Sunday, February 18, 2018

Album Review: Animal Drive - Bite!

Here's a funny fact; the biggest metal band in the world might just be Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their ability to draw huge crowds year after year has turned them into a gold mine, and one of the few groups out there who feature guitars and can claim that level of fame. It's also a bit sad, since they are primarily a Christmas entity, and their success means that a short holiday season is more profitable than an entire year of being a touring band. Why do I bring this up? Because one of their newest touring singers is the driving force behind this band Animal Drive. Having the ability to claim membership in a group that can have their pick of performers is a feather in the proverbial cap, for sure.

Just from the first song, "Goddamn Marathon", you can see why Dino Jelusic was given such a large stage to perform on. His voice is big, powerful, and a blend of Russell Allen and David Coverdale. He actually sounds like what Ronnie Romero is claimed to be. So if you like great singers, he will definitely fit the bill. As for the song itself, it lives in an odd place halfway between Whitesnake and Dream Theater, with blues and prog battling to see which direction things will go, which doesn't leave a lot of room for a melody. There's one beautiful moment at the start of the chorus, but it only lasts for a line or two, which is disappointing.

"Tower Of Lies (I Walk Alone)" is a far better example of what Animal Drive can do. It's heavy, aggressive, and boasts a hook that finds the right approach for the music. They make comparisons to Skid Row, but Sebastian Bach never had the gravitas Dino is capable of. I don't mean this to sound insulting (or maybe I do, since he comes across poorly), but this song sounds like if Skid Row hadn't been wearing pants two sizes too small.

That up and down carries through the album. When they turn up the amps and try to be as heavy as they can, things are only so-so. "Had Enough" is a mediocre song, and "Time Machine" tries to ape the "Dehumanizer" era of Black Sabbath a bit too much. Those types of songs will please people who think that heaviness is a description of quality, but they ring a bit hollow when you know there's better out there. The band's more restrained songs, like "Hands Of Time" and "Father" are far more effective, because they not only feature some real melody, but you can get more of an emotional resonance than macho posturing (which is a form of musical dick-measuring I don't give a damn about).

That leaves Animal Drive falling into a very large pool of young bands; those who are capable of greatness, but can't pull it off over the course of an entire record. Half of "Bite!" is really, really good. Unfortunately, the other half of the record is a bit on the bland side. This is one of those records that in the 80s would have done well, because it has enough strong material to keep the string of singles going, but today an album needs the deeper cuts to be just as strong. "Bite!", minus the unnecessary exclamation point, is a decent album, it just isn't consistent enough to be a great one.

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