Sometime in the early 90’s, maybe 1990 or 1991, I remember Vanessa Warwick, VJ on Headbanger’s Ball Europe premiered the debut video from Every Mother’s Nightmare, “Walls Come Down” and told us that they would be the next big thing or something like that, if I remember things correctly. I didn’t get it. Next big thing? These guys? I didn’t like the song and I thought they sounded like the bastard child of Skid Row and Poison. They looked like that as well. Now, I was a big Skid Row fan and I didn’t mind Poison either, but it just felt like EMN were just another bunch of guys jumping on the sleaze metal bandwagon. I thought the follow-up single, the ballad “Love Can Make You Blind” was ok, but again, it was just another MTV power ballad as far as I was concerned. Needless to say, I never bothered to even check out their 1990 self-titled debut and since I just didn’t give a rat, I never looked further into the band. I actually thought they had split up after the debut and when I got the reviewers link to their brand new album, I thought EMN had reformed just recently and that Grind was their second album. I was wrong.
EMN released a follow-up already in 1993, Wake Up Screaming, but by then their brand of hard rock was more or less dead which put the band on hiatus for seven years. In 2000 the band was back with Smokin’ Delta Voodoo, followed by Back Traxx (2001) and Deeper Shade Of Grey (2001) before it turned quiet around the band again. Fast forward some twelve years and EMN were resurrected once more, this time with lead singer Rick Ruhl as the sole original member. Along for the ride were John Guttery and Travis Butler (guitars), Trot Fleming (bass) and Jim Phipps (drums) and this five piece released the Grind E.P. in 2015. All five tracks is on this newly released come back album. Needless to say, my interest in this album wasn’t exactly on an all time high, but on the other hand, I do find it interesting to hear what old, reunited bands brings to the table. And I did sink my teeth into it with an open mind.
The band kicks off the album with “Crazy Loco” (featuring a guest appearance from Shinedown guitarist Zach Myers). The sound goes back to the mid 90’s when sleaze met grunge half way and this sleazy and quite gritty rocker brings both punch and attack and even though song isn’t radio friendly one bit, it sure sticks and I find myself digging along with a smile. It’s a great tune and I’m wondering if maybe I dismissed the band too fast way back then. “Snake” comes along with a dirty groove, a sleazy vibe and again, this isn’t radio friendly at all but it sure is catchy in all its raunchiness. Very good indeed. “Upper Hand” reminds me of a sleazier Mother Love Bone or maybe early Skid Row out on a date with Alice In Chains, like a dark party rocker on steroids. It’s fueled with attitude and it rocks hard but quality wise, it’s not as strong as the previous two. That said, I still think it’s a pretty good tune.
“Blown Away” is more of a mid-paced melodic hard rocker with a nasty groove. It holds a very catchy pop melody and a gritty rock groove and the refrain is very memorable. My favorite tune so far. “Sacred Circle” is also in mid-pace and it comes with a very distinct groove. It’s sleazy but with a spacey vibe and a darker touch. The tune belongs in 1993, when arena rock had gone from cheerful to a gloomier vibe. Very good. The power balladry of “Days Are Through” is a very big contrast to the rest of the songs and it almost feels out of place here. However, I find the tune a real winner and I love when bands takes a sharp turn like this. The acoustic guitars marries the electric ones very well and what we get here is a ballad they way they were done in the early 90’s. I have a weak spot for those. The dark sleaze rocker “Stand Up” is guested by non other than Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas. Sure enough it takes a bit of a southern rock vibe and old rockers Jackyl comes to mind. It’s a decent rocker with a redneck groove.
The last studio track on the album is called “Swing Again” and swing it does. With a fat groove, a big main melody and a very catchy chorus, the song attacks relentlessly. There is also an unexpected metal chugging break in the middle which brings another contrast to the song – very cool. Then we get three live tracks. First up is “Closet Down The Hall” (Wake Up Screaming), a kick-ass hard rocker, very sleazy with a big early 90’s arena rock feel. It doesn’t floor me but it is an ok song. “Walls Come Down” from the debut is next and I must say that I’m still not very fond of the song even though I think it’s somewhat better now than back when. And I still think it sounds like Skid Row meets Poison. The last track is “Push” (Smokin’ Delta Voodoo), a great stomper with a kick-ass punch and a bad-ass groove. I really like the tune and it is the best one of the live tracks.
I must say that the album is a surprise to me – much better than I had expected. The over-all sound is very much an updated version of the darker sleaze rock from around 1992 – 1993 when glam and sleaze was taking their first steps over to a grungier style – party laden but also dark and heavy. The production, however, isn’t really all that. It’s quite muffled and inside-a-can sounding and the mix feels a bit rushed. The instruments sound like they’re muffed together in one big dough – I like it when the instruments are more separated. Now, this might sound worse than it actually is, the production isn’t horrible but it sure could have been better. Also, only three tracks out of eleven are brand new which to me feels a bit cheap, to be honest. The live tracks should be saved for some limited edition, I think. With a couple of fillers too many, the album won’t get the full monty from me, but this is a good album – good enough for me to want to check out their early stuff. I will definitely keep an eye on this lot in the future to come.
1. Loco Crazy
3. Upper Hand
4. Blown Away
5. Sacred Circle
6. Days Are Through
7. Stand Up
9. Closet Down The Hall (Live)
10. Walls Come Down (Live)
11. Push (Live)