|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: JK Northrup|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: Liberty N' Justice|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 45:05|
Whenever the subject of eighties influenced metal and hard rock comes up, Liberty N’ Justice usually comes to mind, and rightly so! The brainchild of founding member Justin Murr, Liberty N’ Justice has gained renown as an “all star project” in which some of the best musicians in the business - both past and present - were recruited to appear on critically acclaimed albums such as Soundtrack Of A Soul (2006), Independence Day (2007), Light It Up (2010) and Chasing A Cure (2011).
Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, the most recent (spring of 2012) offering from LNJ and second on Roxx Productions, maintains the “all star project” trend. When factoring in vocalists Louis St. August (Mass), Tony Mills (TNT), Jamie Rowe (Guardian) and Jani Lane (Warrant) in addition to guitarists JK Northrup (King Kobra, XYZ), Jerry Johnson (Saint) and Vic Rivera (Crunch) lent their abilities to the album - along with a host of other talented musicians - it remains an “all star project” in the truest sense of the word.
On HICTB LNJ continues to wears its eighties metal and hard rock influences on its sleeves in no uncertain terms. At this point it must be noted that each LNJ album takes a different spin on the genre. Whereas Soundtrack Of A Soul and Light It Up approached things from a melodic metal and hard rock standpoint, Independence Day took an acoustic based rock heading. Chasing A Cure was distinguished by its joining of AOR, melodic rock and commercial hard rock.
What separates HICTB from past LNJ releases (and makes it difficult to pigeonhole in the process) is how it draws its material from a variety of sources. Six of its tracks were taken from the surplus of songs that would not fit on the next LNJ album The Cigar Chronicles (a 2 CD set not scheduled for release until 2013), while five others are either previously unreleased, alternate takes or rare demo versions. One new song in the albums title track was included as well. You will find as a result that all aspects of the LNJ back catalog to permeate the HICTB material.
The immediate impression left by HICTB is how it features some of the heaviest songs from LNJ to date (I am reminded of Light It Up and Soundtrack Of A Soul in this capacity). The albums title track, for instance, takes a driving metal approach, while The Cigar Chronicles outtakes “Whack A Mole” (classic metal vibe here), “Nakatomi Plaza” (straightforward hard rock feel) and “Stretch Armstrong” (a mid-paced cruncher) hit every bit as hard. Based upon these songs, The Cigar Chronicles comes highly anticipated and not just for the heaviness involved but all around quality to songwriting.
The quality is maintained on other The Cigar Chronicles intended tracks such as the classy Petra cover “Thankful Heart” (off Back To The Street from 1986) in addition to the hard rock semi ballad “Madhatter” and worshipful “Get Down”. These three hearken back to Chasing A Cure. The same can be said for the demo version of the laid back “Thy Will Be Done” (first appearing on Soundtrack Of A Soul) and commercial hard rocker “What Do You Believe” (original demo of “Do What You Believe” from Light It Up).
Some acoustic based Independence Day style lacings can be found as well, including the bluesy “Your Memory Just Won’t Do” (previously unreleased), groove heavy “Monkey Dance” (alternate mix of the Independence Day track) and emotionally tinged “Sin” (acoustic demo).
The strength to HICTB resides in its cohesiveness. Rather than a bunch of throwaways, leftovers and demo tracks haphazardly thrown together, the project brings more of a “band feel” as if a group of guys got together with the express purpose of writing and recording a new album from scratch. In other words, despite its songs being taken from so many sources, HICTB fails to come across disjointed or awkward, which is testament to the thought process that took place in regards to its track listing.
Production comes across even throughout. Again, with songs being drawn from such a variety of sources, you would think the project would give rise to some unevenness in terms of sound quality. Such is not the case in that the final mix and mastering allows the album to reflect an overall feel of continuity (the demo tracks hold up quite well when placed alongside The Cigar Chronicles outtakes).
Lyrics were not included with the digi-pak packaging. Nothing against digi-paks, but they can be somewhat limiting in terms of what can be done from a liner notes standpoint (perhaps an insert or short booklet could be included next time). As with past LNJ projects, lyrics are reflective of Christian themes: The Petra cover “Thankful Heart”, obviously, is the first to come to mind(Help me be a man of God/A man whose after Your own heart) but “Get Down” must also be noted (In your weakness He is stronger/In the darkness He shines through) in addition to “Thy Will Be Done” (Here I am/All I have left is You, Lord/Thy will be done). “Sin” sums things up best: Let me be the man I could have been/The one You first breathed Your life into/My soul in Your embrace/Deliver me from my sins.
