by Ron Higgins
– Columnist —
“Are You Ready?… 1, 2, 3… VENOM!!! So starts the latest release from this legendary outfit. After a much too long six year absence, Impellitteri is back and they haven’t slowed down one bit! Venom is a full-throttle, full-frontal attack on your auditory senses. There is Chris Impellitteri’s obligatory guitar shredding, Rob Rock’s high-pitched screaming vocals, thumping bass lines from James Pulli and a pounding double-bass drum assault from Jon Dette that would make Mike Portnoy proud.
After six years, was it worth the wait? Does Gene Simmons like money? This is pure Metal bliss from beginning to end. On offer are 10 blistering tracks of up-tempo metal madness that clocks in at just a little over 35 minutes. If you’re looking for that perfect workout soundtrack, look no further. Thirty minutes on the treadmill will fly by as your adrenaline surges through your body while your head bangs melodically to the beat.
For those who may be less familiar with this classic band, Impellitteri was founded nearly 30 years ago by the band’s axe-slinging namesake along with vocal maestro Rob Rock, “The Voice of Melodic Metal.” Back in 1987 they released their self-titled EP followed quickly by their first full-length album, Stand in Line, one year later (albeit, featuring legendary vocalist Graham Bonnet). It stayed on the Billboard charts for nearly half a year and cemented Impellitteri as a force to be reckoned with. Since that first EP, they’ve released two more EP’s, 10 studio albums, as well as live and “best of” albums. Throughout their long history, they’ve had a revolving set of players including well-known artists like Bonnet, Chuck Wright and even Pat Torpey of Mr. Big fame. But their longest tenured vocalist is founder Rob Rock who returned to sing on their last album, 2009’s Wicked Maiden, and continues to provide his vocal acrobatics on their new release.
With only 10 songs, all of which are quite good, it’s hard to single out just one or two standout tracks. However, the first five tracks are slightly better than the last five. Perhaps it’s just that your ears have become somewhat numb due to the aural onslaught from the opening tracks. The opening title-track is definitely an album highlight though because it kicks off the record with a bombastic blast that carries the listener through the entire experience. The killer riffs, shredding leads and screaming vocals are what you’d expect from a good Impellitteri song and the formula carries on throughout the album. It’s definitely classic metal but it’s melodic too. The multi-layered chorus is simply the icing on this delicious cake.
For the YouTube generation, the band has released a video for the impressive title track as well as their second track “Empire of Lies,” another instant classic. Lyrically, it tells the dark tale of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. Stylistically, it has a cool intro riff and complex drumming followed by an impressive guitar solo and an extremely catch chorus.
The third track is a fun song with lots of swagger. “We Own the Night” is the band’s musical throw-down, bragging to the world that when they play, they own the night. Basically they’re announcing that when they hit the stage they’re going to kick some serious ass. And they do.
“Nightmare” is an interesting song because it adds some diversity to the album. It’s heavier than the others and features Rob overdubbing vocals that are both high and low, much like Axl Rose does on their seminal debut. This is definitely a fast, driving, heavy tune. The album just seems to keep getting better, going from great to greater!
At the midway point, song five, “Face the Enemy” is the longest track on the album and it’s still only 4:43 in length. That tells you how fast-paced this record is. It’s a little slower than the others but not by much. It certainly isn’t a ballad (which doesn’t make an appearance anywhere on this album). It too is melodic and features another sing-a-long chorus. The guitar theatrics continue with Chris channeling Zakk Wylde at times.
The second half of the album features “Domino Theory,” “Jehova,” “Rise,” “Time Machine” and “Holding On.” “Domino Theory” tackles the heady topic of terrorism while showcasing Chris’s six-string talent. His lead solo is simply insane.
“Jehova” is the only explicitly Christian song contained on the album. Although Chris and Rob Rock are outspoken Christians they don’t consider themselves a Christian band since not all band members espouse the belief. It too is an up-tempo rocker and if more church’s played this kind of music during their service they may have to add more pews!
Track eight is simply named “Rise” and is one of the best second-half tracks. The guitar-work and drums are impeccable as usual but the chorus is somewhat simplistic and a little monotonous and boring. The guitar intro though is simply crushing!
“Time Machine” is a musical bone tossed to those of us who’ve been rocking to this style of music for several decades. “Ride the time machine, sailing through the memories of your life,” perfectly captures how this genre of music has played such a pivotal role as the soundtrack to many of our lives.
Finally, the album closes out with yet another rocker, “Holding On.” This is actually a love song but as opposed to going with a power ballad they chose to keep it rocking. Chris’s fret-work gymnastics are on display once again and this song features some tasty backing vocals to mix things up a bit. Overall, a fine finish to an impressive album.
For fans of Impellitteri (the guitarist and the band), Rob Rock, shredding guitar leads, complex, ferocious drumming or basically anyone who likes hard rock or heavy metal, this new release is an absolute must-buy. Again, it only lasts 35 minutes so it’s a quick, easy listen that gets your blood pumping and your heart racing. Another song or two would’ve made it even better but when you’re driving down the rock and roll highway with your pedal to the metal, you’re going to run out of gas quickly. Interestingly, some releases do feature two extra bonus tracks (“Rock Through the Night” and “Reach for the Sky”) so apparently others agree that a few more tracks would enhance the album too. Regardless, this is one powerful, impressive release. The six year hiatus was definitely worth the wait. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another six years for the next one!
Genre: Neo-classical Metal, Heavy Metal
Chris Impellitteri – Lead Guitar
Rob Rock – Lead Vocals
James Pulli – Bass
Jon Dette – Drums
2. Empire Of Lies
3. We Own The Night
5. Face The Enemy
6. Domino Theory
9. Time Machine
10. Holding On
Label: Frontiers Records
Hardrock Haven Rating: 9.25/10