Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hard Riot - Living On A Fast Lane

OK, a show of hands please!  How many remember these lyrics - “Get cha motor runnin’.  Head out on the highway!  Lookin’ for adventure.  And whatever comes our way…”  If you guessed Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons you’re wrong, as bad ass as they were.  But if that image of a custom chopper roaring down a backroad is stuck in your cranium then you’re in the right place.  First there was Riot.  Then along came Quiet Riot.  And RiotGod!  Now there’s Hard Riot.  None of them have much to do with each other but it sounds pretty fuckin’ cool for an intro anyway… eh?  Like I’ve done my homework.

Here’s the straight goods with German rock’n’roll outfit Hard Riot on the Pitch Black label.  They’re not going to find a cure for cancer or solve world hunger anytime soon, but like many hard rockin’, straight shootin’ rock’n’roll bands before them they are making an impact.  People eat this fundamental shit up!  You heard it here first.  To start with, they’re redefining life on the road with their debut album by “Living On A Fast Lane”.   I’ve heard of living IN the fast lane, but never ON.  I commend them for their machismo and bravery but you have to admit, it must be difficult dodging traffic.  Especially with a full compliment of furniture and dishware.  And I’m guessing they actually came up with a way cool German name for the band, but Hard Riot was the genius that Google translator spat out.

Nevertheless, this fearless Teutonic  four piece kicks it into gear, pulls the throttle back and thrusts the rock’n’roll carburetors wide open on this release.  It’s essentially a collection of infectious, high octane rockers and “hoist your lighters (and/or mobile devices) in the air” anthems.  If you like the big crunchy riffs and searing vox all underscored by a thundering rhythm section, you’ve come to the right place.  Buckle up!
The lads kick off the top of the disc with a straight up, no bullshit, balls out rocker called GET READY.  Like I said, they’re not reinventing the wheel here but the song still boasts gritty, in your face vocals, a solid bridge and chorus.  Get ready?  Get ready for what?  HELLFIRE ROCK, that’s what!  This smokin’ little ditty has a “call to arms” style verse along the same lines as what you often hear from Ireland’s The Answer.  The 60 watt incandescent over your melon will flicker on when the AC/DC  “Whole Lotta Rosie” scent wafts in on the stop riff during the reprieve.  The ghost of “Riff Raff” also haunts some of the chord choices.  They offer up a solid, but not surprising chorus, and studied guitarist Andreas Rockrohr (Rock Roar?!... cool name) peels off the first of many tight, tidy solos on the album!  Good, hard edged guitar tones abound on this number.

Just when you thought you were in like flint staring down a backstage laminate, the boys come roaring (Rockrohr-ing?) back with the lumbering, gutsy rock anthem DON’T NEED YOU!  Is that so?  Well, guess what guys?  I don’t need you… oh, wait – the boys seem to attract an uber abundance of Claudia Schiffer/Heidi Klum-like supermodels to their electric live shows (could it be the Hai Karate aftershave?!...).  I take it back!  I DO need you guys.  And all your contagious, up front, fist pumping vocals backed by heart wrenching harmonies that genetically perfect women quiver over.

The ol’ stylus then hops over to the powerful NO SURRENDER complete with duel leads at the beginning distantly reminiscent of the infamous Iron Maiden sonic attack.  It houses another “call to action” chorus soaked in a beer blasted, blue collar sensibility and garnished with yet another tasteful solo that fits nicely within the framework of the song.

TEARS IN THE RAIN is one of my favourite tunes on the entire album.  It’s houses a simple but great, plodding, memorable riff.  The song is ripe with smokin’, pulverant guitar tones, up front primal vocals and fist pumping crowd participation.  When I initially saw the song title my first thought was it was going to be a sappy ballad, but it was anything but!  The Scorpions influence is abundant here, but the Hard Riot boys draw it out, open it up and make it their own.  They do what many bands are afraid to do nowadays.  They give the almighty riff some breathing room and allow it to resonate.  There’s a reflective reprieve in the middle instrumentally, but the guttural vocals don’t quit.  Vocalist Michael Gildner simply refuses to back down.  And like true blue, bonafide rockers, they liberate the rock’n’roll carburetors once again near the end, drop it down a gear and throw the throttle wide open!

TURN ON THE LIGHTS (I dropped the KY) is a solid, chugging rocker with lots of meat on the bone.  More kick ass solos abound, pooled with a nice reflective reprieve in the middle.

NOTHING BUT YOU is a well constructed acoustic ballad.  Definitely one for the mass of Bic lighters at a live show.  The Germanic linguistic influence leaks through here and there in the vocals but not to the point where it’s distracting.  There’s also some pleasant vocal harmonies in this number.  Essentially, it’s a great song to seal that illusive first date with, if ya know what I mean (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

TAKE ME DOWN boasts a great dirty riff!  And yet another SA-WEET solo!  Tasty chord transition too.  HARD WAY DOWN is a no bullshit, straight shootin’ rocker.  BLACK WIDOW offers up a delectable drawn out, crunching riff tied to a great bridge.  What’s this?  ANOTHER crisp solo in a long line of them from Mr. Rockrohr!  This beast is a total live, in unison fist pumper.  The finisher ROCK’N’ROLL OUTLAW is a peppy little rocker that captures a Four Horsemen/Ramones-esque (odd combo, I know) flavour along the lines of my favourite band’s killer tune “Can’t Stop Rockin’”.

I have to tip my hat to Producer Vagelis Maranis at Maranis Studios in Backnang, Germany for doing a solid job on the recording, production and mix.  The vocals and guitar sit way out front through most of the tracks, but there’s still some nice instrumental separation.  It feels very clean despite all the brash guitar and vocal tones.  

Hard Riot are the kind of band that would get everybody’s attention if they played the side stage at Wacken.  Folks would haul ass to find out who’s tearing it up.  As a good buddy of mine once said, “AC/DC is the small block Chevy of kick ass rock’n’roll”.  If that’s true, then Hard Riot is the dual piston V-Twin of rock’n’roll!  Hard Riot is Michael Gildner on vocals, Andreas Rockrohr on guitars, Mario Kleindienst on bass and Carmine Jaucci on drums.


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