If I told you that Slash’s long time bassist Todd Kerns had a new band with Evanescence drummer Will Hunt and multi-dimensional guitarist Stef Burns, who’s played with everyone from Alice Cooper to Huey Lewis, you might expect a simple, straight-forward, hard rock record. Well, your expectations would be great as the dickens.
If you like great classic hard rock done in the spirit of bands like Guns N’ Roses you’ll get a nice dose of that here, but it’s not what drives the core of this band’s sound. Having spoken with singer and bassist Todd Kerns, I know he brings a vast and diverse musical appetite to the table. He’s consumed classic power pop and glam bands like Cheap Trick and Sweet and he’s proud to regurgitate tasty chunks of that stuff into his musical stew.
The band chose to keep it fairly predictable on the opening track, “Locked And Loaded.” This is in that Guns N’ Roses realm, with Kerns trading the Axl whine for a more primal bite and bluesy finish. The instrumentation hits a bit darker and heavier than anything GnR, too. It’s a nice opener, but for me the real adventure started at the conclusion of the opening track.
“Raw Power” sums up the spirit of this album pretty darn well. The song comes out like a freight train before it stops to let Kerns unload a bright, Ramones-like vocal over the razor sharp guitar riff. This establishes a super-charged pop-punk feel. The song goes on to introduce some punishing guitar work while it puts you in a jet black muscle car doing 100 MPH down a dark alley. The adventure begins here, so strap in.
“Let’s Ride It” brings in the great melodic sensibility of this band. Reminiscent of Butch Walker’s writing style with Marvelous 3 or the quirky rockers Foxy Shazam, you have a super catchy chorus with gang vocal chants, and an almost Brian May-like guitar part. Although, a huge highlight for me in most of this record is the bright production of Kerns vocals. He may not be the pure singer that a guy like Myles Kennedy is, but he’s absolutely perfect for this music. His voice can soar triumphantly, but he also provides the right amount of power and crunch when the song calls for it, and he has great phrasing throughout the record. Speaking of hearing the voice soar, “Angels Never Sleep” is a great example of this quality. There’s some really nice harmony work and softer accents at the start of the track, but it builds to a more soaring chorus that actually reminded me of My Chemical Romance a bit. (Did I just say that?) Look for a beautiful guitar solo in this one, too.
“I Knew You Were The Devil” might be the heaviest song on this record. It’s got a sledgehammer riff that hits in a Zakk Wylde style and chugs along until it ends in a Pantera-like flurry of stomping bombast. With a nice subtle left turn, the band goes to an AC/DC or Airbourne-like tune called “Break Me (I’m Yours).” This is the beauty of this band. They can get Pantera-like, and in the same breath they can go all Airbourne on you and the shift doesn’t seem uncomfortable. The next song on the record is “Blame,” and it goes off in another direction. This one has the darkness of an Alice In Chains tune, but it somehow fits snugly into the Heroes And Monsters canon.
I spoke of the band reminding me of Marvelous 3 earlier, and “Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong” rings those bells even louder. I loved what Butch Walker did with Marvelous 3, so this song was exciting for me. Heroes And Monsters breathes new life into a power pop style of writing that needed its own Dr. Frankenstein.
A band that refuses to be forgotten is Sweet, and Heroes And Monsters pays great tribute to that band with their cover of “Set Me Free” from Sweet’s monumental classic album, Desolation Boulevard. Kerns and company remind us that Sweet was known for pioneering glam, but they were also touching on the beginnings of thrash with this song. Highlighted by drummer Will Hunt’s massive bashing and rumbling, “Set Me Free” acts like a “let’s see what this thing can do” kind of joyride for the band. They go full throttle here and never swerve out of their lane. This band truly is a high performance machine. As the record comes to a close with a nice acoustic ballad that is half Saigon Kick and half “Going To California,” it somehow seems like it’s also 100% Heroes And Monsters. It’s funny how they do that so well….
“Let’s Ride It” video:
To sum this record up, I would say the band is definitely not reinventing the wheel here. What they are doing is getting a set of wheels that have been used by so many greats before them, and they’re going on a trip. We’ve all been invited to ride it with them, so get the shotgun seat, strap in, and prepare to smoke some tires.
I rate this album a 7.5 out of a possible 10.
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Hello everyone! My name is Scott Itter, but some know me as Dr. Music. I am a music journalist and photographer out of the Chicagoland area, and I have been in practice for over 20 years. I grew up in the 70’s with two big brothers that showed me all kinds of rock and roll. As I grew older I ventured out into different genres like jazz, funk, folk, and whatever else I could wrap my ears around. As I read every liner note and every Circus and Hit Parader like they were the Old and New Testament, I came to realize that I just love sound and appreciate all the people that create it.
I later became a stay-at-home dad and started honing my writing and photography skills to keep my mind from turning into mashed peas. My kids are now adults, my mind is only slightly mushy, and I am thrilled to have the honor of presenting my work to you!