Review Summary: Cheated Death offers the same mindless fun as past outings but there’s a noticeable effort to work toward a more unique sound
Against the Grain has stayed true to their vision of Motor City speed rock but they’ve made some modifications to their sound since their 2009 inception. 2015’s Road Warriors included more slow moments than its two predecessors and signing a deal with Ripple Music is enough to make one wonder if the group’s fourth full-length album will feature more stoner rock exploration. Those musings are realized on Cheated Death, but they aren’t as dramatic as one would think.
At the very least, this album is easily the band’s most melodic to date. As if the polished production job wasn’t noticeable enough, the vocals are much cleaner than before and the songwriting also places greater emphasis on defined hooks and mid-tempo blues than before. There’s still plenty of room for the band’s tried and true speed runs but they seem to have more in common with the likes of Monster Magnet and The Obsessed this time around.
It’d be easy to deem this a trend hopping move, but in reality, it reflects how much the band’s combined influences all have in common with one another. Stoner rock’s most primal roots may be in prog and 70s rock, but it was punk that really fed into its most aggressive, fuzz driven urges. Against the Grain has always been a band that was too metal for punk and too punk for metal, so them not being psychedelic enough to be stoner just makes for another fun little descriptor.
It’s also hard to complain when the songs on Cheated Death are this damned catchy. Songs like “High Heeled Woman” and “Into the Light” are sure to be live staples thanks to the energetic deliveries of their infectious choruses. “Devils and Angels” is also worth noting as its more subdued tempo in conjunction with its raspy vocal puts it somewhere between Clutch and Joe Bonamassa.
If Cheated Death isn’t Against the Grain’s best album, then it’s by far their most accessible. It really feels the band has come into its own between this album and Road Warriors. They offer the same mindless fun as past outings but there’s a noticeable effort to work toward a more unique sound. Hopefully this does prove to be a breakthrough for them; it’d be nice to see them blow some bigger acts offstage.
“Devils and Angels”
“High Heeled Woman”
“Into the Light”