The anatomy of a throwback realized.
Twenty-five years may be a long run for any band living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, yet it seems only yesterday that an unlikely player from California would come crashing in at the turn of the millennium with a sound more suited to two decades prior. Even this Anaheim-born outfit’s name seemed out of place amid the post-grunge and nu-metal purveyors of the day, but Buckcherry would find their stylistic amalgam of rock legends Aerosmith, AC/DC, Motley Crue, The Black Crowes and Guns ‘N’ Roses catapulting them to success at the close of the 90s, to the point of winning them a slot at the ill-fated Woodstock ’99 festival not long after their eponymous debut hit the market. Though like many hard rockers they would have their share of ups and downs, including a 3 year split/hiatus following their sophomore studio effort, but they’ve proven nothing if not tenacious, and their ninth studio album “Hellbound” proves an equally steadfast exercise in rock traditionalism.
Though like its 2019 predecessor “Warpaint” this album sees only front man Josh Todd as the lone founding member still in congress, those who’ve followed this quintet since their earliest days will scarcely notice any changes in this outfit’s retro rock formula. Perhaps the most consequential distinction is a fairly slick production job courtesy of Marti Frederikson, whom worked on this fold’s highly acclaimed fourth offering “Black Butterfly” and whose work with the likes of Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne and Ace Frehley speaks for itself. Otherwise the same formula of compact and concise rock anthems tailor made for radio with Todd leading the charge with his Steve Tyler meets Chris Robinson meets Trent Reznor vocal persona. In fact, the level of obviousness in how this spoonerism of rock pioneer and icon Chuck Berry trots out their influences is achieved to a degree of fault that puts them in semi-tribute band territory.
As far as solid yet predictable musical affairs go, this LP opts to begin things on a high and up tempo note. The opening cruiser “54321” ushers the show in on a quick-paced, pop/punk steeped note, with Todd’s raspy snarl providing most of the edge of what is otherwise a smooth entry. Lead promotional single “So Hott” has a bit more of a mid-paced stride that might be mistaken for a nod to Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” if it traded out its bluesy swagger for a more mystical set of melodic hooks. As the rest of the album unfolds the subjects of emulation become easier to catch, with the most blatant homage being the title anthem “Hellbound”, which has all the makings of a reworking of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”, though the refrain section has a bit of a “You Shook Me All Night Long” vibe to it and the guitar solo being a bit fancier than Angus Young’s typical work. A similar story is told with the quicker moving “Here I Come”, albeit more along the lines of “Whole Lotta Rosie” with a heavier Guns ‘N’ Roses edge to it.
Despite the fairly derivative approach at work here, this album is not wholly bereft of surprises, and the few moments of stylistic nuance that come into the equation prove to be the standout ones. The harmonica-driven blues rocking swagger of “Gun” definitely comes with its fair share of Aerosmith trappings, but Todd definitely puts a unique spin on things, as does the accompanying lead guitar interjections. The riff happy rocker “Junk” reminisces pretty heavily upon the guitar heroism of the rocking 70s with a jamming edge, while the easy going semi-ballad “Wasting No More Time” could almost be chalked up to a solid nod to the departed legend Tom Petty, though the parallels with The Black Crowes’ softer moments are also quite prominent. But the most atypical moment comes in the form of a fairly standard piano-driven power ballad in “The Way”, splitting the difference between Lynard Skynard’s “Tuesday’s Gone” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, with Todd trading in his gritty shouts for a smoother yet still forceful sound.
The years may change, but as far as Buckcherry goes, whether the year is 1999 or 2021, the average listener knows pretty much what they’re getting here. Relative to past offerings, “Hellbound” offers something of a middle of the road experience, possessing most of the strengths of their past efforts, but not quite matching the raw charm of their eponymous debut or the commercial game-changer that was their comeback and 3rd studio outing 15. It comes off as a bit short, clocking in at about 20 seconds shorter than their previously shortest offering in 2015’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, which ultimately feels a bit counterintuitive given the jam band character of many of these songs and the obvious abilities of the guitarists. But this isn’t a band that made their name by any great degree of experimentation, and this is an album that will play best to those who want their music to stick to what works.
Released By: Roundhill Records
Released On: June 25th, 2021
Genre: Hard Rock
- Josh Todd / lead vocals
- Stevie D. / rhythm guitar
- Kelly LeMieux / bass
- Francis Ruiz / drums
- Billy Rowe / lead guitar
“Hellbound” track listing:
- So Hott
- No More Lies
- Here I Come
- Wasting No More Times
- The Way
Continuing the same retro-70s rock tradition that first catapulted them to public prominence in the late 1990s, Anaheim’s Buckcherry unleashes a volley of familiar old school styled anthems, culminating in compact yet potent opus for their ninth studio effort.