As an old geezer, I still have a need to find new music. Not just new bands but also new music from old bands that are still hanging in there. I even dig up bands that I normally don’t like just to give them another shot – Hell, I just might dig them this time. Because music is my life elixir and if I could I would have music playing at my home 24/7. However, even though I have found shitloads of new bands in the last few years, many of them really damn brilliant, I haven’t found a band that I could call a favorite band. When it comes to favorite bands, I always go back to the usual suspects – Sweet, Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Rolling Stones, Y&T, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath – bands that will always be the ones closest to my heart. Then I bumped into Sixx A.M. The first time I heard their debut album The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack (2007), I was completely floored. I loved that album then and I still do today and if I had reviewed it then, it would have been given the 10/10 treatment without a doubt. But it was clear that Sixx A.M. weren’t a real band back then, the album was just a soundtrack that went with Nikki Sixx’s book of the same name and the project was only for the studio. Besides, Nikki Sixx (bass) was busy with Mötley Crüe, D.J. Ashba (guitar) was employed by Axl Rose and his solo band he call Guns N’ Roses and lead singer James Michael had a career as a song writer. For us who loved that album, the news of a sequel in 2011 was really good news. Still not a real band and also a soundtrack to another Sixx-book, This Is Gonna Hurt surpassed all expectations – I would have given it an 11/10 rating if I could – and now I was seriously hoping that they would start acting like a band and not just a studio project. Those wishes came true in 2014 – Mötley Crüe were taking its final steps, Ashba had quit Axl N’ Roses and James was ready to go full-time with the band. That’s when they released Modern Vintage, their first album with a real drummer (Jeff Fabb), but also an album that got some mixed reviews from both media and fans – to say the least. Some people loved it and some hated it. Me, I was one of the lovers. Ok, so my 10/10 review might just have been a bit over the top, I’ll admit that. But I truly love the record and when enough fans gives it the finger, I become obstinate and that’s when these things happen – I did believe it was a 10/10 when I wrote the review, though. In reality, 8/10 is more accurate and I admit that Modern Vintage wasn’t as great as its predecessors. But it was a brave record and a record that showed that Sixx A.M. are a band completely without limits and that they are able to stretch musically and go in what direction they want and need to without giving in on quality and sound. And it was sure good enough to make their new record come with expectations up to the moon!
First single “Rise” is a tune I have heard numerous times on the radio by now, but I was floored by the tune already the first time I heard it. It’s easy to hear the classic Sixx A.M. arrangements – James Michael really have a way with melodies and you can hear his input miles away, no matter who he is writing with. He also knows how to write stuff that sticks in your mind right away, a real hit maker. It’s a heavy number, but very catchy and – in a good way – radio friendly. “You Have Come To The Right Place” is also single material. It’s a poppy hard rocker that is both happy and a bit gloomy, but the ultra catchy refrain really nails the tune to the musical centre of the brain. It brings This Is Gonna Hurt to mind so it’s a winner just by that. “I’m Sick” is a more direct and rough hard rocker with a riff and melody that brings “Life Is Beautiful” to mind and its darker groove makes it real edgy. The opening guitar parts of the title track actually reminds me of Iron Maiden, but the song’s more doomy character and slower pace makes it almost go into ballad territory. It still has a heavy groove and very is memorable – awesome track. “Better Man” is a ballad – a big ballad. It’s somewhat melancholic, a bit “sad” sounding and very emotional. I would be surprised if this doesn’t end up as a single as well. “Can’t Stop” is a real groover that reminds me of a more modern Led Zeppelin. The string arrangement have a “Kashmir” kind of feel, but the main melody is Sixx A.M. all the way – fantastic! “When We Were Gods” is lyrically a throwback to Sixx’s glory days (I assume) but musically it takes us back to The Heroin Diaries in the verses and the chorus leans more towards This Is Gonna Hurt and precisely everything about this tune is catchy. “Belly Of The Beast” borders to metal and has to be the heaviest track on the record – and the one least radio friendly. However, the melodies are spot on and in-your-face. “Everything Went To Hell” has a riff reminiscent of Megadeth’s “Symphony Of Destruction”. It’s a riff-happy and groove ridden rocker, very direct with a heavy darkness resting all over tune. Amazing tune. “The Last Time (My Heart Will Hit The Ground)” comes with a mega groove and swing and while a kick-ass rocker, it’s very much pop with an instant catchiness that is really hard to shake – not that you’d wanna do that. The finishing track “Rise Of The Melancholy Empire” with its 6 minutes, is the album’s epic track. It’s slow, mellow and melancholic, yet intense and heavy – and dark! Brilliant!
After just one listen, I’m breathless! This, my friends, is such a damn brilliant record. Their best yet? Well, I’d be damned if it isn’t – at least it’s up there with This Is Gonna Hurt. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but what it is it’s their heaviest disc to date. For all of you who thought Modern Vintage was a dive down the sewer, this album will be heaven-sent. For you who want to hear Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses style, this is not for you because Sixx A.M. aren’t that type of band at all. This band is all about the musicians and the songs. In James Michael they have a brilliant singer with a very personal voice, a guy who has his very own style when it comes to writing melodies and arrangements, that makes Sixx A.M. a modern hard rock band but with classic hard rock vibes, making them a stand-out band among all the other rockers on modern rock radio. In D.J. Ashba they also has a guitar player extraordinaire, a guitar hero but without any guitar masturbation. And finally Sixx, this is the band where he have proved himself as a bass player. In Crüe his playing was simple and yes, groovy, but here he really plays. As I wrote above, there are many newer hard rock bands that are really damn good, but none of them has grown to be a favorite band of mine – until now. With four amazing records under the belt, Sixx A.M. has turned out to be a favorite band of mine and I already look forward to Prayers For The Damned Vol 2, released later this year. And this time I will not change my mind on the rating…
2. You Have Come To The Right Place
3. I’m Sick
4. Prayers For The Damned
5. Better Man
6. Can’t Stop
7. When We Were Gods
8. Belly Of The Beast
9. Everything Went To Hell
10. The Last Time (My Heart Will Hit The Ground)
11. Rise Of The Melancholy Empire