Review Summary: L.A. Guns attempt to update their sound, but ultimately fall flat on their face due to repetition and unoriginality.
L.A. Guns was formed roughly in 1986 in Los Angeles, United States. The group was closely associated with the Sunset Strip & the Glam Metal movement of the 80s. The band is often overshadowed by, what most people agree to, their successors Guns N' Roses. (A mash-up of L.A. Guns & Hollywood Rose). L.A. Guns hit it big with their first two releases, 1988's L.A. Guns
and 1989's Cocked & Loaded
going platinum. The fall of glam almost happened overnight going into the early 90s with the grunge explosion, as seen by their 1991 album Hollywood Vampires
going gold and eventually the follow up 1994's Vicious Circle
not even achieving a gold certification. American Hardcore
was the 1995 follow-up, in which L.A. Guns basically discarded their glam roots entirely and moved to directly update their sound any-which-way possible.
To update their sound, the band decided to follow a cookie-cutter Pantera
-esque sound. Typical tough guy vocals, brooding bass-lines, and fairly simplistic guitar work. This is the only album to feature Chris Van Dahl on vocals, after longtime vocalist Phil Lewis backed out, and I can honestly see why. Chris Van Dahl is like a third-rate Chris Cornell. He doesn't have much range, yet he tends to express himself in a manner throughout the album that he does in-fact, actually have range. Don't get me wrong, in his comfort zone, Van Dahl actually does not sound bad at all. It's just when he actually attempts something else, he sounds awful. And by awful, I do mean awful
. Throughout the album, Van Dahl whispers, he growls, he sings in a calm singing voice, he does everything. The problem here is, he doesn't do any of these too well. Fortunately for the listener, he doesn't do any of these vocal styles too often and therefore the album isn't necessarily completely ruined by Van Dahl's vocal performance. Van Dahl's vocals would honestly fit on a more up-tempo album, instead he's forced to sing over mid-tempo chugs the entire duration of the album.
The instruments on this album do nothing but maintain a mid-tempo chug. Literally, absolutely nothing. The album is nearly devoid of solos, any sort of noticeable tempo variation, overly cluttered with generic single note breakdowns, and just plain strange instrument fills. For example, on the track “Pissed,” the loud riff is randomly interrupted about halfway through the track and is filled with music akin to Richard Cheese
, followed by the heavy riff again with Van Dahl yelling “I'm Pissed! I'm Pissed! I'm Pissed!”
Even with all this previous criticism, the album isn't a total failure. One track in particular, “I Am Alive,” has a beautiful guitar solo from Tracii Guns that hearkens back to the glam days of the band. A few of the riffs are, while simplistic, are quite catchy such as “Give” and “Don't Pray.” These moments are few and far between unfortunately, as the band seems to completely destroy any sort of momentum they started the song off with. For example, in the track “Don't Pray,” a loud bass-laden riff enters for roughly 17 seconds, where at this moment the track suddenly out-of-the-blue calms down with Van Dahl whispering lyrics such as...
“Don't pray to me, I'm not your God
Or cry for me, I'm not your dog
Don't worship me, I'm not your God
Don't pray for me, Don't
To conclude, L.A. Gun's American Hardcore
in a way tries too much, and in other ways doesn't try enough. The band did change their sound, drastically in-fact. I honestly wouldn't have known this was LA Guns unless I owned the album, as I do. I commend them for at least attempting, but the end result is nothing less of a disaster. The album is bland, boring, and a waste of bandwidth. Avoid at all costs.
I Am Alive