KANE ROBERTS – The New Normal

I was a late Alice Cooper bloomer. I was a kid in the 70’s but I totally missed out on The Coop. I got into Alice in the mid 80’s when he made his come back with Constrictor (1986). After that record, I was hooked and found his glorious past. But it wasn’t only Alice himself that made me discover him. There was this guitar player as well, a big, muscular guy who posed with a guitar shaped as a machine gun and looked a hell of a lot like Rambo. His name was Kane Roberts and we were being told that he was the new hot-shot guitar hero to be – and boy did we love guitar heroes back in the 80’s. My teen me thought he was the coolest rock dude I had seen in ages – and to my ears, Kane Roberts was among the best guitarists I had lent my ears to. He also co-wrote said album with Alice. Kane played and co-wrote on one more record, Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987), an album that was a big disappointment for me – and it still is. But Kane’s playing was wicked.

After Kane left Alice’s band, he focused on his own solo career. Two records followed, his self-titled debut (1987), an ok record that had some great stuff on it and Kane’s great one, Saints And Sinners (1991). The latter is more or less a sister-album to his former employer’s biggest selling album Trash (1990) – on which Kane guested – and is to me, the fact that it didn’t sell like crazy is one of music’s big mysteries. After that, he made two more solo records, records I didn’t know about until very recently and one album under the Phoenix Down moniker. Apart from that, he had a small part in the movie Shocker and has written songs with and for artists like Kiss. He has also played on albums with artist like Berlin and Rod Stewart. I have always dug Roberts as a guitarist and vocalist so the fact that he have now made a come back is really good news for me – and I was very intrigued to hear what he had come up with.

Opening track “King Of The World” starts out on an acoustic note, quite soft but continues on in a more Melodic Rock way, the way we knew him from back in the day, maybe just a bit heavier. It holds a very good main-melody and the refrain is really catchy – big single potential here. Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper) guests and brings on a razor-sharp solo as well and with that, the album starts in a really good way. But things get darker right away. “Wonderful” is heavy and aggressive and musically it goes into a more modern Metal vibe. This is not my choice of Rock really even though it’s not a crap tune. It just might end up getting some air-play on modern Rock radio. Leading single “Beginning Of The End” has both Alice Cooper and Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz guesting on vocals – and both delivers with all they’ve got. It’s a heavy tune with a big groove and Cooper’s Brutal Planet album comes to mind. A kick-ass tune with a striking and effective refrain. Great.

“Who We Are” is an acoustically driven ballad, stripped and melancholic in a slow pace. The tune is more down-to-earth but also very melodic and memorable without being Pop or cheesy at all – very good. “Forever Out Of Place” keeps the balladry going. It’s a softer tune with more acoustic guitars. It speeds up some but never leaves the pop-song territory, complete with a big refrain that makes think of Shinedown and it holds lots of hit-potential. A single to be, I hope. Very good. “Leave This World Behind” is pop-rock meets modern Metal. Heavy riffing, slow and laid-back in the verses with a crispy and blasting refrain. But the whole song sounds a bit unstructured and at times confused, like it doesn’t really know where to go. “The Lion’s Share” starts out with only Kane’s voice only to be accompanied by a piano moments after. It stays soft with only a guitar and drum (machine?) coming in later. There’s no direct refrain but it’s still a memorable ballad. Good one.

“Leave Me In The Dark” is another track that starts out laid-back but turns heavy and dark pretty fast. Musically, this is Metal of old meets more modern, radio-oriented Metal of today, something I’m not that comfortable with. It’s not a crappy song at all but it never really lifts and just can’t get the hang of it. To call it catchy would be to stretch things largely. “Above And Beyond” reunites his old Alice Cooper team of Kip Winger (bass), Ken Mary (drums) and Paul Taylor (keyboards), which is really cool, I think. Again, the tune starts out soft and laid-back but soon turns into a more groovy rocker. It is Melodic Rock with twists of both modern radio-rock and industrial elements. It holds a very good and catchy refrain but otherwise, it’s only ok. The album closes with “Wrong”, a dark, stripped and somewhat industrial sound. It’s a ballad but not a power ballad, punchy and quite heavy with a memorable refrain. It’s a pretty good tune but wrong (sic!) as a closer. This album needs a more crunchy ending track.

First impression left me cold and disappointed. I didn’t like the sound and I didn’t like the songs – yes, I admit I had hoped for a more Melodic Hard Rock/Arena Rock record. But it grew on me and I have now found many tunes being really good. But there are also too many fillers on it. Also, it don’t feel very much Kane Roberts over the more modern sounding songs, it feels like he’s trying too hard to be relevant in today’s music than doing what he does best. I’m not that keen on the production either. Too many times it sounds more like a demo than a finished product. And programmed drums? I’m not gonna swear on it but it sure sounds like that on a few tracks. The whole album sounds compressed and constipated – the album just don’t breathe enough. I’m not gonna slag the album off totally because there are some good stuff on it, it’s just that I had hoped for a different sounding record. And fewer fillers.

5/10

Tracklist:

1. King Of The World
2. Wonderful
3. Beginning Of The End
4. Who We Are
5. Forever Out Of Place
6. Leave This World Behind
7. The Lion’s Share
8. Leave Me In The Dark
9. Above & Beyond
10. Wrong

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