There aren’t too many surprises on the ‘Prayers for the Damned Vol. 1’, the new album from Sixx:A.M., but hey, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it? Nikki Sixx and co have hit upon a formula for their killer brand of hard rock that works; there’s massive choruses, massive guitars, massive bass lines and massive harmonies that all make for a massive sound on this loosely biblical album of pop metal.
Pop metal? Yep. When your lead singer is a man who writes hits for the likes of Kelly Clarkson and has an ear for a melody Katy Perry would kill for, if you took out the totally badass guitaring of the superb DJ Ashba and Sixx’s penchant for a bit of twisted darkness, make no bones about it, you’d be left with radio friendly, commercially appealing, uber positive pop.
From the word go on the first single ‘Rise’ we get everything this power trio holds dear; a hard rock groove from the low slung guitar, a hook filled chorus that flies ever higher as it progresses, a killer solo and Nikki’s bass bubbling away in the background. Damn it, there’s even the a ‘capella line before the grand finale. It ticks all the formula songwriting boxes, but when your band is this tight and your production this slick, you can’t fail to deliver.
How do you follow that? With another swaggering riff straight from Sunset Strip of course! It’s a thin disguise though, You Have Come To The Right Place is about as perfect a piece of hard driving pop as you can get. I’m Sick starts out as more of a slow boiler, but soon picks up to continue in pretty much the same vein, but what the hell, I love a bit of radio friendly rock as much as the next man, like they say in the song: “I’m sick, gimme some more of it!. There’s a particularly awesome solo though, as the song gathers pace for the climax.
The middle section of the album takes on a more serious tone with a more measured pace, the Sixx:A.M. brand of self help delving into issues of making amends, finding hope out of the darkness and turning to God. Better Man possesses an undercurrent of melancholy to the atmospheric guitar lines and James Michael’s vocal is a little more understated, while ‘Prayers for the Damned’ and ‘When We Were Gods’ have a particularly epic feel to the uplift as they push the religious imagery, the latter mixing things up a little arrangement wise with an unexpected twist towards the end.
Sandwiched between is ‘Can’t Stop’ with its marching vibe, but there’s an air of filler to it, although it is sure to work better in the live arena. ‘Belly of the Beast’ pricked my ears up a little further though, it really showcases what Michael can do vocally when he leaves his comfort zone and it’s a cool switch up.
There’s more than a hint of Motley Crüe in the opening chords to ‘Everything Went To Hell’ but the comparison ends there and it turns into something of a vehicle showcasing Ashba’s playing. DJ has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in the game and his playing throughout this album is nothing short of stunning, the killer riffing and sublime soloing a constant, adding another dimension to otherwise ordinary tracks like ‘The Last Time (My Heart Will Hit The Ground).
Album closer ‘Rise of the Melancholy Empire’ rounds things off in predictably epic style, though the delicate piano and atmospheric guitar lines add a touch of class. It is a quality way to end Volume 1, with the second half of this double album project set to drop later in the year.
This is probably Sixx:A.M’s strongest record since ‘Heroin Diaries’, pretty much every track has a winning hook, the playing is first rate and the production superb. Ok, so they like a pop melody and know how to deliver a chorus, but it’s not like they have art rock aspirations and what they do is done in style. There is a massive market for this kind of music, so when a band are writing songs with a message and turning in such great performances, superstardom is pretty much a given, not bad for what started as a side project.
Check out more on Sixx:A.M. here:http://sixxammusic.com/
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