They start off with an impressive resume even before the first note hits. You've got Nikki Sixx, co-founder and bassist of Motley Crue, among many other credits; DJ Ashba from Guns N' Roses; and James Michael as the fron man, who is this kickin' producer, songwriter, engineer, and mixer and has worked with Motley Crue, Meatloaf, Alanis Morissette, and Papa Roach. These guys know their hard rock music, so it kind of makes sense that some sort of collaboration would come out of their experiences together.
They got this group together and released this album in 2007, forming what is billed on their site as a supergroup. They released another album this year called This Is Gonna Hurt, coming together because of "friendship," which is about a good a reason as I can think of to make music. The fact that they can do that on a whim as well speaks volumes to their individual success. Good for these guys!
The album I'm listening to today is their first release, and it's most definitely structured as a story and the title fits the compilation.
Let's take a listen to the story.
Convenient, it begins with a diary entry being read. "Merry Christmas," he says to the listener. We find out this is a new diary, because he's had others. Ok, seriously though, you need to realize the mood of this CD:
The track is titled "X-Mas In Hell":
"December 24th, 1986, Van Nuys. Merry Christmas. Well that's what people say at Christmas, right? Except for normally, they have somebody to say it to. They have friends and family. And they haven't been crouched naked under a Christmas tree with a needle in their arm like an insane person in a mansion in Van Nuys. They're not out of their minds, they're not writing in a diary, and they're definitely not watching their holiday spirit coagulate in a spoon. I didn't speak to a single person today. I thought, 'why should I ruin their fuckin' Christmas?' I've started a new diary and this time I have a few new reasons: (1) I have no friends left, (2) so I can read back and remember what I did the day before, and (3) so if I die, at least I leave a nice little suicide note of my life. It's just me and you, Diary. Welcome to my fucking life."
Followed up by creepy Nightmare Before Christmas-esq Children singing "La la la la" to a Christmas theme. Then he goes on to talk a little more about how screwed up his life is. Clearly, we are in for a rough ride here.
"Van Nuys" is the second track, and now we're in to the music itself. This is a song bringing us into the story more, showing his will to survive and work forward to a better future. "I don't want to die out here in the valley." Compared to that first track, this shows will at least. There may be hope to this story yet. Considering the next song is "Life Is Beautiful," let's keep hope alive. It sounds like someone else coming in and trying to convince him, or else he's trying to convince himself. Even the music itself is a little more positive. "Just open your eyes and believe that life is beautiful." Surprising to hone in on if you're just sort of hearing the rock music itself. This song also provided their first video, so check it out - I think they provided some diary sketches in here:
His reply is "Pray For Me." Okay, inner battle going on here clearly, but wanting to do better. I'm pulling for him. "Tomorrow" brings back the happy, talking about there being a tomorrow one way or another, however you have to face it. Everything's going to constantly change, but you've got to face it.
Then "Accidents Can Happen" slows us all down a little bit, asking him to not give up. "It's okay, we all fall off the wagon. Sometimes it's not your whole life - it's only one day." I think this is him kind of stumbling again, with the hopeful voices pulling him back through. It's most definitely the end of the first act, as "Intermission" takes us spiraling back downward, complete with creepy circus theme. His biggest note is "How the hell am I still alive?" Very Coheed sound going on here. Anywhos, everyone head out to the lobby and grab a snack - get ready for Act 2.
We open up the second act with "Dead Man's Ballet," and I may not necessarily be into the entire song, but musically this is beautiful. I want to strip the voice from it and just listen to the rest alone. Dance teachers out there - this would make a great recital number. So I didn't really listen to lyrics here, but we're introduced to "the drug scouts of America" in the next speech that kicks off "Heart Failure." Seriously, this could be a musical. More issues, the next bring down. This is the biggest fall and most discouraging.
"Girl With Golden Eyes" is so much lighter, and, if you listen lyrically, a song of regret of addiction. It's beautiful and enchanting and frightening all at once. There's a hint of growth here though: "everything will be all right if I can get away from her, everything will be all right." "Courtesy Call" opens with a busy tone, lightly building into a song based off the same beat. It picks up intensity in the chorus, trying to tell him "this is just to let you know your time is up." Time to change things buddy, now. There's a tortured thanks toward the end. We may see change yet.
"Permission" is an apology for his screw ups, while asking for life again and people in it, even apologizing ahead of time for the rebuilding that's coming. "All of my devils are free at last." Nice sigh of relief in every word sung here.
"Life After Death" is the finale, and possibly the darkest sounding song on the album. More spiraling, but I feel like we maybe at least close at on a better note. He speaks and acknowledges the end of one thing, beginning of anew.
I don't like many things on here by themselves, but here's the stuff I wouldn't mind hearing again:
- "Life is Beautiful" - http://open.spotify.com/track/0o4vrtlekTSzrMrE6cMcp0
- "Tomorrow" - http://open.spotify.com/track/2ai4gvweieDChqwOFMgZYQ
- "Girl With GOlden Eyes" - http://open.spotify.com/track/7vLWArylSQsjx9bLbCQnIE
- "Life After Death" - http://open.spotify.com/track/5q1H6uGQ6OcHpog385q9OU
Look, I don't dislike this album, let alone this band. I actually really enjoyed the album as a whole, but am not digging individual songs. If you couldn't tell by the breakdown, I really got into the story and enjoyed it as a whole. These guys really put together a wonderful journey that is tough but moving.
I would give their second album a shot for sure. This first one seemed like more of a story-based one, where as the few things I've heard from the second album seem to stand moreso on their own.
Much different sound than I'm used to, but I like it. Nice new world of listening.
What did you think? Did you dare to take the journey? Comment below and give me your thoughts!!!