|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: X-Sinner|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 59:34|
X-Sinner got its start in 1989 with its Pakaderm Records debut Get It before following up two years later on the same label with a sophomore effort entitled Peace Treaty. One of the complaints many people – this reviewer included – have in regards to both albums revolves around overly polished production values that fail to capture the bands natural and all out raw energy. Get It, for example, was a particularly commercial sounding work in which an overabundance of vocal harmonies were combined with a restrained sounding rhythm guitar. The mix of Peace Treaty, at the same time, left the band so dissatisfied that it returned to the studio and actually re-recorded the album from scratch, releasing it in 2006 on Retroactive Records under the new title Fire It Up.
Those of you who have always hoped for a heavier and more energetic version of X-Sinner, however, need look no further than its recent Retroactive offering Loud & Proud +2. Originally released in 2001 on Magdalene Records under the title Loud & Proud, the album is a collection of demo tracks and early/different versions of songs that does a better job of capturing the bands true sound. Loud & Proud +2 is actually made up of four tracks that went on to be recorded for Get It (“Eyes Of Fire”, “A Cut Above”, “Medicine” and “No Where To Run”), one that made its way onto Peace Treaty/Fire It Up (“Got To Let Go”) and seven previously unreleased compositions. Two bonus tracks were added from the bands 2002 Retroactive release Cracked while under the name Angry Einsteins.
What we end up with is a heavier and more stripped down version of X-Sinner in which all the gloss and polish of its first two efforts has been stripped away (gone are the syrupy backing vocals and fuzzy sounding rhythm guitar). Yes, the production might sound a bit rough at times but the trade off is a much more energetic performance from the band in which the tracks from Get It and Peace Treaty – that once bordered on the pedestrian – are allowed to come to life for the first time. Unreleased songs such as “No Way Back”, “Turn It Up”, “Reap What You Sow”, “Shame” and “Last Call”, in addition, are all of such high quality that they leave you wondering why they were never previously recorded by the band.
My review of Get It describes the playing of guitarist Greg Bishop as “hit and miss” and “on the restrained side”. Looking back, I was probably unfairly harsh in that any problems with Bishop’s performance were undoubtedly due to the polished feel to the albums production. On Loud & Proud + 2, nevertheless, he better showcases his abilities with a rhythm guitar sound that is now crisp and edgy and right up front in the mix. His work on lead guitar is quite abundant as well, best exhibited on the bluesy soloing found on “A Cut Above” and the searing leads of “No Where To Go”. A total of three lead vocalists perform on Loud & Proud + 2: Dave Robbins contributes his raw and scratchy lead vocal style to the albums first five tracks, while “Paul” adds his raspy vocal stylings to the three that follow (upon close listen it is difficult to tell the two apart). Rex Scott (Zion) comes through with his sass-flavored vocal delivery on the albums final six cuts. Original drummer Jim Ortega performs on the first five numbers here and Mike Buckner the other nine. Bass guitar duties are shared by Greg Bishop (11 cuts) and “Ed” (the other three).
Album opener “Eyes Of Fire” is a different version of the Get It cut “Hearts On Fire”. While the song still proves a gritty and mid-tempo paced hard rocker, it now generates a plethora of energy as a result of a snarling rhythm guitar that plays a much more dominate role in the mix.
“A Cut Above” also appeared on Get It but under the title “Accountable”. After a distorted wall of open air rhythm guitar initiates the song, a ton of resounding energy steadily pulls it to a chorus with one of those huge hooks you will be challenged to rid of your mind. Bishop steps forward with a very well done blues flavored guitar solo.
The commercial hard rocker “No Way Back” stands out as one of the better unreleased tracks here. The song opens to a quietly played guitar line before a brazen rhythm guitar suddenly takes hold of the mix. Slowing again to a quietly played guitar, “No Way Back” slowly ambles through its first verse until the rhythm guitar returns and leads the way to an infectious vocal harmony driven chorus. In the end, this proves one of the stronger songs in X-Sinner’s repertoire and leaves me surprised it has not been previously recorded.
