…Man, I picked the wrong week to start by having to talk about stuff which can be connected to Dio. See, bassist Jimmy Bain, who worked with Dio and two of the members of Resurrection Kings in the 80s, passed away this weekend. Even though he had nothing to do with this release, it feels REALLY awkward to have to mention this band as a result, because trying to talk about a band including Vinny Appice and Craig Goldy in it without acknowledging Dio (and, as a result, Bain’s death) is pretty much impossible.
So let me say this now: to those who have lost an idol, a friend and/or a fellow musician with Bain’s passing, I am genuinely sorry for your loss and, no matter what the rest of this review says, I truly hope that you will be OK in these tough times (especially considering everyone else we’ve lost in the last few weeks). My sympathies and condolences go out to all who knew him and I urge everyone to keep his legacy alive, for he contributed to so many great albums that it would be a crime to let his legacy be forgotten to the mists of time.
So, let’s get this review started properly.
Resurrection Kings is a project that originally started out as a set of demos that guitarist Craig Goldy (best known for his work with Dio) did with a vocalist named Chas West (who some people may know for briefly being a member of Foreigner in the mid-2000s, a member of Jason Bonham’s band in the mid-90s and for providing vocals to Tribe of Gypsies’ 2006 record Dweller on the Threshold, among other things). According to the press release, the song ‘Livin’ Out Loud’ impressed Frontier Records’ president so much that he asked Goldy to turn it into a full band and also suggested that bassist Sean McNabb (who, aside from being an actor, is also known for playing bass on Quiet Riot’s self-titled debut album and Dokken’s 2012 album Broken Bones, alongside playing with Great White in the late 90s and early-2000s and briefly returning in the late-2000s) be part of the project. Vinny Appice (who should be familiar to people for being part of Black Sabbath and Dio, among a lot of other projects and being the younger brother of equally well regarded drummer Carmine Appice) ended up taking up the drum seat through Goldy.
Needless to say, if you’re familiar with any heavy metal in the last three decades, chances are good that at least one of those names will be familiar to you, so you’d expect this to be a good album. Honestly, though…I think Resurrection Kings should have been better than it is. I wouldn’t call it a bad album, admittedly, but, considering who is on the record, it doesn’t hit the heights you’d expect it to.
…Actually, random thought before we get into the proper review: is it just me or do the cover art for this album and the cover art for Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King look more than a bit similar to each other? I know, it’s almost certainly a coincidence, but still, I saw the resemblance so quickly that I’m still struggling to accept that nobody involved in this album’s production was familiar with the album (it topped album charts in several countries and got fairly high on a lot of others, so it’s not like it was some obscure record that nobody heard of!) or, if they were, didn’t stop to go “Hang on, Avenged Sevenfold did something like this…let’s try something different!” (although, admittedly, there’s only so many ways you can show an intimidating figure surrounded by bodies before it starts looking like a copy of what someone else did before you, so…yeah, this could be just a general fault in how difficult it is to keep that idea looking fresh!)
OK, let’s start with the musicianship. This is probably about as surprisingly a revelation as the earth being round, me being a music fan and Konami being a bunch of idiots, but everyone does very well on their instruments. The performances aren’t overly flashy like you’d see in bands like Dream Theater, but there’s a definite complexity to the band’s performances which shows that the musicians have some skill, but are capable of tastefully reining it in as necessary. Bizarrely, the best comparison I can think of is actually The Winery Dogs, as both bands are supergroups of musicians definitely know how to play old fashioned rock and do it well, but I’d say that, while The Winery Dogs include enough elements of progressive rock in their sound that you can tell that the musicians include technically skilled musicians and include a few more modern elements that bring to mind modern Rush to an extent, Resurrection Kings avoid the progressive elements and the modern elements, preferring to focus instead on being just a genuinely good old fashioned rock record, which, honestly, I think I prefer more than what The Winery Dogs do. While some will like the originality (relatively speaking) that The Winery Dogs bring to their sound more, there’s something in what Resurrection Kings are doing that I think will appeal to the general music listener more.
Chas West also deserves some praise for his voice. I’m just going to flat out say it: the guy has a great voice, with a lot of power behind it, a decent range and a pretty good tone that works well with the music he is singing. I doubt many will put him on the levels of the greats of the genre, but he certainly has a voice that made the record very enjoyable to listen to and I’m honestly quite surprised that he hasn’t really made a huge impact on the rock scene yet, because he truly does a great job across the whole record. I’m really hoping the guy starts getting the credit he deserves through this project, because he truly deserves to be better known than he is.
Of course, all of that relies on strong songwriting, and I think Resurrection Kings drop the ball a bit there (although not to a huge extent, it must be said). I wouldn’t say any of the songs get worse than “skippable”, as even the worst songs have their moments which prevent them from being completely unworthy of listening to, but I think the big problem is that surprisingly few of the songs get to the heights where I’d be expecting them to be lasting on my personal list of favourite songs of the year. To bring the comparison back to The Winery Dogs for a few seconds, ‘Elevate’ is a song that you hear once and you remember all of it very quickly, but I didn’t get a song like that from this record (although some songs will probably still be on my personal playlist for a bit, like ‘Wash Away’).
The production…I hate to trash a record based on the production, but I really don’t like the sound of this record much. Whenever the chorus comes along, the vocals seem to suffer because they become somewhat difficult to understand due to their placing in the mix making them sound like they’ve been recorded with an echo (oddly, they mostly sound fine outside of that, beyond a few cases where they seem to be struggling to be heard over the guitars) and the guitars seem to be a bit louder than they should be. The bass is better than I was expecting, admittedly, so that’s something to be said, and the drums sound great, but, overall, this whole record feels like it was more a demo version of what the band were going for that got mastered and released by mistake. I’m probably being unfair here, but I just feel like there’s something wrong with the production which badly hampers the record. The mastering also is a bit on the loud side, but not to a major extent, and I feel the sound of the record is the bigger problem for me than the mastering here anyway.
Overall…I wouldn’t call Resurrection Kings a bad record, since the big problem is the production and the performances and songwriting are at least reasonable, but, considering this is a band with some serious star power in it, you’d expect them to have put out something better than this. I can’t say that this is good enough to give a particularly enthusiastic recommendation to, but, if you want to hear an old fashioned rock record, you’re not too bothered by production that works against the record and you approach it without the expectation of it being on the level of the previous musician’s previous bands, then you should find this enjoyable enough.
Resurrection Kings will be released on the 29th of January by Frontier Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.