I'm not sure why I didn't dig this album immediately when I heard it, but I didn't. It's odd too. I have always liked Warrant. I've always dug Robert Mason's great vocals in any band he was in. Hell, one of my best friends was the guitarist for Warrant for several years! I've seen them play at least a dozen times, and they've always been worthy of the experience. But, for whatever reason, this album just didn't grasp me at first.
...and then it clicked in why.
Somewhat interestingly, I found that I was doing the same thing I did with their last album, the Jaime St. James fronted BORN AGAIN. What I did with that one was listen to it track for track, and subconciously go, "Jani wouldn't have sang that" or "that phrasing isn't how Jani would have done it". I think with BORN AGAIN, I'm not a giant Black N' Blue fan, so I didn't have any personal listening commitment to him committing to Warrant. With Robert Mason though, it's a different story. As 80s metal goes, his three albums with Big Cock are, arguably, the best three albums in that style of the last decade. That includes the reunions of all these bands. In fact, other than Ratt with INFESTATION, I feel pretty confident in saying that there wasn't an major 80s platinum hair band/80s metal band that recorded an album as good as the three albums that Mason and Dave Henzerling did with Big Cock. So, I think maybe I once again was judging this initially against Warrant's past, but this time with a bit of "this is why a band I listen to isn't making any new music" attitude.
So here we are now, with 15 spins of ROCKAHOLIC under my belt. While this would never be mistaken as Warrant to the casual fan that only knows "Cherry Pie" and "I Saw Red", it's really a damn fine album. First and foremost, ROCKAHOLIC is an 80s metal album. Where BORN AGAIN seemed to want to update the sound, ROCKAHOLIC feels more like an album where these guys decided to embrace their roots and play what has always been their bread and butter. There's really not a clunker on ROCKAHOLIC, and the sound is big, full and arena-like. The songs have gigantic hooks in them, much like...well...the glory days. Listening to fun rockers like "Innocence Gone", you can't help but get your head bobbing and singing along to the chorus once you know it. Robert Mason has always had a bit more of a gritty, western vibe to his voice and his music, and it adds a brand new dimension to Warrant that is very refreshing. Listening to songs like "Dusty's Revenge", you'd think you were mistakenly listening musical outtakes from Cinderella's HEARTBREAK STATION before the singing starts. Once it does start though, Mason's powerful pipes take over. This song though even stretches the tried and true sound of Mason as well. The performance is much more lower register for the most part. it's solid.
Musically, this is pure 80s metal sounding without being pure "Warrant" sounding, if that makes any sense. Considering that this is the original band with the exception of Mason, you never really feel like they are directly stealing from their classic catalog here. The only song that really feels like the classic era of the band is "Home". This one does directly rip from their catalog. The guitar intro sounds like a modified version of the "Sometimes She Cries" intro, and Mason's vocal performance isn't that far away from Jani Lane's sound on this one. It's the exception though, and not the rule. Lead guitarist Joey Allen sounds reinvigorated throughout ROCKAHOLIC. His playing on songs like "Cocaine Freight Train" is some of the most rockin' of his career.
PITRIFF RATING - 91/100 - I don't want to say Warrant is back, because the term "back" indicates that they have returned to a sound they lost. They have not really done that here. New Warrant is here, and it's damn good. ROCKAHOLIC will definitely entertain fans of this era of metal. Where so many bands from this era want to update their sound, this band has seen the error in trying that themselves, and has reverted to what they know works. If nothing else, it works here.
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