Review Summary: A conflicted rock LP, but this muthafucka is still holdin’ his head high.
It may be acceptable for a hip-hop album to lead off with "Heads up man, I'm a muthaf*cka holdin’ my head high", but when a rock release does so, it is difficult not to have immediate apprehension concerning what you are in for should you give Rev Theory's third LP 'Justice' a listen. Such assumptions may be inherent within radio-friendly hard-rock offerings anyway, and thus far in their career, the NYC quintet have done nothing to significantly differentiate themselves from the likes of Breaking Benjamin, Seether & Papa Roach, when it comes to the progression of their sound. Their dark, grungy debut was predictably followed by a slicker, more radio-friendly major label release, which not so surprisingly caught the ear of testosterone-fueled World Wrestling Entertainment fans.
For all of its adherence to formula, 2008's 'Light It Up' was not as bad as initial listens suggested. Its main issue was that it was so fragmented, an effect most likely caused by having two producers working on the LP. On 'Justice', Rev Theory sensibly stick with one man at the helm, and Terry Date (Soundgarden, Deftones, Pantera) seems a good choice on paper. Their collective decision to attempt a combination of the band's previous two releases is not only theoretically sound, but also pleasingly non-conformist for such an outfit. Unfortunately, the result is just as splintered and conflicted as its predecessor, with Rev Theory being unable to consistently integrate their heavier and catchier elements in a coherent or satisfying manner.
The first 3 tracks included here pass on by worryingly with macho posturing at the forefront both musically and vocally. Rich Luzzi sings as if he is gargling marbles, glass shatters as if 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin is about to make an appearance, and recycled riffs, licks & solos are so haphazardly abundant that you won’t be surprised that the lead guitarist goes by the name of Rikki Lixx. The song titles and lyrics suggest some kind of modernized wild west concept, but it's more to keep the songwriting mildly focused. To that extent it works, but also results in far too predictable themes which have been done to death by their peers. You know the kind: "I'm still breathing, f*ck your sympathy, I don't need it".
While it may be cliched mid-tempo radio-rock aimed at the airwaves, 'The Fire' mercifully steadies the ship as Luzzi finally spits out the tobacco and performs a well-executed, catchy and sincere piece. These are characteristics also possessed by subsequent rockers 'Loaded Gun' & 'Guilty By Design', giving hope that 'Justice' may be a back-loaded release in the vein of 'Light It Up'. Unfortunately, while nothing is too awful, there is no such saving grace, with the latter half mostly containing bland and unmemorable countrified ballads ('Say Goodbye' & the acoustic 'Hollow Man') and more macho posturing. The one arguable exception is the bass-driven 'Wicked Wonderland', which will have its fans since its darker edge harks back to their debut LP. Regrettably, Luzzi's gravelly vocals and some awkward rhyming near ruin any potential the song had.
To give Rev Theory some veiled credit over their three album career, their better songs are not as immediate as their radio-rock peers, suggesting some kind of depth not usually seen within the genre. To this extent however, it only makes the band seem even more conflicted in trying to infuse a lasting value into their songs, when truth be told they are still so formulaic and indistinctive. What this all adds up to is Rev Theory - and their third LP 'Justice' - not scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to harder edged radio-rock, but also not capitalizing on whatever potential the quintet possess and rising to the top of the pack either. Even in this case, just being passable is still a disappointment.
Recommended Tracks: The Fire, Guilty By Design & Loaded Gun.