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"ROCKAHOLIC" Reviews - Review 2
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Hard Rock Heaven

It’s tough for a band to recoup from the departure of their signature lead vocalist. All too often such a loss results in the group’s career going into crash-and-burn cardiac arrest and leaves it dangling hopelessly on life support, miserably waiting for some kindhearted soul to administer the mercy bullet. After Jani Lane walked away from Warrant, the band attempted a comeback in 2006 with the aptly-titled Born Again which featured Black N Blue singer Jamie St. James serenading the microphone. While a serviceable hard rock project in its own right, it bore little resemblance to the Warrant of old and was poorly embraced by fans who continued to clamor for a Jani Lane reunion.

Flash forward five years to the present day. With Lane still incognito and the band hungry for another comeback shot, they turned to Robert Mason to take over lead vocals. The result, while not exactly classic Warrant, is a high-energy hard rock album that is several notches better than Born Again and actually manages to incorporate some faint traces of the old days. On Born Again, you never once felt like you were listening to a true Warrant release; on Rockaholic, however, if you’re paying attention, you will hear bits and pieces that will remind you of Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. No, it’s not classic Warrant–it probably never can be without Lane at the helm–but at least this time there are some hints of the sound that put the band on the melodic metal map.

What this sounds like more than anything is a ‘80s hard rock album. There is no modern rock mimicry, no attempt to curry mainstream acceptance by clutching at anything resembling the flavor of the week. Warrant has fallen prey to fad-chasing before (Belly to Belly, anyone?), but not this time. Rockaholic is retro-cool in its stylish swagger, all about loud guitars, big hooks, and fist-pumping choruses.

Mason is a masterful vocalist, proven by his work with Lynch Mob and Big Cock, and he serves up another fine performance here. While normally he sports some sassy grit in his voice, this time he sings more melodically, at times sounding like he’s trying to channel Jon Bon Jovi. Surprisingly, it works, especially on the rock-ballad “Home,” which is precisely the kind of nostalgic, mid-tempo tune that makes up Bon Jovi’s bread and butter these days. It is grossly unfair that the same exact song that would be a smash hit for Bon Jovi will likely be ignored by the modern rock sheep because it came from “an old hair metal band.”

Speaking of songs, they are all fairly straight-forward, crafted with standard ‘80s catchiness intact. The blow-your-skirt-up track is “Dusty’s Revenge,” a moody, atmospheric rocker that starts with a dark, bluesy vibe in the Cinderella vein before exploding into a gripping hard rock tale of retribution reminiscent of “Kiss the Bastards” by Saints & Sinners. The song is, quite simply, absolutely perfect, from its brooding beginning to its badass bridge to his backing vocal-boosted chorus.

Elsewhere, “The Show Must Go On” pins the throttle to the floor with ripping guitar work, but the repetitive chorus relegates it to filler material. Frankly, this happens a few too many times. “Candy Man” cranks like crazy, but stumbles when it hits the chorus. A heavy powerhouse of a groove provides the backbone of “Sunshine,” but what should be a Tyson-size knockout punch of a chorus is more like a tentative jab. Thankfully, there are more diamonds than duds, from the GN’R-inspired “Cocaine Freight Train” to the soaring power ballad “Found Forever” to the rip-snorting “The Last Straw,” which brings the curtains down and demonstrates how a hard rock album should close.

As the final power chord reverberates through your speakers, you will realize that what you just heard may not be a masterpiece, but is still a pretty good comeback from a band that has been forced to find a way to forge ahead without its signature component. Rockaholic isn’t quite good enough to make anyone forget the Jani Lane glory days, but it is good enough to make you realize that the new incarnation of Warrant has plenty to offer hard rock fans as well. Just because you dine on filet mignon one day doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sirloin steak the next, and just because you crank up Cherry Pie today doesn’t mean you can’t rock out to Rockaholic tomorrow.

Mark Allen