Sunday, June 30, 2013

L.A. Knights: Rubber City Meltdown

L.A. Knights.  Rubber City Meltdown.
Detained Records, 2013.  L.A. Knights:
No, we’re not covering California bands.  L.A. stands for Los Akron, however there’s no

indication of any Latin music leanings.  Before this album, the group was a cover band, with influences ranging from Motley Crue to Guns n Roses to Van Halen.  But here they break out with their own tunes, and the result is a hard rocking, enjoyable album with lots of hooks in the 80s-90s metal vein of their ancestors.
The first track, “Welcome to the Realm,” is an intro piece of sorts, clocking in at under a minute, that suggests we might be about to hear a concept album, or some sort of film music.  Hard to tell.  Track two takes us immediately to the essential sound of Los Akron Knights, guitar-driven hard rock with pounding percussion all in concise 3-4 minute slices.  Sometimes they sound a bit like one of their influences (the Axl Rose-like vocals are particularly evident on the title track and on “Light It Up.”  Even scarier, I hear a bit of Meat Loaf in “To the Bone.”), but the similarities are not annoying, rather they’re more entertaining.  I never particularly liked Guns n Roses, but when Los Akron Knights try to sound like them, it sounds pretty good.  I suspect that this has to do with a combination of factors, including time and distance, and the musical talent of these guys.  It’s as if they’ve taken the styles of former decades and added some indefinable quality that makes them sound not so much dated or period, but rather informed by them and more current.  

Four things stand out to me.  First, the vocals of Dave Franz are high quality.  He’s a really good singer, strong, melodic, and versatile.  I suspect he could sing in other styles if he wanted to.  I’d like to hear him try a Sinatra song.  Second, Jozey’s guitar is truly massive and sparkling, with appropriate pyrotechnics and virtuosic solos.  However, he isn’t just floating in space, but undergirded by Poder and Jaeger in a fine, strong rhythm section with serious forward motion.  Finally, the vocal harmonies drive the songs up a notch in quality.  This is a tight band, and there’s no filler.  My favorite songs are “One More Round,” and “Sure Fire,” but others listeners are likely to pick other tunes.  They only do one ballad-like tune, “Forever,” and it’s pretty good.  My least favorite is “Why Do You Do,” with it’s spoken word phone call intro that frankly, turns me off.

The photos make the guys look tough in a sort of parodic way--two versions of Little Steven, one metal man, and a Howard Stern look-alike.  It works.  Los Akron Knights have put together a fine album that should get significant acclaim.  As it says on the CD booklet, “To be played at maximum volume.”

Personnel:  Dave Franz (vocals), Jozey (guitar), Troy Poder (bass), Dennis Jaeger (drums), Everybody (background vocals), Brian Haskins (guest musician, doing something undefined).
Tracks:  Welcome to the Realm, One More Round, Light It Up, Don’t Cha, Forever, Rubber City Meltdown, To the Bone, Sure Fire, Why Do You Do, Time to Go, Tonight.

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