I was a big King Kobra fan back in the mid 80’s. That band made a huge impression on me with their two albums and I thought they would be huge. But after two albums that failed to deliver sales wise – and to be honest, their second album hasn’t aged especially well – the band started to fall apart. Singer Mark Free and bassist Johnny Rod left the band and drummer Carmine Appice and guitarists Mick Sweda and David Michael Philips replaced them with vocalist Marq Torien and bassist Lonnie Vencent. That didn’t last long either and before anyone could say Iron Eagle, King Kobra had split up and Torien, Sweda and Vencent had formed the BulletBoys with new drummer Jimmy D’Anda (today in Lynch Mob). Because of the band’s King Kobra past, yours truly couldn’t wait for BulletBoys’ debut album to come out and since it was 1988, I thought that it would sound something in the vein of the boys last band – Melodic Rock with AOR undertones.
Well, when BulletBoys debuted on Headbanger’s Ball with their self-titled debut’s leading single “Smooth Up In Ya” it stood pretty clear that that wouldn’t be the case. Instead of a huge production and loads of keyboards, the band had gone for a more stripped and raunchy sound, grittier and sleazier with a clear Van Halen influence. Was I disappointed? Not in the least! I loved that song, I loved their debut album and I loved the 1991 follow-up Freakshow. But after that, the BulletBoys were pretty much done even though they had platinum selling albums behind them. 1993’s ZaZa was an uneven effort and since grunge had taken over, no one was interested anymore and by 1995’s Acid Monkey, both D’Anda and Sweda had left the band. The album didn’t sell and the band split-up and when they reunited in 2003, only Torien was present from the original line-up and it have been that way ever since. But Torien and his cohort refuse to give in and are now back with another album, their 9th.
To say that I have had a big interest in this band since the 90’s would be to exaggerate things majorly but that said, their last album Elefanté (2015) was an ok give so let’s see (hear) if BulletBoys are still relevant with anything to offer, shall we? Opener “Apocalypto” blasts away in a sleazy manner – fast-paced and raunchy, straight-forward with a punch. It’s good without flooring me and I’m thinking maybe it’ll grow on me. It works as an opener any way. The single “D-Evil” follows with an aggressive and kicking groove. It’s an edgy tune with a melodic melody that hangs on after the song is finished. Jesse Hughes of Eagles Of Death Metal guests on the song, sharing the vocals with Torien. A good song and a good choice for a single. Then comes the title track which leans more toward Melodic Hard Rock even though it’s pretty ballsy and pounding. The refrain really hits home with its catchy and sing-along arrangements. Best track so far.
“Hi-Fi Drive By” is slower in pace and while it’s still somewhat raunchy it’s pretty much a pop song with Beatles influenced melodies. It doesn’t feel like a hit song but it’s got some major catchiness to it. Had it been recorded with a different singer there’s no way I could have guessed it was a BulletBoys song. It’s a great tune though. Another great tune is the acoustic ballad “Losing End Again”. It’s stripped and earthy, soulful and dynamic and it really sticks with me. So after a pop song and a ballad this album needs to rock again and “Whatcha Don’t” sure rock. It’s a rough, sleazy stomper that is looking for the early BulletBoys sound. And it do sound like BulletBoys. However, the song isn’t that interesting, it’s on the forgettable side and even though it’s ok it kind of falls on the way side. I have no clue what “P.R.A.B.” stands for so if anyone knows, let me know. It’s a rough and groovy rocker with a slight alternative twist, sleaze-rocking with a dance beat. Musical schizophrenia maybe? Oh well, it’s an ok song – no more no less.
“Sucker Punch” grooves in mid-pace, sports a rhythmic beat, some funky guitars and Torien even takes a shot at rapping in the middle of the song. It’s an ok song and I’m sure they had a blast recording it but it really doesn’t stick with me at all. “Switchblade Butterfly” is another acoustic laden ballad on the singer-songwriter side. Just like the other ballad it’s stripped and earthy with more Beatles-esque arrangements. It’s a cozy and soft tune but with this one, I’m not feeling it. An ok song. Closing track “Once Upon A Time” is another tune I would never associate with BulletBoys as it’s an uptempo Pop song with a very smooth and likable melody, the kind that leaves you humming for hours after it’s finished. The tune really push all the right buttons for me as I’m a sucker for this kind of Pop-Rock. It might not sound like BulletBoys but it’s still awesome!
For starters, with the big change in sound and the fact that Torien is the only original member of the band, this doesn’t feel like BulletBoys at all. I’m guessing the name is still there for marketing reasons and personally I think it would better if Marq went by his own name instead. Whatever the reasons, what matters is the music and on this album, just like its predecessor, it has its winners and its losers. But to me, the highlights on this record are too few and the mediocre fillers are a few too many. It’s not a bad album but I can’t say I love it either. I might be conservative and stubborn, but if the cover says BulletBoys, I want it to sound like BulletBoys – and this album don’t. Now when Mick Sweda jumped the somewhat failed King Kobra reunion and Lynch Mob is more a project than a band, a BulletBoys reunion might be something to consider.
More BulletBoys reviews:
3. From Out Of the Skies
4. Hi-Fi Drive By
5. Losing End Again
6. Whatcha Don’t
8. Sucker Punch
9. Switchblade Butterfly
10. Once Upon A Time