“Medicine” pretty much stays true to the formula of the Get It version but with more up-tempo energy and a crisper rhythm guitar sound. Bishop is allowed to cut loose with a better guitar solo as well.
“No Where To Run” is an alternate take of “Walking Evil” (from Get It). The song begins to several seconds of slowly moving but distorted open air rhythm guitar. Picking up in pace, “No Where To Run” charges through its verse portions with an abundance of angst laden momentum, not culminating until it obtains a chorus delivered in powerful but hook-filled fashion. Bishop tops things off with a solo that is nothing less than breathtaking. This song just plain kicks.
The laid back and gritty AC/DC style hard rocker “Turn It Up” slowly crawls its way forward in a gutsy manner, the dogged environment maintained as it transitions to a chorus advancing at a blues soaked mid-tempo pace. Bishop really shows off his chops here as well, adorning the full length of the song with his skillful work on rhythm and lead guitar.
The Peace Treaty number “Got To Let Go” still delivers the same catchy hook and edgy guitar driven impetus. While a very fine number, it lacks some of the spark and passion displayed by the band on the version it recorded for Fire It Up. Kniep does lay down quite the pronounced bass line, however.
“X-Sinner”, the bands signature song, commences to a hard hitting riff before slowly moving forward to a crunchy rhythm guitar backed by pounding drums. Sustaining the purposeful initiative, the song breaks out with an abundance of energy for a chorus highlighted by a slight hint of backing vocals. A good, straightforward and no-frills hard rocker.
The instrumental “Last Call” is probably the least notable of the unreleased compositions here. Not that there is anything wrong with it musically, but X-Sinner is not what I would characterize as an “instrumental band” and actually puts the better foot forward on the version in which Rex Scott handles lead vocal duties.
Getting underway to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, “Reap What You Sow” gradually builds in momentum before moving through its verse portions at an unrelenting upbeat tempo. The quickly moving chorus that follows is shored up by just the right amount of catchy vocal harmonies. Another high quality track that leaves me speechless as to why it was never recorded by the band.
“Shame” starts to a quick drum solo before taking off in upbeat fashion, the raucous environment upheld as it storms ahead to a terrific grit-laden and sass-flavored chorus. Bishop’s red hot lead work decorates an extensive instrumental section. The melody here is quite catching and will leave you singing along in no time.
A blast of pulsating rhythm guitar introduced “Last Call” before it slows to a punchy bass line. Slowing moving forward as a trace of vocal harmonies accents the background, the song culminates for a hook-driven chorus guaranteed to draw you in with its all out hard hitting energy. This one is a bit short at just over three minutes but still stands out with a notable hook and abundance of guitar driven impetus.
“Prophet And The Cowboy”, with its catchy chorus and infectious commercial rock feel, proves the better of the two bonus tracks from Cracked. “Going Around In Circles”, on the other hand, exhibits a more modern pop rock feel and actually falls a bit flat due to the somewhat subdued feel to its delivery.
My overall feeling here? I cannot help but think Get It could have been a much better album if given proper production. Top notch tracks that made their way onto Get It such as “Eyes Of Fire”, “A Cut Above”, “Nowhere To Run” and others prove this point in no uncertain terms. And when you factor in the quality of the unreleased material (“No Way Back”, “Turn It Up”, “Reap What You Sow” and “Shame”) it makes Loud & Proud + 2 nothing less than a necessary purchase.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Eyes Of Fire” (4:40), “A Cut Above” (4:18), “No Way Back” (4:35), “Medicine” (3:24), “No Where To Run” (5:26), “Turn It Up” (5:35), “Got To Let Go” (4:15), “X-Sinner” (4:11), “Last Call (Instrumental)” (3:05), “Reap What You Sow” (4:17), “Shame” (3:22), “Last Call” (3:11), “Prophet And The Cowboy” (5:06), “Going Around In Circles” (4:01)
Dave Robbins, Paul & Rex Scott – Lead Vocals
Greg Bishop – Guitars
Rob Kniep & Ed – Bass
Jim Ortega & Mike Buckner – drums