In the current musical climate it takes something special to pull off Hard Rock without it sounding like a lukewarm version of the 1980s. Thankfully, the combined talents of Motley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, Guns n Roses guitarist DJ Ashba and multi-platinum producer/engineer/songwriter James Michael not only pull it off, but also add a modern twist, experimenting with a variety of sounds over the band’s three powerful records.
Originally formed back in 2007 for the soundtrack project to Nikki’s brutal ‘Heroin Diaries’ book, Sixx A.M. were never even meant to tour, but public demand soon changed that and the busy schedules of the individual members had to be put on hold. The tour led to a second record, also accompanying a book, Nikki’s photography project, ‘This is Gonna Hurt’, which inevitably led to more touring, more recording and the release of 2014’s ‘Modern Vintage’. All three albums are jam packed with hard rocking hook filled tunes, but they also include an array of interesting touches, from catchy pop, through industrial to music hall and the theatrical.
There’s a kind of freshness and instant likeability to the creative hotbed that is Sixx A.M.; Michael knows how to deliver a good old fashioned radio-friendly hook, yet their heavy assed tracks are glued together by Ashba’s powerful riffing and soaring solos, all underscored by Sixx’s rumbling bass. As well as covering the hard-hitting subject of addiction and recovery, there’s plenty more substance to the lyrical content in their accessible take on modern life. As Nikki says:
“A big part of our message is, and will always be, finding hope in dark subject matters, taking universal messages and rendering them in a way which people can ascribe their own meanings to and relate to their own life experiences. That is something that resonates with our crowd and gives us the strength of connection we do.”
Now that the final nail has gone into the Motley Crüe coffin and that Slash has (temporarily) made up with Axl, it looks like Nikki and Dj might have a bit of extra time on their hands to dedicate to this intriguing project which keeps serving up killer tunes. With Michael making space in his prolific songwriting and production schedule, the coming release of their fourth album Prayers for the Damned Vol 1.’ and the possibility of Vol.2 also following in 2016, should see the band making serious waves; there are already a number of top festival dates confirmed. In the meantime, ‘Rise’, the killer first track from the new record, has already dropped and the album is set to follow in late April, so as a taster, here are six(x) of their best…
‘Relief’ from ‘Modern Vintage’
This starts out like an urgent hard rocker, but soon takes on a darker feel with a more restrained vocal, before the annoyingly catchy chorus. Although a little less epic than some of their work, the frantic feel gives it a vibrant energy that makes for a killer tune.
‘Stars’ from ‘Modern Vintage’
For high quality slickly delivered melodic hard rock, it don’t get much better than this.
‘Lies of the Beautiful People’ from ‘This is Gonna Hurt’
Despite being seriously hooky and possessing a touch of uplift to the chorus, this is actually one of their darkest tracks and features some great work from DJ Ashba.
‘Life Is Beautiful’ from ‘THe Heroin Diaries Soundtrack’
Although ‘This is Gonna Hurt’ has some great moments it’s the ‘Heroin Diaries’ that is all killer and ‘Life is Beautiful’ showcases pretty much everything that rocks about this band – great chorus, banging riff – good, straight forward, hard-rocking tune.
‘Van Nuys’ from ‘THe Heroin Diaries Soundtrack’
They manage to include a killer hook and put a commercial spin on this claustrophobic track about Nikki’s addiction. It also features some lovely touches in the instrumentation as well as James Michael’s most versatile vocal performance; superb.
‘The Girl With Golden Eyes’ from ‘THe Heroin Diaries Soundtrack’
There are so many great tracks on ‘Heroin Diaries’ that it’s actually difficult to pin-point a favourite; I love ‘Courtesy Call’, ‘Pray For Me’ rocks and ‘Dead Man’s Ballet’ is one of the most innovative tracks they’ve done, but there’s something about this song that I love – maybe it’s the brutal honesty of the track, the building intensity or just its atmosphere – whatever, it’s a great track.