Any complaint about the packaging notwithstanding, it is to the benefit of hard music fans that Roxx Productions had enough faith in the songs here to make HICTB available. Otherwise, we might not have the opportunity to hear what amount some real high quality material- and proves foreshadowing of what is also certain to be a standout release in The Cigar Chronicles.
Track By Track
The albums title track powers its distance like a freight train, resounding in its guitar driven heaviness but equally engaging from its hook driven proclivity. Powerful would be the best way to describe Seann Nichol’s vocal performance and bristling the soloing of JK Northrup.
“Madhatter” comes across in the form of a semi-ballad- and a very good one at that. Donnie Vie lends his gravelly vocal touch, accenting the songs laid back verses and emotionally charged chorus taking the more stalwart heading. One cannot help but appreciate the commercial eighties hard rock feel here.
“Whack A Mole” delivers another metal assault. Metal being the key word in that guitarist Jerry Johnson and bassist Richard Lynch (both Saint) lend their talents to what amounts an incessant heavy hitter. Nice use of vocal melodies in the accessible chorus, which finds Johnny Lima showcasing his gritty vocal style.
The Petra cover is one of the albums highlights. A keyboard driven ballad in its original form, the song comes to life here as a vibrant melodic hard rocker in which the more upbeat heading is taken. Credit vocalist Philip Bardowell (who complements the raspy leanings of Petra front man John Schlitt) and bassist Lynn Lousie Lowrey (adding to the happening low end).
"Nakatomi Plaza" also hits hard, with JK Northrup adding the low-key muscle on vocals and Greg Bishop the needed assertiveness on guitar (quite the bluesy stretch of soloing). The song, otherwise, aligns with the albums hard rocking proclivity in delivering quite the assertive presence but with an eighties touch for the chorus.
Mid-paced muscle would be the best way to describe “Stretch Armstrong”. Another gritty hard rocker, the song aligns the soaring vocals of Louis St. August with some militant style riffs and more searing lead work courtesy of JK Northrup and Keri Kelli.
Ballad “Get Down” starts calmly to piano before the guitar kicks in and propels the song in uplifting fashion its remaining distance, with a worship rock feel and beautiful guitar harmonies prevailing throughout. Tony Mills adds to the inspirational scene with his moving vocal performance.
“Your Memory Just Won’t Do” maintains the mellower proclivity. Mellow is by no means bad, as can be found in the acoustic guitars mixed with periodic bluesy lead guitars that carry the song its length. David Cagle provides the heartfelt touch on vocals. This one sounds as if it were meant for Independence Day.
Jamie Rowe proves he has not lost his touch on “Thy Will Be Done”, a mid-paced hard rocker that proves a hand in glove fit for his trademark raspy vocal style. Highlighting by the arena rock feel to its lively chorus and more relaxed verses, this one would shine on any album by AdrianGale or early nineties Guardian.
A commercial hard rock direction is taken on “What Do You Believe”. Big doses of backing vocals play a lead role, as the song comes across polished in highlighting the smooth vocal presence of Mike Ledesma and shred guitar soloing from Vic Rivera. I cannot help but be reminded of Stryper.
“Monkey Dance” gives rise to an acoustic based sound not unlike “Your Memory Just Won’t Do”. Jack Russell presents with his scratchy vocal tinctures, aligning with a big, pumping bass line and up-tempo focus that makes the song sound heavier than it really is (by no means a bad thing). A fine alternate version from one of the choice Independence Day tracks.
Emotional ballad “Sin” closes things out. This is the acoustic demo version of the song, which serves to showcase the immediately recognizable vocals of the late Jani Lane (smooth and even but gutsy at the same time). The ballad feel is played up with orchestration adding to the acoustic setting.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Hell Is Coming To Breakfast” (4:17), “Madhatter” (3:21), “Whack A Mole” (3:27), “Thankful Heart” (3:19), “Nakatomi Plaza” (3:20), “Stretch Armstrong” (3:18), “Get Down” (3:26), “Your Memory Just Won’t Do” (3:57), “Thy Will Be Done” (4:20), “What Do You Believe” (4:31), “Monkey Dance” (3:30), “Sin” (4:18)