Album Review: Shiraz Lane – ‘For Crying Out Loud’

One of the common claims with regards to glam metal is that it is dead. While this may be the case in America and it is true that the genre hasn’t regained mainstream popularity in a lot of countries, anyone who is from the Nordic countries (like Finland and Sweden) or from Japan will probably be very confused with that statement, because glam never really died there. If anything, it is still highly popular there, to the extent that Europe has a still ongoing glam metal revival scene that has been going for around a decade now and has shown no real signs of stopping any time soon. Obvious names related to the glam metal revival are Reckless Love, Crashdiet, Hardcore Superstar and Santa Cruz, but some smaller names have also made some waves, like H.E.A.T. and Crazy Lixx.

You might notice the lack of UK glam metal bands being mentioned. That’s because, well, there’s very few of them. Seriously, the only example I can think of who are unambiguously glam and who people are likely to recognise is The Darkness, who haven’t exactly made a huge impact in the last few years. I guess I could also count King Lizard at a pinch, but they’re very much underground and there’s no indication that they’re doing much at the minute.

Anyway, Finland’s Shiraz Lane are newcomers to the scene, having formed in 2011 and have made two releases since then: a single in October 2014 that contained the songs ‘Out There Somewhere’ and ‘Money Talks’, an EP released in May 2015 titled Be the Slave Or Be The Change. They have since got signed by Frontier Records and are releasing their debut album, titled For Crying Out Loud. As far as I can tell, the band’s lineup hasn’t changed since they formed and their sound, according to the press release I’ve read, indicates that the band have listened to a lot of Guns n Roses, Skid Row (I’m going to assume their first two releases, because I get the feeling most people would like to forget everything after Slave to the Grind), Aerosmith and, for some reason, The Darkness. Those bands are also all labelled as the greats on the press release, which seems very odd to me with regards to The Darkness (and I’m saying this as someone who loves them!), but I can’t disagree with the others at all.

Anyway, rambling aside, what do I think of For Crying Out Loud? Well…I’m pretty confident in saying that Shiraz Lane are not going to be the next big thing in metal and I’m certain that it’s not going to be on the top of my list of favourite albums, but I will say that the reasons why I’m saying that are NOT related to the album itself: in its own right, I’d say it’s a very good record that glam metal fans (and hard rock fans who don’t mind glam) should really enjoy.

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Let me start with the vocals on this record for once, because I truly feel that they deserve to be highlighted. Hannes Kett has a VERY high pitched voice, to the extent that Justin Hawkins (the lead vocalist of The Darkness) is genuinely the best point of reference I can offer in terms of pitch. However, Kett differs from Hawkins in that his voice is a lot more rougher. I’m sure I don’t need to tell people what Justin Hawkins’ voice sounds like, but most people would say that Hawkins has a very clean voice, to the extent that it’d be hard to believe that Hawkins is a rock vocalist if you heard his voice on its own. Kett, by contrast, has more of a sleaze metal vibe to his voice which he is able to drop to some extent when he sings ballads on the album, but it REALLY shows on the rockers. I actually quite like his voice, if I’m honest: it might be high pitched enough that I can see it being really irritating to some people and will almost certainly bring out a lot of jokes about whether he actually is a guy or not, but I find that it actually fits with the band and, to an extent, helps to make the band sound more unique than the vast majority of glam metal bands.

The rest of the band, it should be pointed out, do not do bad jobs. I would like to highlight highlight guitarists Jani Laine (lead guitar) and Miki Malske (rhythm guitar) for some genuinely excellent guitarwork across the record that, while nothing that is going to cause any progressive metal musicians to break into a nervous sweat, is certainly varied and a step above what the average glam metal musician is capable of. I particularly like what they do on the somewhat bluesy ‘Behind the 8-Ball’, which is quite different from what might be expected from this sort of band and is very well done overall (although this is the only time where I can’t help feeling that Kett’s screamed higher range detracts from the song a bit). Bassist Joel Axel is audible, but doesn’t do much of interest on most of the album beyond providing a solid base for the rest of the music to be built upon. Drummer Ana Willman isn’t breaking a lot of new ground with his performance, but he does adjust his drumming to suit ‘Behind the 8-Ball’ and ‘Bleeding’ very successfully (going from a bluey style to the more typical rock style when it is required and switches between the two whenever he has to), which is certainly commendable.

The band’s sound, as you might have gathered, is basically a more upbeat version of sleaze metal, although a few songs do crop up where the band tries something different and they do them very well. Not counting the earlier mentioned ‘Behind the 8-Ball’, ‘Begging for Mercy’ sounds like it could be a lost song by The Darkness (even down to Kett’s vocal mannerisms) and is a surprisingly fun addition to the album, despite the lack of anything really original to it. There are also two ballads on the record, ‘Same Ol Blues’ (which, ironically, isn’t all that bluesy, sounding more like a typical power ballad) and ‘Bleeding’ (which actually feels more bluesy than ‘Same Ol Blues’…go figure), neither of which I felt were that special overall, but were definitely appreciated for adding variety to the record!

You might have noticed that I’ve not talked about the songwriting on the record yet. Luckily, this is not a stumbling block for the band: while I do feel the record comes close to falling apart towards the end and the band aren’t doing anything especially original, the record starts out excellently (‘Momma’s Boy’ is a definite highlight for me!) and even gets to the middle with some great songs (although two of them, ‘Mental Slavery’ and the earlier mentioned ‘Behind the 8-Ball’, were from their debut EP and I personally feel that the EP version of ‘Mental Slavery’ was better than the album version is, so longtime fans of the band might be disappointed at their addition). I think the only major problem with the band’s songwriting is that they don’t seem to have nailed down how to write effective ballads, as ‘Same Ol Blues’ and ‘Bleeding’ are songs which I get the feeling are going to be skipped by a lot of people due to not really going anywhere.

The production on the record is mostly very good, but I think that there are two potential pitfalls which could drag the record down for some people. One of them is that I think the mastering, while mostly fine, is probably a bit on the louder side of what it should be, although it is not a major problem. The other is the mix, as I think vocals are a bit too loud in it. I know glam metal is meant to have strong vocals, but there were more than a few occasions where I found the vocals dominated the record a bit more than they should have been and a slight decrease to them in the mix could have done so much to make this better. I also feel that the bass could have done with a bit more volume whenever the guitars kick in, as it can be a bit difficult to hear in those occasions, although it is definitely a step up from the usual level I hear on most records and the relative lack of anything of note played by the bass does make this more of a nitpick than a serious complaint. That all said, I do think the record sounds very good overall: the overall sound on the record is great, the guitars and drums sound excellent and I didn’t feel like there was anything that badly hurt the production overall. Huge props to everyone involved in the production for the record, because they truly did a great job!

Overall, For Crying Out Loud is a pretty good record that, while not flawless, shows a band with a lot of promise and the potential to go on to great things. I doubt this will make anyone change their minds on glam metal if they’re already against it, but, if you like glam metal and are OK with very high pitched vocals, then this is a very easy record to recommend!

For Crying Out Loud will be released on the 15th of April by Frontier Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.