As anybody who knows even a little bit about heavy metal probably knows, the genre owes its inspiration to another genre that preceded the genre by a few years during the explosion of the rock scene in the 60’s- and that of course is hard rock. Hard rock is a style that I personally have to be in a particular kind of mood for to enjoy most of the time, normally when I’m in the mood for something especially old school that can maybe put me into a kick ass or hyped up mood I guess. Or I’m just feeling nostalgic for the type of music my parents would’ve jammed out to when they were in their teens or twenties, since I grew up around that stuff too. But it’s kind of a style that to me has really changed all that much since the 80’s or so. It had a few commercialized off-shoots from the genre that had roots in the genre that you’d always hear playing on the radio- not only do I hear post-grunge from the 2000’s playing on the radio, but I still hear 80’s glam rock, and especially AC/DC whenever somebody turns on the rock radio station when I’m riding along in their car or something, and I usually find myself snoozing the moment the first note reaches my ears. So I’m generally kind of mixed on the genre. It can be a fun listen in the mood, it can set a pretty festive atmosphere for a party maybe, it can make me nostalgic for a time that I wasn’t even alive to experience, but I can be pretty picky in my selection of hard rock bands, I can only take it in a moderate dose and I also feel like it has kind of lost the rebellious spirit as it has become more and more pedestrianized ever since the 60’s and 70’s. The particular band I’m talking about today kind of plays in much more of an 80’s inspired style of hard rock though, and that band is the Swedish band C.K.O. with ‘are you with me?’, released off of Sliptrick Records. Does it bring back the old restless and rebellious spirit of hard rock from the days of old, or is it something that sounds completely forgettable that will be lost in the currents of time? Well, let’s find that out together!
The first track opens up with an anthem titled “Rock It”, and I’d have to say that it is very by the numbers- but at the same time it’s kind of fun. I would imagine that it’d be something that you and your friends would want to listen to as you’re shot-gunning beers together at a bonfire. And that’s not a bad thing by any means. Sometimes you might need that kind of energy in your life, even if you have put the bulk of your partying days behind you if you’re like the old fart of a 24 year old I am. One thing I will say is that initially, it almost struck a familiar chord with me, as the vocals and guitars kind of reminded me vaguely of some of the material from the balls to the walls album of Accept– which for me is a pretty big complement in terms of the old school hard rock/heavy metal sort’ve vein for me. I didn’t find the vocals super special after that initial minute or so of exposure in the song- they achieved the same kind of register of Udo Dirkschneider, Bon Scott maybe or even Tim Baker of Cirith Ungol, but at the same time there was a certain flare missing that kind of just made the delivery fall a little flat to me. I’m not sure if it’s just because he mostly retains the same tone throughout the song, or if it’s just missing a certain kind of spark behind it, but they kind of just came off as “okay” to me more than anything.
However, this isn’t the case for the rest of the album in terms of vocals though. In fact they only seemed to get better as the album progressed, with more variation and emotion being brought in. It’s not like the vocalist ranges too much in registers necessarily, but it’s mostly in emotion that I feel like he shows a wide range in. It can range from being maybe a little bit sleazy sounding, to sounding like they’re actually coming from a place of pain and desperation, to even having a foreboding and sinister edge, like in the song “Tomorrowland”, and he kind of brings to mind maybe Jon Bon Jovi in places. The guitars are pretty decent. They can range from pretty standard fare hard rock riffs, to being pretty melodic, and there’s definitely a certain flair that they have in their songs. “Borderline” is probably one of my favorite songs in terms of riffing- that one is melodic, but also has some synth added, usually in the choruses, which really adds an extra layer of drama in a way. The choruses in general I would say are really catchy as well, which definitely makes sense since a lot of the songs are very anthem-y, so of course you’d want the choruses to be fun to sing along to. It has a few ballads on there too I would say, like the song “Save Me”, which has a very powerful emotional execution, musically and vocally. The drums and bass carry the tune pretty well, there’s nothing I’ve heard that’s completely blown me away from what I’ve listened to, but they’re not bad for sure. Really in terms of songwriting I think there’s a lot of talent and skill on display for the most part, even as simple as a lot of the music is.
The heaviest track on the album is probably “Locked Inside”, which definitely edges a lot more on the metal side, I’d say that the main riff of the song is even almost on the thrash metal side of things, and it has a really heavy hook(for this album anyway) about midway through the song that I really like, which leads into a pretty gnarly sounding solo. “Tomorrowland” probably has the darkest tone musically, like I mentioned before; and that’s definitely another one of my favorite songs on the album. Then there’s quite a few songs that I can picture being played at the bar as I’m playing a game of pool, with the badass tone that they have, like with the final track, “Take A Chance”, while other songs I could imagine me and my buddies trashing a hotel room while we’re on the road like “Goin’ Crazy”- which again is probably pretty typical of hard rock, so you might be thinking “so what? Isn’t that pretty normal for hard rock?” and my answer would be yes… but I think that’s kind of the point too. To make music that worships the classic hard rock bands from the 80’s, keep the soul of the style alive, while also keeping it at least relatively original. And I think they do that job well.
So I would overall probably give this album about a 7/10. You’re not getting anything that is making history by any means, but it’s more of an homage to history so to speak. If you’re into a hard rock mood, want something to play at a party for your friends who aren’t into the more extreme side of metal or something, then I’d probably recommend this album. Give them a listen on Bandcamp, and you can buy the CD from the Dead Pulse distro, which is the distro for Sliptrick as far as I can tell.
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