this is the end of the world we knew
I wanna be with you
And if its’ the end of the world we knew
Will you be with me
‘Cause this is the end of the world that we knew
Straightforward and no-nonsense, “Could Have Been Me” delivers the hard rocking goods in a mid-paced setting. What we have is trademark AdrianGale with identifiable hooks and big backing vocals interspersed with one of the albums best stretches of blazing lead guitar. Yes, a bit formula but quite good all the same. Lyric snippet:
It took you so long
To make up your mind again
But you were so wrong
To play me for a fool again
But you won’t get the best of me
This pictures fading out to black
And nothing but a fantasy
Is every gonna bring me back
The album closes to heartfelt ballad “You”. Piano carries the song front to back, intermingling with rhythm guitar traces to establish the type of moving setting commonly identified with high quality ballads such as this. In the end, “You” comes across as if written with Rowe’s raspy delivery in mind. Lyric snippet:
Oh lady - I go crazy
When I look in your eyes
Haunting beauty - see right through me
Make me feel so alive
Staying power - love is ours
Girl do you know what you’ve done
There’s no mistaking
I know that you are the one
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Sucker Punch!” (5:18), “The Black And Blue” (4:05), “When I Said You’d Be The One” (4:11), “All About The Money” (4:27), “Believe” (4:25), “Give Me A Sign” (3:49), “What Will You Do” (3:12), “Temporis Intermisso” (3:44), “The World We Knew” (3:22), “Could Have Been Me” (4:19), “You” (5:06)
Jamie Rowe - Lead Vocals
Vic Rivera - Guitars, Piano & Drums
Eddie Campbell - Guitars
Matt Mahoney - Bass