Review Summary: An imperfect but vital redemption for Sixx:A.M.
Following the unexpected success of The Heroin Diaries
, Nikki Sixx and his crew’s music began a rapid decline down the most overpopulated roads of mainstream rock. The reason for the band’s sudden diminish in quality is no mystery to solve: they’re a band who formed their entire existence around addiction and recovery, so once their story was told on The Heroin Diaries
, they simply ran out of anything substantial to write about. That is, until now. The first half of their double album, Prayers for the Damned
, finds the band departing from autopilot mode, and rekindling the passion they displayed in spades on their drug-influenced debut.
Not only does it contain a more optimistic vibe than the band’s recent outings, Prayers for the Damned
is the first album by Sixx:A.M. since 2007 that feels fueled by passion rather than a label’s persuasive demands. As a whole, it doesn’t live up to their reminiscent and ambitious debut, but it does contain perhaps the strongest streak in quality of the band’s spotty career – beginning with the excitable rocker, ‘Rise’, and ending with the slickly produced title track. Though dressed up with a refined production job and giant choruses to suit radio play, the first four tracks on Prayers for the Damned
contain a relentless energy that was absent from the band’s last two efforts; an energy that pushes them beyond the boundaries of generic radio-rock. Simply put, it’s the best Sixx:A.M. have sounded in years, and they’ve injected their newfound focus into an addictive but flawed assortment of sing-along choruses and bold lyricism. ‘I’m Sick’ is contender for the best track on Prayers for the Damned
, with vocalist James Michael accepting and even confronting his illness over a colossal chorus: bring on the shame, bring on the pain, yeah I know that I’m sick, give me some more.
As if in response to Michael’s demand, we’re treated with some of the tastiest guitar-work on the album as blistering solos escape from guitarist DJ Ashba’s fingers with an unstoppable fury.
On The Heroin Diaries
, the band were strictly focused on the process of grief and moving on from addiction. However, hearing them make taunts and jabs at their illness, rather than wallowing in its grip, marks a welcome change from the lyrical approach of the band’s weathered past. They’re still aware of the destructive role addiction plays in their everyday lives, but their latest batch of songs finds the four-piece coming to terms with their afflictions with a new level of acceptance. The end result is an often rousing collection of rock-n-roll anthems that get the job done more often than not.
Unfortunately, the album takes several abrupt dips in quality and unnecessary detours before making a not-so-victorious leap through the finish line. Following the memorable first few tracks, ‘Better Man’ puts itself out on the line as a poignant ballad, but falls flat on its face with unimaginative verses that seem to lazily bleed into the song’s chorus. ‘Can’t Stop’ isn’t much better, as it employs too much effort in trying to sound edgy, but instead sounds incredibly forced as Michael’s repetitive shouts grow borderline grating by the end of the track. These missteps don’t make or break the experience, though. Nearly every uninspired track is cancelled out by a more stimulating and credible number.
Despite the improvements they've made, it’s difficult to accurately critique a mainstream rock band like Sixx:A.M. It's like judging the speed of a turtle on its best day: the sluggish reptile might make a respectable time, but its speed will still pale in comparison to its much quicker peers. Sadly, sometimes the band's very best work is just "good", which makes it difficult to recommend them without any sense of hesitation. Regardless, Prayers for the Damned
contains about as much substance as we can expect from the likes of Sixx:A.M. There’s virtually nothing innovative or groundbreaking here, but I’d be lying if I said there’s not a mindless sense of enjoyment to be had; perhaps best suited for a late night gym workout, or those tedious hours at the office. Not unlike The Heroin Diaries
, their latest effort suffers at times from inconsistency and filler, but at its very best, it’s a collection of highly engaging anthems that accomplish exactly what they set out to do. For a band that seemed to be on the fast track to their demise, Prayers for the Damned
has rejuvenated their sound, and put them back on the right track towards redemption.