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Frankenshred - Electric Axe Attack

Electric Axe Attack
by Kira Schlechter at 06 January 2020, 4:32 AM

With a name like FRANKENSHRED, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get – something resembling the opening track of the Phoenix, AZ-based band’s latest album, “Electric Axe Attack,” that is, something “Hard, Fast and Loud.” And that is definitely what you get, albeit with somewhat mixed results. This is the band’s fifth release; after 1997’s self-titled debut, they cranked out “Evil Shred” (2000), “Guitar Master” (2001), and “Cauldron of Evil” (2009). They may be named for guitarist Johnny Frankenshred, but bassist Robbie Erin is their not-so-secret weapon, whether on solos or just providing a really melodic foundation that sparkles through each track – he’s terrific.

As is singer Rolland Ledesma, who is snarling and resonant and gritty on that cleanly-played first track, “Hard Fast and Loud.” It’s old-school thrashy trad, an exciting ode to driving fast that grabs you by the throat and yanks you along for the ride. The great little evil guitar riff sets the tone throughout, and yes, they live up to their name with plenty of shredding guitar and a truly astonishing bass break. The drum solo is probably a bit much and the track does go on a bit long.

“Metal Nation” makes you want to raise the horns in the catchy groovy chorus and in lines like “it’s not a country but a state of mind,” and “there’s a new generation that’ll keep it alive.” “Born to Die” starts out intriguingly slower, with more amazing bass and Rolland’s effective crooning. When it eventually speeds up, you kind of wish it wouldn’t have, and when it segues into an acoustic/Spanish-style section that is so different it’s almost like a separate song, you definitely wish it wouldn’t have. It certainly shows Johnny’s versatility, but it’s not the time or place. They tend to get a little sidetracked by their own creativity rather than tackling the song at hand.

They’re definitely better on shorter tracks like “Raise Some Hell,” where they tend to stay more focused. Again, it channels MOTORHEAD, with a raw, immediate, and almost live-sounding feel. “Gods of Metal” cleverly references those who came before, both lyrically (by incorporating song titles, like “Master of Puppets”) and musically. It’s a hand-on-heart tribute, as old-school as it gets. “No Rest for the Wicked” has a thundering bass-heavy start and that shout-out kind of chorus we all know and love. They do that sort of lyrical repetition throughout, again a very traditional approach. The mix here is a little dirty, a little less crisp than what’s come before, but Rolland’s voice is great, elastic and versatile. He can scream those high notes with ease and has a great shrieking vibrato.

“All or Nothing” starts right off with an equally punchy groove and vocal, but the mix again is a little less clean here and Rolland gets a little buried in it. It almost sounds like everything was mixed at different times and/or in different ways – there’s kind of a sonic incontinuity throughout. “Tourniquet of Lies” is a title you don’t see every day, and whatever it might mean, it rolls off the tongue quite nicely. It’s catchy and fun, and it may rely heavily on Johnny’s guitar fireworks, but everyone shines here – they’re too adept not to, and they do.

“Demon Attack” is pure MAIDEN, straight outta “Brave New World,” but the mix is muddier and less balanced. Rolland comes and goes on this one; sometimes he’s right in your ear, sometimes he’s buried. “Go Down Fighting” is promising, but another solo section with a drum solo breaks the song’s flow. It ends the same way it starts, giving it solid continuity, and Rolland’s appealing rasp is brought to the fore. It, like several other tracks, has a defiant, carpe diem kind of theme. In “Born to Die,” they urge, “don’t let life pass you by, you know we’re all born to die,” and in “All or Nothing,” they advise, ”don’t hesitate, anticipate.”

The wrap-up instrumental, “Electric Axe Attack,” clocks in at a whopping 12 minutes, and it’s indicative of the trouble with the album as a whole. A little editing would serve FRANKENSHRED well – they have tons of cool elements, but they’d be more effective if they reined themselves in a little. It’s good there are musical themes here that are repeated – that of course makes a good instrumental – and it’s good that it changes tempos and grooves, and it’s good that everyone gets a turn, but not for 12 minutes. Save it for a live show, not an album, because 12 minutes on an album is an eternity. You can pay tribute to excess without being excessive yourself.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Hard Fast and Loud
2. Metal Nation
3. Born to Die
4. Raise Some Hell
5. Gods of Metal
6. No Rest for the Wicked
7. All or Nothing
8. Tourniquet of Lies
9. Demon Attack
10. Go Down Fighting
11. Electric Axe Attack
Rolland Ledesma - Vocals
Johnny Frankenshred - Guitar
Robbie Erin - Bass
Atomic Tommy Higgins - Drums
Record Label: Killer Metal Records


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