Thursday, March 23, 2017

Album Review: Art Of Anarchy - The Madness

A couple of years ago, Art Of Anarchy emerged from nowhere as one of those supergroups you expect nothing from. What was surprising is that despite Scott Weiland trying his hardest to distance himself in every way from the group, it was the best piece of music he had been involved in for a long, long time. No, it wasn't perfect, but there were killer tracks on the album, and even if Weiland thought it was a mercenary job, the music gave him just the right canvas to paint his melodies on. But if we were wondering if he would see that his solo career was horrid and decide this band was a better path forward, that ended with his untimely death. It also left Art Of Anarchy wondering how you replace a mercurial singer with nostalgic credibility.

The answer is you hire another singer with this same traits; Scott Stapp.

Yes, the former (current?) singer of Creed is the new voice behind Art Of Anarchy, which is a dramatic shift, to say the least. Like Weiland, Stapp has had a rocky run leading up to his tenure in this band. Can they possibly go two-for-two rehabbing careers?

Before we get to that, let's point out that Art Of Anarchy has rectified my biggest complaint about their debut record. They had a scratchy, brittle guitar tone that was distracting throughout the album, because it sounded weak and not at all heavy. The guitars here have a much meatier tone, without the buzz that made me think my speakers were having technical difficulties. That alone is a point in the band's favor.

Stapp was, even at the best of times, a polarizing figure. His voice carries the tone of bad Eddie Vedder impressions, and his tendency for bombastic and irony-obtuse pomposity was bordering on a messiah complex. Art Of Anarchy is able to reign him in by putting together an album that runs only thirty-six minutes, with only one song hitting the four minute mark. That doesn't give Stapp time to do anything but deliver the hooks. It's a very wise choice.

There's enough talent in this band to be able to write mainstream heavy rock songs that can get the job done. That's what Art Of Anarchy does on this album. They take a slightly more direct route this time, focusing a bit more on the heavier groove side of modern rock, leaving behind the bits that played better against Weiland's psychedelic ramblings. Stapp gets strong bursts of rock that try to hit quickly and not waste a second. For the most part, they hit the mark more often than not. Whether we're talking about the title track single, or "1000 Degrees", they're songs that have strong melodies and can easily fit in on rock radio without a problem. Compared to the sorts of things that Disturbed or Five Finger Death Punch have been defecating out for years now, Art Of Anarchy is a definite improvement.

That said, I would also say confidently that this record is not as interesting an experiment as the debut was. This album is good, and certainly has its place, but it doesn't seem to have the spark the prior record did, whether it was intentional or not. It's a bit more of what you would expect, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it isn't exciting. Art Of Anarchy gets more out of Stapp than I would have thought possible, so in that way they have done amazing work with written-off singers. Art Of Anarchy has a lot to be proud of, and I'll happily play this album more times, but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say I preferred who they were to who they now are. That was out of their control, but it's how I see things.

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