Release Date: May 17, 2011
The Down Boys of L.A.’s glam metal legacy have returned this month with arguably their best work since 92’s Dog Eat Dog or 95’s Ultraphobic. Rockaholic represents a new chapter for Warrant, who, like so many band’s of their era, have seen their initial line-up broken down and parted out over time.
In recent years, the base line-up resurfaced with Black ‘N Blue’s Jaime St. James standing in for Jani Lane. And while St. James is an excellent singer, the songwriting chemistry seemed ill-fated, as their 2006 release Born Again, failed to spark a renewed enthusiasm amongst fans.
After teasing us in early 2008 with a full reunion, the band finally said is “enough is enough” to their wayward singer. Which is probably just as well, because Jani Lane has more issues than Reader’s Digest. Later that year, the band replaced Lane with former Lynch Mob front man, Robert Mason. Which was their first A+ move. However, fans should not come into this new record expecting a Jani Lane clone or an album that approximates early Warrant in sound. Of course the latter would be true even with Jani in the band as his songwriting has taken a markedly different turn in style which is one of the reason’s he and the others could not find common ground musically. Still he has always been the band’s principal songwriter.
The band’s second brilliant move was to tab legendary rock producer Keith Olsen (Whitesnake, Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne) to helm the project, with Pat Regan (KISS, Mr. Big, Deep Purple) handling mixing duties.
The first thing to know when popping Rockaholic into your CD player or iPod is Mason has twice the voice of Lane, and brings a grittier, bluesier, more soulful feel to the music. This can be heard immediately on the opening track, “Sex Ain’t Love”. This is anthemic Warrant at their best. You’ll be singing this one in your head all day after just one spin.
Track two, “Innocence Gone” has that classic 80’s metal melodic air-drumming swagger. This is a track that grows on you.Meanwhile, “Snake” has a groovy, feel good vibe. Making it a solid, fun rocker to listen to.
On track four we rock off into the sunset on “Dusty’s Trail”, which is another song that bears repeated listening.
“Home” offers up the first of three ballads, but this one doesn’t hit home like “Found Forever” does later on the album.
Among the 14 tracks Warrant has given us on Rockaholic, “Life’s A Song” feels the most like their classic sound and style.
“Show Must Go On” rockets out with a cranking guitar riff, but somewhere on the way to the chorus it seems to stall out and goes from a fist-pumping anthem, to another decent but unmemorable tune.
“Cocaine Freight Train” comes back to fulfill the promise of the song’s name. Fast, fun and out of control.
After track 10, the record sort of sputters its way down the stretch until it finds some rollicking redemption on “The Last Straw”.
After Rockaholic jumps out to a raucous start, the remainder of the album becomes hit or miss. There are a few really memorable tracks here, and a few more solid rockers that are foot-tapping listens. But there are also a handful of tracks that feel too much like filler. In fact, the record may suffer from a more-is-less problem. In an age when we all yearn for more, the band has ponied up 14 new tracks for us. However, the album might have come across stronger had they eliminated a couple of the weaker tracks.
In all, Rockaholic is a very solid hard rock record in the 80’s vein, and it should be appreciated for what it is, rather than what it’s not. Warrant need not return to their late 80’s glory to still be a kick ass band today. Rockaholic proves that! For those who thought the band ate it after Cherry Pie, this record should have the naysayers eating crow.