Hard Rock… Hallelujah! Every band since the first one rocking a shinbone-flute and mammoth-skin drum has been influenced by some other band. And it’s impossible for those of us listening to and/or reviewing the newest thing to not notice those influences… or who we think are the influences. From the second Brett Martin opens his mouth and lets his gravelly tones spill forth I kept thinking, “Lordi! This is the vocalist from Lordi!” The band is from Europe. They’re playing Sleaze. It has to be him.
He is not the singer from Lordi. But, he sure does remind me of Mr. Lordi (Tomi Petteri Putaansuu). It’s not just the gravelly delivery, it’s the tone and vocal melodies he uses as he weaves his voice through the songs on this debut album from what I’ve discovered is a very fresh and new band. Smoking Snakes seem to have popped out of a sleazy Gothenburg bar fully formed ex nihilo. Who are these guys? They are from Sweden, except for the Brazilian guy. They had been in other bands… briefly. One member isn’t even old enough to drink, were they to visit the USA! But here they are cranking out something old, something new, something borrowed, something…
I keep seeing this band compared to W.A.S.P., KISS, Ratt, Dokken and other 80’s bands. Yes, sort of. They do have a certain feel that harkens back to that time of party metal and of course I’m sure they would count those bands as influences. I for one think maybe the promoters are simply trying to link Smoking Snakes to those bands to drum up interest. That’s fine. They have to get your attention somehow. But I think Smoking Snakes bring something more than just a “hey we’re a retro 80s metal band” schtick.
From the gun they come out strong with Angels Calling (not to be confused with Rob Rock’s insane Calling Angels). Those Lordi vocals! Great vocal hooks pull you right in. Somewhat like “Yond Cassius”, they have a lean and hungry sound. The gang-vocals on the chorus will stick right to the inside of your skull.
There is no let up with Sole Survivors, and I’d have to say this song does have 80s written all over it. It’s an 80s rocker with great gang-vocals that sounds exactly like it could be right in the middle of a KISS or Lordi album: either one. Ha! Yes, I know I said they have their own sound. They do. That doesn’t mean a band or song can’t remind you of another. Very melodic, but also plenty heavy, and I love the guitar slaying that finishes the song out.
Run For Your Life is one heck of a catchy tune with hooks galore. I suspect some people will not care for Martin’s vocals, but I’m telling you they make me think of beer-soaked leather that’s seen better days. In our beloved metal genre that is more than good enough. His vocals match the spirit and lyrics of these songs perfectly. These guys are on bikes, falling into trash piles, hanging out around bonfires.
All but the most incredible albums have some songs that don’t quite hit you or are slight departures from the high points. Lady Luck and Excited represent a mid-album lull where the songs don’t stand out. They are not bad songs at all, but after the furious well-written beginning I found my attention wandering a bit. Even after 4-5 listens I can’t escape this general sense. Of course, a lull from this band would be another band’s highlight. It is all relative.
Relentless and Sorrow, Death and Pain show the band getting all the way back on track. They remind me a bit of early Motley Crue but with Mr. Lordi singing again. I cannot escape that, but I don’t want Martin to change a thing. He’ll just have to live knowing I think he sounds like Mr. Lordi, LOL.
As the band enters the final stretch There is No Tomorrow and Who Am I are a bit of filler. They retain the album’s sound, they just aren’t standout tracks. Relativity comes into play again; Halle Berry’s worst day is everyone else’s best day kind-of-thing (yes, I’m a middle-aged man!).
Fear not! We Are Alive is a galloping rocker with bass and drums that might sound right at home on an early Iron Maiden album… and then a couple quick guitar attacks that instantly recall Judas Priest! The vocals are a highlight as well. Yes, this song is bad-to-the-bone!
It is fitting that a Sleaze band with 80s roots would finish their excellent debut album with party anthem Rocking to the Morning Light. The vocals stand out again and the guitar tone is warmer. The chorus is catchy and will stay with you long after the song is over.
Smoking Snakes do a good job of putting a new spin on something old and something borrowed. If you’re playing Heavy Metal in 2024 that’s pretty much your tricky task: build on what came before; but you better sound interesting and fresh! They do.
** A bonus for me: One song clocks in at 2:46, another 4:09, and the rest somewhere safely in the 3:xx range. They get after it!
80s inspired Sleaze with Scandinavian and 21st Century production and sensibilities. For that you receive a very, very solid 8/10. I can recommend this to all fans of this corner of our world.
Reviewer rating: 8/10
Pre-Save/Add “Danger Zone”
“DANGER ZONE” TRACKLISTING
1 Angels Calling
2 Sole Survivors
3 Run For Your Life
4 Lady Lucky
6 Restless And Wild
7 Sorrow, Death And Pain
8 There Is No Tomorrow
9 Who Am I
10 We Are Alive
11 Rocking To The Morning Light
Total Time: 0.37.48
Brett Martin – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Andy Delarge – bass, backing vocals
Stan Ricci – drums, backing vocals
Leo Razor – lead guitar, backing vocals