As a life-long Hard Rock/Heavy Metal enthusiast, my fascination with ‘less-than-obvious’ artists and groups served me remarkable well, resulting in a series of undeniably pleasant surprises (i.e. I, Napoleon) throughout my woefully misspent youth. Having already shamelessly devoted untold hours to the hairspray and mascara-encrusted offerings of Guns N’ Roses, L.A. Guns and, to a lesser extent, Mötley Crüe, my instincts rarely failed me. A prime example of this is New York City, New York-born quartet Spread Eagle. Emerging with their self-titled debut in 1990, their sophomore effort Open To The Public (1993) appeared poised to thrust them to the dizzying heights of global recognition. Unfortunately, the group would self-destruct shortly thereafter, leaving a legion of blood-thirsty fans only wanting for more. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later (!), the improbably reunited quartet has returned with Subway To The Stars, their latest, and quite possibly greatest, offering to date.
On the stellar Subway To The Stars (2019), an expertly assembled eleven song collection of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling ‘riff fest’ “Subway To The Stars” and the maddeningly infectious lament “29h Of February”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Wisely attempting to recreate or recapture the unmitigated spirit of their origins, unleashes a genre-defying blend of multi-octave vocals, razor-sharp fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Wisely distancing themselves from their few legitimate contemporaries, the group drives home each key focal point without lethal precision that belies their advanced collective age. Obliterating the few misguided souls still doubtful of their ability to persevere despite the less-than-welcoming aura of the genre as a whole, the group flexes their revitalized creative muscles early and often.
Continuing with the delightfully full-throttle “Grand Scam” and the hook-laden ‘confrontation’ “More Wolf Than Lamb”, the steadfast–to say the very least–combination of vocalist Ray West (All Pointz West), guitarist Ziv Shalev (replacing, among others, Paul DiBartolo, i.e. author Salvadore Poe), bassist Rob De Luca (Helmet, Of Earth, Sebastian Bach) and drummer Rik De Luca (instructor at the acclaimed The Rock Underground music school) steamrolls ahead at what can only de described as a well-rehearsed pace. Boldly improving upon the previously mentioned releases without, believe it or not, imploding under the weight of their own legacies, the group wastes little–if any–time submerging the proverbial average listener amid a surprisingly Bluesy, in-your-face barrage that primarily eschews their more than considerable quasi-Glam and Hair Metal ancestry, the group unleashes an assault that deftly ‘delivers‘ the proverbial ‘goods’ without borrowing too heavily from any one era.
Mixed by the Grammy-winning Tom Camuso (John Scofield, Lenny Kravitz, Steve Earle) other standouts, including the seething, emotionally-overwrought gem “Antisocial Butterfly” and the wryly-titled and ultimately highly-effective “Gutter Rhymes For Valentines”, are seemingly guaranteed to leave even the most hopelessly pessimistic of enthusiasts only wanting for more. Easily one of the finest all new releases of the rapidly waning year, the group now appears destined for the critical and commercial recognition(s) they so rightfully deserve. Despite this, what ultimately separates the oft-blistering Subway To The Stars from the wealth of well-heeled contemporary efforts is their dedication to perfecting their craft. While one might argue (and I wholeheartedly agree) that it’s finest moments are best suited for their core ‘Gen X’ era constituents, the eagerness so flawlessly intertwined within the compositions are oft-palpable, making it difficult to ignore their most absonant of strains.
But is it really that good? Absolutely! While not necessarily on par with the group’s halcyonic days of yore, (with proper promotion, Open To The Public should have propelled the group to the forefront of the MTV era), the majority–if not all–of the decidedly hook-laden wares contained herein are a much-welcomed reminder of the group’s lyrical and compositional prowess. Even if you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with the group’s arguably short-sighted decision to largely abandon their once trademark tonalities, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire their ability to persevere amid their notoriously fickle target demographic. Accordingly, if you’ve once again found yourself in search of a forthright alternative to the painfully mindless din and clatter that so often pollute the charts and airwaves (i.e. the curiously-protracted ‘New Rock’ format), then this, my friends, might just be the counter-irritants for whatever it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.