Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Album Review: Sixx:AM - Prayers For The Damned: Vol 1

Over the last few years, Sixx:AM has become one of the more consistent charting bands in modern rock. They may not be a name that rolls off the tongue, but they now have an established string of singles that have garnered tons of airplay, and give them the basis to claim a more relevant place in rock music that either of the bands their members have been playing in. While both Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses are purely nostalgia acts now, Sixx:AM is a living, breathing band that is continuing to grow. If you had asked me when the band was announced, I would have found that hard to believe.

The heart of the band is the combination of Nikki Sixx and singer James Michael, who I first encountered when the two contributed a few songs to a Meat Loaf album. Yes, you read that right. These people selling you a rock band once wrote songs for Meat Loaf. Good ones, too.

Given that, I have checked in each time the band has released a record, and a similar theme emerges each time. Like anyone who is a professional songwriter for hire, they are capable of writing some great material, but they are not very good at making entire albums that live up to that standard. So for every "Accidents Will Happen" they come up with, there are two songs that are a chore to get through.

This time out, the band is more focused then ever on their future, and it shows. The first five tracks on this record are right there with the best stuff they've yet done. "Rise" gets the album off to a fine start with a dramatic flourish and strong contributions from everyone. "You Have Come To The Right Place" has an irresistible hook, and hits the sweet spot of being catchy as all hell, but still keeping a rock attitude. The title track is the best of the bunch, with a darker atmosphere and one heck of a chorus. It's one of the band's best songs, and it single-handedly made me think that the band had finally put everything together.

But then the album takes a turn. The middle batch of songs completely falls apart, and offers up the ultra-simple, beat-based, no melodies anywhere kind of rock music that is so obviously filler. They sound like the tracks that were written because the record wasn't long enough, and they drag things down pretty hard. There's a rebound at the end, but it's not enough to rescue the record. The worst part of saying all that is that this is the first half of a double record. I can already see what is going to happen. Part II will be exactly the same, half good and half disappointing. And when I have both records to put together, there will be one fantastic record's worth of songs, and another album's worth that shouldn't have seen the light of day.

In judging "Prayers For The Damned - Vol I", I suppose the best way of stating my opinion would be to say that it serves as a good starting point for the inevitable compilation I will be making when the second half arrives, because as a record it quickly wears out the welcome I gave it with open arms.

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