For everyone who has read my reviews of Sixx A.M.’s previous albums, it’s no news that I am a huge fan of this band. The truth is, it was a long time since I found a band that could release album after album with such high quality and after four albums I still can’t find one song that I find crappy or even close to bad. Sure, there are songs, even if they are few, that I don’t find awesome or great, but the worst Sixx A.M. song ever written still qualifies as good. So I’m wondering, when will the first mediocre Sixx A.M. album come out? Hopefully never, but the more killer albums they release, the closer they get to that album, the mediocre one. Also, Sixx A.M. has turned out to be one hell of a creative band. This album is their fifth since the debut The Heroin Diaries back in 2007, but back then Sixx A.M. weren’t even a real band, but a project and that album was supposed to be a one only and it was nothing but a soundtrack to Nikki Sixx’s book by the same name. They weren’t even a real band by the time their second album, the masterpiece This Is Gonna Hurt, was released in 2011, even though they actually had played a few gigs live – that album was also a soundtrack by another Sixx book with the same name. It wasn’t until the release of the very underrated third album Modern Vintage (2014) that they decided on making Sixx A.M. their first priority when Sixx and his buddies (hrrmmm…) in Mötley Crüe had decided that they would call it day after the next tour and guitarist D.J. Ashba quit his day job in Axl Rose’s solo band a.k.a. Guns N’ Roses.
But Sixx A.M.’s start as a band began for real when Mötley Crüe had played their last gig on New Year’s Eve 2015, when Nikki Sixx could focus 100% on Sixx A.M. In April 2016 they released their, together with This Is Gonna Hurt, finest record to date, Prayers For The Damned Vol 1 and for the fourth time in a row the band had released a phenomenal hard rock album and since then it feels like the band has been growing bigger and bigger, much to the fact that they have been touring around the globe like crazy, showing everyone that they are not just a studio product but also a damn great live act as well. The “Vol 1” tag insinuated that a “Vol 2” also was in the making and only six months later that album was released. Personally, I was a bit afraid that a quality downfall could take place when you consider the fact that there hasn’t been any time for the members to write new material because of all the touring which means that this album must have been written at the same time as volume one – and who can write two full albums at the same time and not give in on the quality, at least some? Was this album the one that would tell the guys to slow down a bit and focus more on quality than quantity? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
The opening track “Barbarians (Prayers For The Blessed)” promises a lot. It’s a heavy and upbeat in-your-face hard rock song with a melody stronger than steel and a chorus that hits right where it should – between the eyes. With such a killer opening track it’s only natural that expectations rises even further, especially as the first single, the brilliant “We Will Not Go Quietly” was released prior to the album. As a single, this extremely catchy pop influenced hard rock song is a pretty obvious choice – it has HIT written all over it. The vibe is very much on the modern radio rock side, but James Michael has a very personal touch on the way he writes the melodies and it’s easy to hear that this is a Sixx A.M. song. The atmospheric and softer middle-break brings The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack to mind. This is so damn awesome! Sixx A.M. continues to keep the promises of the first two tracks with “Wolf At Your Door”, a heavy and driven but darker tune with a contagious melody and a chorus – a bit more pop than the rest of the song – that is just phenomenal. “Maybe It’s Time” is the album’s big power ballad and probably a future single. It’s both a lighter-in-the-air ballad, but it’s also very heartfelt, emotional and real – I’m such a sucker for this kind of ballad. “The Devil’s Coming” starts out as blasting heavy metal tune where drummer Dustin Steinke works hard for his pay-check. Even though it calms itself down to a slower pace, it’s still a rough rocker with an intense arrangement and an in-your-face rhythm and the melody sticks right off the bat. “Catacombs” is an instrumental guitar piece signed D.J. Ashba where he gets to show off his skills without going all too virtuoso on us. It’s an ok piece of music but it’s more of an intro for the following song “That’s Gonna Leave A Scar”. As a song of its own, it feels kind of unnecessary and it would have worked better as a part of “Scar” instead.
“That’s Gonna Leave A Scar” is heavy with a punch, melodic and very catchy, aggressive and ass-kicking – another highlight on this record. The album’s sore thumb is the ballad “Without You”. It’s not the Mötley Crüe song, but it is a cover – earlier recorded by Badfinger, Harry Nilsson and Air Supply, but is today mostly famous for Mariah Carey’s version. I have never been that crazy about the song and even though I think this version is the best one, I’m still not crazy about it. And I just can’t stop thinking about the chick that sung it as “Ken Lee” in the Bulgarian Music Idol which makes it hard for me to listen to the song without a smirk. “Suffocate” starts out as an acoustic guitar ballad but it turns electric, still with an acoustic guitar as the foundation. A brilliant piano arrangement brings new character to the song and it has a floating feel that makes it sound levitating. Add some cool riff happiness and an amazing melody and we have another winner on our hands. The slower paced “Riot In My Head” takes on a more experimental mood. It lies somewhere between a ballad and a rocker and I can hear a big Queen influence in it. It also contains an arrangement that would suit a musical and on top of that it has a chorus that just screams hit, with all the hooks in the world. The sound of the song brings both The Heroin Diaries and Modern Vintage to mind. The closing track “Helicopters” is an acoustic guitar based, kind of spaced out and trippy tune with a great deal of melancholy and shitloads of dynamics. The whole melody is fabulous and it sticks right away without being the least radio friendly. Apparently, James Michael wrote it some 15 years ago and judging by the sheer pain in his voice, the song must be very personal to him. A brilliant closer.
I gave Prayers For The Damned Vol 1 a 10/10 rating and for the most, this album is exactly as good. How on earth three guys are able to write so many brilliant songs at once is really beyond me and to say that I am impressed is the understatement of the year. But there are things here that makes this record not a 10/10. Firstly it’s “Without You”, the somewhat pointless cover. No, it’s not bad and as I wrote earlier, it’s the best version of the song I have heard. But I just can’t see the point in covering it. I mean, the guys obviously write fantastic songs themselves and if they have the urge to record a cover, there are shitloads of better songs out there. I would actually have preferred a cover of the Mötley song with the same name, to be honest. Secondly, the instrumental tune really don’t bring anything worthwhile to the table. As a song of its own, it’s quite forgettable and it would have worked a lot better as a part of the following song, as an unnamed intro. But other than that, this album is another killer from Sixx A.M. The Prayers albums was supposed to be a double album at one point so it’s not a complete shocker that the twin albums are very alike in both song structure and sound so if you dug the last one, you’ll dig this one as well. World domination should be right around the corner for this amazing band!
Other Sixx A.M. reviews:
1. Barbarians (Prayers For The Blessed)
2. We Will Not Go Quietly
3. Wolf At Your Door
4. Maybe It’s Time
5. The Devil’s Coming
7. That’s Gonna Leave A Scar
8. Without You
10. Riot In My Heart
Sorry but I just HAD to add this to the review. It’s hilarious!