A few high-profile names have come out in the past to debunk the authenticity of Nikki Sixx’s phenomenally successful book The Heroin Diaries
, proclaiming the likelihood Nikki actually documented his days with the girl with golden eyes as slim at best. The retort comes from either their own experiences with the drug or the people they’ve known on the junk, stating that one could barely hold a pen, let alone jot down their own thoughts whilst in the thick of its effects. Some have even noted – missing the point entirely, I might add – that the book glorifies drug use, which in my opinion is an absurd notion to have. Regardless of whether you believe the book to be disingenuous with its factual content, the message is clear: heroin ruined Nikki’s life – even killing him at one point – and the discernible theme throughout is the detrimental effect heroin had on him and the people around him. As for the album itself, there’s no denying it has always proven to be an exaggerated experience with a flair for the dramatics. Like any adaptation, things get stretched, blown up, or skewed to better fit the narrative and keep people engaged. My own viewpoint on this album shows more validity knowing that The Heroin Diaries
is being translated into a musical now – a platform I think will benefit it perfectly. The rendition of “Carol of Bells” is a fittingly boisterous opening for the album, and it works immensely well with its poignant acoustic guitar and lamenting spoken word excerpts from the book, narrated by Sixx himself, that sit over it. It’s making sure to set the tone for the entire record and its listener; a journey based around the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – done in the most epic way possible.
I’ve never rated Motley Crüe and I won’t mince my words here; they’re a band with at best mediocre songs and a singer that’s an… acquired taste to put it politely. Which makes Sixx:A.M.’s first album an eye-widening surprise for anyone with a mild disdain for Sixx’s day job. I won’t pull any punches for saying forget about any album that proceeds this one either – this is the audio partner to the book, and its meaningful journey was always meant to be a one-time project that happened to catch unprecedented success and thus saw a continuation with more albums. I’ve always gravitated towards music with a raw emotion and/or a meaty theme behind it. The Heroin Diaries
not only delivers on both counts, but really highlights Nikki’s superb songwriting abilities. James Michael – a former addict himself – fronting the project is a stroke of genius that not only elevates and showcases the great songwriting here, but sees him convincingly embodying the demons as if they were his own. The emotional torment he wrestles with in “Accidents Can Happen” hears him trying to come to terms with either giving in to the addictive urges or beating himself up for already caving into to them. The powerful energy he brings to “Life is Beautiful” puts you in the thick of Sixx’s emotional state of trying to shift away from a nihilistic mindset to realise life is as fragile and sweet as it is horrifying and cruel. The beautiful ballad “Girl with Golden Eyes” lays out thick seductive croons which magnify the deadly hold heroin has; made all the more potent as the song transitions into a section where our narrator reveals Sixx going through rehab and coming to terms with the drug’s deadly kiss. In short, James is imperative to this album’s emotional convictions paying off. It’s a fantastic performance that makes everything and everyone flourish.
Musically, the album is a hard-rock album interspersed with the kind of balladry Meat Loaf would lay down. The mournful piano in “Van Nuys” and “Girl with Golden Eyes,” the grand choir in the penultimate “Permission” and “Life After Death,” or the self-indulgent guitar solos that are scattered around the album, there’s a great array of emotions and moods to draw from on this greatly ambitious record. And since this is the 10th anniversary edition of the album, there’s bonus tracks that reimagine “Life is Beautiful,” “Accidents Can Happen” and “Girl with Golden Eyes” which intensify the grander side of this album’s personality. As I touched on at the start of this review, while it would be somewhat disappointing to know that Sixx’s memoirs were largely fictional daydreams, its positive message holds weight that can’t be taken away by anyone. At the end of the day, it’s no secret Nikki was into taking indulgences to god-tier levels: he was addicted to heroin and he did come off of it to become a better person. It’s a record with a strong narrative and one with an immensely positive message. If you’re not a fan of Motley Crüe, don’t judge this from that standpoint alone – this will surprise you. Sixx:A.M has had a couple of good moments outside of this album, but this is a haunting project that should have stayed a one-time thing. It’s powerful, it’s sad and honest, but most importantly it’s inspiring. This is a record that documents a man at his absolute lowest while he was slumped at the top of success; seeing him crawl through the wreckage of addiction and abuse to become a better person at the end of it all.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.banquetrecords.com/sixx%3Aa.m/the-heroin-diaries-soundtrack-%2810th-anniversary%29/ESM1972