Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: April 29th, 2016, via Eleven Seven Music
Following the recent retirement of Mötley Crüe, bassist Nikki Sixx has devoted all his effort into his once side project, now full time band, Sixx: A.M., along with former Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba and vocalist James Michael, releasing the first of a pair of albums, Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1.
Almost immediately, Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1 surpasses 2014’s Modern Vintage with its opening track and lead single, “Rise”, a song bursting with glam rock greatness and a major Queen influence. The explosive chorus takes the track out of the darker textures of the verse into a glam rock spectacle in which Michael does his best to create a tone reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. One of Sixx:A.M.’s greatest abilities is to blend such contrasting tones, especially when the two are hardly ever employed simultaneously within the same song. This unique trait is heard in nearly every track of Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1. Songs like “Belly Of The Beast”-with its club-like beat underneath the very heavy and dark textures- and “I’m Sick”- featuring another chorus easy to sing along to, with a killer guitar solo- also demonstrate the common, but welcomed, fusion of clean and dirty.
While listening to Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1, the vibe that this is very much a make or break album for the band is quite apparent, and appropriately so: this is their first record as a full time band. There is a sense of urgency and desire to deliver a collection of songs which measures up, not only to their own standards, but to that which can compare to the recent works of each members previous ensembles. This results in a far more cohesive album; one which flows seamlessly between songs, while also delivering a top tier level of individual musicianship. Each of Ashba’s solos are simply incredible; they’re fast, clean, intense, and incendiary, especially that of “Prayers For The Damned”- a faced paced solo which rips through the slower feel of the title track, building intensity as he continues to shred through the final chorus, concluding the song with an impressive blast- “When We Were Gods”, “you Have Come To The Right Place”, and “Everything Went To Hell”. From a song writing perspective, the band’s use of additionally layered vocals, well-constructed and contrasting sections which shift effortlessly from one another, and most importantly, hard hitting riffs which flip between driving unison lines between Sixx and Ashba and far more densely layered lines, have given Sixx:A.M. a monolithic rock record.
Much like as described in “Rise”, Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1, does an excellent job of blending textures and styles to walk a balance between the grit and the glam, providing a juxtaposition which few modern bands could manage to uphold, while still delivering excellent song writing and hardened musicianship. Nearly every song across the record features an anthem of a chorus which were written with the intension of packed in audiences belting them out along with the band. Many bands have a handful of songs which do this; Sixx:A.M. just delivered an album’s worth of them. In many ways, Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1 follows along with the lyrical themes, tones, and style of their 2007 debut, The Heroine Diaries Soundtrack, a much welcomed choice on part of the band, one which has removed much of the pop punk influences of Modern Vintage. Instead, Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 1 is a hard rock record which pulls no punches, straddling a stylistic tone which sits between glamour and filth, while also balancing modern and traditional rock choices. This is the album which Sixx:A.M. needs to be seen as the serious force that they are in the modern rock sphere while also leaving listeners anxiously waiting for the sequel record, Prayers For The Damned, Vol. 2, set to be released sometime later this year.
2: You Have Come To The Right Place
3: I’m Sick
4: Prayers For The Damned
5: Better Man
6: Can’t Stop
7: When We Were Gods
8: Belly Of The Beasts
9: Everything Went To Hell
10: The Last Time (My Heart Will Ever Hit The Floor)
11: Rise Of The Melancholy Empire