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Against The Grain – Road Warriors Award winner

Against The Grain
Road Warriors
by Vladimir “Abir” Leonov at 19 October 2015, 8:30 PM

Ever needed to summon the bad-ass within? Stop sewing the Sunset Strip on bike back and forth in your imagination and behold the latest recipe in the scene formulated in Detroit, MI, a fine crossroad between Blues, Hard Rock, Thrash, Roots and all the crème de la crème of the guitar-bass-drum arsenal: the fourth album released by the American Rock band AGAINST THE GRAIN, entitled “Road Warriors” in a tout à fait accurate self-description.

Spanning on roughly thirty-eight minutes, the merciless ball-busting machine already comprises a load of twelve zip tracks like a breeze, an avant-gout of the band’s abundance of ideas and its thirst to rock right from the start with “Here To Stay” grooving it like a twenty-year plus rock veterans. With “dat” vicious voice of a chronic alcoholic, Chris Nowak almost hits on bluesy growls resurrecting an edgier Blind Willie Johnson – I can only imagine - posing for a jumble of the New Wave and the Proto-Thrash even sending Lemmy from MOTORHEAD southward through the gates of “Till We Die”. Truth is, many are the replicas of “Ace Of Spades”, but the call and answer taking your breath away, the petro-head crunchy speed and the bass outperforming the guitars in their own the lines and even in harmonics just validates this point, flying through easy listening yet complex riffs thus adding a definite plus to it playing as comfy as if it were on the light electric guitar strings. Along with that, the striking front-man-ship potential of the vocalist can – by itself - is candidate to constitute the band’s signature even if contented with singing only thanks to such a bad-ass voice, and same that bad-ass bass, man let alone again if the bad-ass vocalist and the bad-ass bassist are the one and the same! Likewise, “Afraid Of Nothing” gives an inkling of a “biker track” entity blended with a feverish IRON MAIDEN flavor in a track twisting in both tempo and scale unlike any other track on the album with its unique breathtaking transitions are awesome as well as a solo taking the whole stuff to another level, mostly when you’re aware the whole string instruments are playing in monobloc, all while

“Run For Our Life” carries on the same drift - this time yet drum-oriented with a doubled or tripled load of toms and snares in some early heavy metal leaning, further highlighted with the vocalist verging on growls. So watch out MOTORHEAD, being a pioneer doesn’t mean you’ve got the best shot, as AGAINST THE GRAIN are likely to dethrone you if they carry on the same basis! To describe it best, “Road Warriors” is a step back in time revisiting the momentous milestones of rock right from its direct ancestry to its derivative forms. For instance, the groovy “Night Time” carries within its folds the southern scent of the harmonica call and answer with the lead guitar, while the shift to the low tempo just takes your breath away leaving you on alert mode.

“Pendulum” also calls upon root music while boogying on a bluesy scale ridden by genuinely sturdy drums which also are the chief engine of the “progged” “What Happened” in a Mike Portnoy way yet bidding a touch of folk through the toms, the guitar enhancement and on top of all the ever enchanting vocal overdubs. When speaking blues rock, we’d better mention “Guillotine” which blends it with quarter notes of punk Rock, or the riff-based “Coming In Hot” enjoying a wide range of spicy hammers on/pull offs, grace notes, harmonics as well as mind boggling solos such as those in “Sirens” added to them a foolish bass solo by the growling vocalist who seemingly can take up absolutely any role and still nail an A+.  But what’s more worthy of note is his singing style in “Nothing Left To Lose” getting more like Ozzy – let me say the whole track has that kind of BLACK SABBATH essence in it, always on fire but here quite a lot darker and anomalous. Upon all the above, the major drawback of “Road Warriors” can in no way be any other thing than its lack of originality. Reproducing the past as loyal as possible? As the world is teeming with excellent cover bands as well as less successful ones, the reproduction quality only partially matters as it remains mainly revolving around recycling, with a barely palpable individual identity.

Other than that, this album – spot on – resembles in many ways that kind of books the book that you just can’t put down just to know what follows next, unable to anticipate the next chapter. Sweet and light like a butterfly, it’s at once a massive and fierce roaming from the blues rock or the rock n roll revival to the dawn of heavy metal per-se passing by the New Wave transition, the mixture every Rock devotee needs either to start his day or to rock his night.

4 Star Rating

1. Here To Stay
2. Till We Die
3. Pendulum
4. What Happened
5. Afraid Of Nothing
6. Sirens
7. Eyes
8. Guillotine
9. Run For Your Life
10. Coming In’ Hot
11. Night Time
12. Nothing Left To Lose
Chris Nowak – Vocals & Bass
Kyle Davis – Guitars
Nick Bellomo – Guitars
Rob Nowak - Drums
Record Label: Self Destructo Records


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Edited 02 February 2023

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