|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: X-Sinner|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 43:13|
Fire It Up, the new 2006 full length Retroactive Records release from X-Sinner, can trace its beginnings back to the bands sophomore effort Peace Treaty. Recorded in early 1991 in follow up to X-Sinner’s 1989 debut Get It, Peace Treaty was produced by brothers John and Dino Elefante of Pakaderm studio fame but a watered down mix that lacked a biting rhythm guitar sound left the band dissatisfied. An attempt was later made to re-issue Peace Treaty but when a literal wall of red tape was encountered, Retroactive suggested to X-Sinner that they re-record the album from scratch. The band agreed and soon entered the studio, completing the recording process in late 2004 with the final editing taking place early the next year. The end result is Fire It Up, an excellent effort that succeeds laudably in capturing the heavier and more guitar driven sound the band was looking for. Taking the all out raw energy of AC/DC and combining it with the catchy hooks and commercial sensibility of Def Leppard, Fire It Up proves the much more fresh, memorable and exciting listen when compared to the bands prior efforts. In the end, the album includes 9 of the 10 tracks originally appearing on Peace Treaty with the ballad “Hold On” replaced by “Fire It Up”, an excellent new song which the band recorded specifically for the project.
After original vocalist Dave Robbins left X-Sinner following the release of Get It, Rex Scott of South Dakota based Zion was recruited to fill his place. When the band initially approached Scott about the opening, Zion was getting ready to record the follow up to its 1989 debut Thunder From The Mountain. However, when Zion fell apart before it could enter the studio, Scott got in touch with the band at just the moment it made up its mind to start auditioning new singers. Scott flew out to California in late 1990 for the audition and, when things worked out, made the commitment to do the record and ultimately join the band.
Please note that bassist Rob Kniep also left X-Sinner before Peace Treaty could be recorded and was temporarily replaced by New Zealand native Andrew Langsford. Langsford, however, lasted long enough to play only one show before returning to New Zealand. As a result, Greg Bishop laid down the bass tracks for Peace Treaty, while a session musician named Lou Giovanni was recruited to fill in on bass on the subsequent tour. Kniep eventually returned to the band on a permanent basis following the Peace Treaty tour.
While Dave Robbins was a near dead ringer for Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Rex Scott brings the more versatile and identifiable voice, contributing a vocal delivery that best can be described as passionate, gritty and gut level. Literally singing his guts out, Scott’s raw emotion and energy brings out the best in tracks such as “I Take Power” and “Rollin’ Thunder”. In my review of Get It I might have been unfairly harsh with guitarist Greg Bishop, describing his playing as “restrained” and “hit and miss”. In hindsight, the watered down guitar sound characteristic to Get It was undoubtedly the fault of the Pakaderm production team and not necessarily that of the band (or its guitarist). On Fire It Up, however, Bishop makes amends by proving a master of his instrument, laying down a more than ample amount of edge laden rhythm guitar and complementing it with lead guitar work of a very skillful variety. Bassist Rob Kniep and drummer Mike Buckner deliver the goods with a performance as tight as one could expect from a rhythm section.
In terms of the packaging, the Retroactive version features the more eye catching album artwork and better band photos but fails to include lyrics to the albums tracks. This is not a problem, on the other hand, because the lyrics can be found on Peace Treaty. For those who do not own a copy of Peace Treaty then please see my article entitled How To Find That Hard To Find CD.
Production values? Perfect in catching the bands all out natural and raw energy. Upfront and in your face rhythm guitar sound? In abundance. Just the right amount of clean sounding lead guitar and resounding low end? You will find it here.
The clashing symbols at the start of the albums title track give way to several seconds of edgy rhythm guitar, the grit-laden vibe maintained as the song moves on to a chorus with a huge catchy hook. Bishop tears it up with several seconds of fluid lead guitar work. Great song. If “Fire It Up” is an indicator of X-Sinner’s new material then any follow up effort recorded by the band should be killer.
“I Take Power” gets underway to the sound of a cheering audience before an open air rhythm guitar briefly steps forward. Taking off at a raucous upbeat tempo, a touch of vocal harmonies accentuates the song as it moves on to an energetic and non-stop hook filled chorus. I love how at its halfway point “I Take Power” stops dead in its tracks as Scott growls, “Do you know the power? Do you need the power? I wanna know- do you want the power?” Bishop follows with more of his blistering lead guitar work. “I Take Power” talks about dealing with temptation:
Its’ forty days and forty nights
Of being hit from all sides
Wild temptations tough situation
And all I’m getting is lies
That’s when I feel it rushin’ down my arms and legs
Won’t take no more I fight back with what You say
I take power, I take control
I take power, Not gonna lose my soul
“Gotta Let Go” kicks in to a pounding guitar riff and a scream from Scott. The vibrant momentum built as the song advances through its verse portions takes it to a chorus fortified by just the right amount of catchy vocal harmonies. Bishop graces the scene with his ardent work on guitar, forging a fire of burning riffs and fiery guitar solos.
