Not many musicians in rock and roll can call themselves artists. Michael Monroe can and he might be one of the most underrated. Yes, artist. I’m not talking about rock or punk or a punctual genre, I’m talking about arts as a form of expression. Of course, if he wasn’t such a visionary he and his band Hanoi Rocks, wouldn’t be an influence for a long list of musicians, from Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) to Fenriz (Darkthrone) , let alone people like Axl Rose or Peter London (Crashdiet) . The man managed to make music that crossed boundaries but he also has a lot to do with the glam metal look cause when it’s about sleaze rock/metal, we can name two direct influences: The New York Dolls and Michael Monroe.
Monroe’s new album Horns And Halos landed a couple of weeks ago, reaching gold status in his homeland, Finland, a couple of days after being released (wish I could live in a country where you turn on the radio and listen to first single, ‘Ballad Of The Lower East Side’ instead of Shakira or Daddy Yankee or rock radio stations that only play Pink Floyd and Nirvana (which is actually worse…).
The album has a great opening, starting with the powerful and punk rock driven ‘TNT Diet’ that immediately hooks you in, followed by ‘Ballad of the Lower East Side’ and ‘Eighteen Angels’. Both are very Backyard Babies, actually they reminded me to ‘Disfunctional’ and ‘Hold ‘em Down’ respectively, from their album People Like People Like Us. Now, this has a very punctual reason and it’s that guitar player in this album is Dregen, the axeman of the Swedish combo, who joined Monroe’s band in 2011 to replace Ginger, but didn’t record Sensory Overdrive. Of course, Monroe is the father of bands like BB but I think it’s really cool when bands of different times are fused in new stuff.
‘Eighteen Angels’, ‘Half The Way’ and ‘My Hands Are Tied’ have a very classic rock and roll vibe and remind you a bit to Aerosmith and The Roling Stones while ‘Saturday Night Special’ is a lot more sleaze and punk rock.
‘Stained Glass Heart’ is an amazing mid tempo song that slows down the adrenaline a bit but only in a good way. It’s a bit more radio oriented, it’s fresh air, a deep breath that you need to take before the rock and roll overdose starts again.
‘Horns and Halos’ takes you back into the eye of the tornado. GREAT SONG, one of the best of the album, that recaptures the Scandinavian sleaze sound, a bit more aggressive but involves other and fresh influences like ska, thing that can be also heard in ‘Soul Surrender’, which is pure punk rock but has some rhythm changes.
‘Ritual’ is another great bluesy slower tune and I know I’ve been only talking about the good ones, but honestly, the album doesn’t have bad songs or fill up material and it’s perfectly structured, having ‘Don’t Block The Sun’ as the perfect closure of the album, that literally ends ‘up’, with a simple but catchy rock tune.
Compared with former record, Sensory Overdrive (2011), which won Classic Rock Magazine’s Award ‘Album Of The Year’, this one has some punk rock but also a lot of classic rock. Is this record aiming for another Award to Best Album Of The Year? Definitely, actually, it kicks in the balls to newer bands of the style that launched records also this year. Apparently, the thing is no matter how creative you can get, you’ll never be Michael Monroe and his experience is no excuse, since due to this same reason, he could just surrender to a formula, like many others do.
Michael Monroe is like a David Bowie of the underground. His essence is always in his albums, nevertheless, none of them is equal to the former. That’s called creativity my friends and it’s one of the main features of a genuine artist. He has this chameleonic ability to reinvent himself and change throughout the years. Horns And Halos is one more proof of this, it’s a great album, regardless you’re a fan or just starting to listen to him.