“Rollin’ Thunder” opens to a literal wall of prevailing rhythm guitar, slowing to a sass-flavored mid-tempo pace for its verse portions prior to gaining impetus for a powerful chorus with a hook guaranteed to pull you in and refuse to let go. Bishop’s guitar solo starts slowly only to gain in fluid intensity as the bands vocal harmonies highlight the background. “Rollin’ Thunder” is a song about faith:
But then Your love and the way You show it
Comes down and covers me
In spite of my life the Way you know it
You break the chains inside of me
It’s like rolling thunder…
“Getch Ya” does exactly that with its catchy hook. Beginning to the voice of Scott who exclaims, “Hit me!”, “Getch Ya” cruises through its first verse with a ton of grit and attitude prior to gaining ground on an ardent chorus underlined by a touch of the bands trademark backing vocals. Again, Bishop is right on top of things by adorning the environment with his razor sharp lead guitar work. Scott’s scratchy voice really stands out here as well.
The pace tapers off a bit with the semi-ballad “Don’t Go”. Slowly moving through its first verse at a guitar driven mid-tempo pace, “Don’t Go” gains momentum for its catchy pre-chorus prior to obtaining a fleeting chorus that repeats its title twice in good commercial fashion. A fiery guitar solo helps carry a nice extensive instrumental section. “Don’t Go” is dedicated to those who have lost loved ones to suicide:
Looking out my window
Didn’t know you left
Was I blinded by my pride
Was it something I did not catch
I didn’t know how bad you were hurting
Lord knows how hard I tried
It was hard to make you see
The loss of you felt like the end for me
“Peer Pressure” is set in motion by an anthem-like blend of rhythm guitar and pounding drums. Tapering off to a touch of guitar feedback, the song moves through its first and second verse hard and heavy as things are decorated by the bands tasteful vocal harmonies. After Bishop nails an over-the-top guitar solo to the sound of a motorcycle gunning in the background, “Peer Pressure” closes out its third and final verse in the same hard rocking fashion.
Slowly but gradually moving through its first verse to Scott’s gritty vocal delivery, “We Need Love” abruptly picks up in pace before marching through its second in the same resolute manner. The radio friendly chorus that follows is carried by a forward but not overriding mix of backing vocals. Very well done.
The hard hitting riff introducing “All I Need” gives way to a crunch flavored rhythm guitar buttressed by pulsating drums. Picking up in pace during its first verse, “All I Need” achieves a brief but solid hook filled chorus which is repeated by the band twice. Bishop hits the nail on the head with his fluid lead guitar work.
“You Got Me” fades in to a quietly played guitar line prior to incrementally progressing through its first verse. Gaining momentum in an abrupt manner, “You Got Me” attains a very classy chorus underscored by just the right amount of crunchy rhythm guitar. A very fine ending to an all around solid album.
As for “Hold On”, the ballad from Peace Treaty that was not recorded for Fire It Up, it is an average-to-good commercial based number that does not quite rate with the better material found here
Fire It Up stands out as a work that is nothing less than a great deal of fun to listen to. And when taking into consideration the all out raw energy and catchy hooks of “I Take Power”, Fire It Up” and “Rollin’ Thunder” or the more commercial sounds of “Don’t Go” or “You Got Me”, it is destined to rank with the finest releases of the year. The bands top notch performance and the solid production job only proves icing on the cake. My final thoughts here? John & Dino Elefante of Pakaderm Studios should be both tied to a chair and forced to listen to Fire It Up non-stop for several weeks straight…
In closing , at the time of this review X-Sinner is at work on material to be included on a new album entitled World Covered In Blood which is scheduled to be released next year.
And last but certainly not least, for you trivia fans out there I went ahead and added the original album artwork proposed by the band but rejected by the label executives.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Fire It Up” (3:17), “I Take Power” (4:35), “Gotta Let Go” (4:03), “Rollin’ Thunder” (4:18), “Getch Ya” (4:32), “Don’t Go” (5:22), “Peer Pressure” (3:46), “We Need Love” (5:03), “All I Need” (3:44), “You Got Me” (4:28)
Rex Scott – Lead Vocals
Greg Bishop – Guitars
Rob Kniep – Bass
Mike Buckner – Drums
Arnold, Christy. “X-Sinner Interview.” Take A Stand (June 1991): 4-5.
Van Pelt, Doug. “Makin’ Peace Treaties And Noise Pollution.” Heaven’s Metal 31 (199