Like most of the world, I had no idea who Hollywood Monsters were. When I had the chance to be given their debut album Big Trouble for review, I looked them up. Before finding any songs, I saw that Vinny Appice is the drummer on most tracks, so without even bothering to listen to a song I leapt at the chance to review the album. Another name that would pop out at a lot of classic rock fan is keyboardist Don Airey, and maybe bassist Tim Bogert as well.
Tim is best known for having played in Vanilla Fudge, while Don Airey (who only plays on one song on this album) has spent his career with some big names, such as Ritchie Blackmore and Ozzy Osbourne just to name a few, and of course he is now the keyboardist for Deep Purple; most would agree he is the only keyboardist best suited to have replaced the great Jon Lord. But my interest in the album still goes back to Vinny. He has been one of my favourite drummers, either indirectly or directly, since my earliest days of listening to him bash the drums behind Ronnie James Dio’s immortal metal classics, and last summer when I finally had the privilege to have met Vinny twice, I found out that he is one of the most, if not the most down to earth musician I have ever met.
But going back to Hollywood Monsters; they are the brainchild of French vocalist/guitarist Stéphane “Steph Stevens” Honde who wrote all of the songs and got the band together to record Big Trouble. It’s hard to classify the album; after the opening 30-second introductory track Another Day in Grey – Pt 1 is the first real track on the album titled Move On. This song takes all of ten seconds for listeners to hear the pure classic hard rock/metal influence to it. This is the only song that features Don Airey, and it’s his organ sound that really helps with this classic rock sound. Then there is the title track Big Trouble, another hard rocking track, this time a little slower paced and better written.
But then after these two hard rocking songs come a slew of softer songs. Not all necessarily soft songs, but definitely not the hard rocking songs most may have been expecting. As surprised as I was to find that practically the entire middle of the album is made up of these slower melodic songs, the song writing that was put into these songs did not get past me. The Only Way eases listeners in to this transition by having breaks where the music sort of picks up, but all the while never losing that soft melodic element, and then completely picking up at the end.
Up to this point on the album, I’ve heard quite a bit of Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale influence in Steph’s voice, not when David Coverdale belts out those high notes, but when he sings with his lower more tamed voice. I asked others opinions and they verified that I’m not crazy. It is on the song The Cage (my favourite song on the album) where I really hear similarities between the two singers. The song continues the softer sound of the middle section of the album, starting off acoustically before having the whole band kick in.
The two softest songs on the album are The Ocean, which has the sounds of an orchestra playing throughout the song with Steph singing and playing acoustic guitar over it and Oh Boy!, which introduces a piano into the band’s sound. Both songs are what I would consider ballads, especially the latter of the two. It’s after these two tracks that the album starts to rock again with Underground, which brings back the riff heavy overdriven guitar sounds with the hard bashing drums and classic hard rock attitude of the earlier tracks from the album.
The albums longest song, Village of the Damned was written before Steph had met Vinny Appice, however it was written out of the influence of the bands and songs that Vinny has played for/on, and the fact that Vinny actually plays drums on the track is merely coincidence. I found that fact a little interesting. The song definitely reminds me of something that Ronnie James Dio could have written. It has the spirit of a classic metal track, its slow paced and evil sounding before completely speeding up toward the end. There is one part I’m not fond of, when Steph really tries to belt out the lyrics after the solo break and utterly failing to do so, but it lasts all of ten/fifteen seconds. Other than that, I think this may be the best all around written song on the album.
Without counting the bonus track, the album ends with one more slow, Song For A Fool. This piano driven song adds in some soul that the previous slower tracks didn’t have, ending the album on a rather positive note. But if you get the bonus track, as I did, the album actually ends with another hard rock song called Fuck You All. This song sounds little like anything else on the album; it is much heavier and much angrier. Former Iron Maiden vocalist Paul Di’Anno sings lead vocals on the song which helps with the attitude. I don’t think the song is particularly well written, but if you were hoping for a solid heavy conclusion to the album, this will suffice.
I applaud Steph Honde’s song writing for the most part. Hollywood Monsters won’t change the world of rock, but it will provide the fortunate people who listen to the album with some terrific tracks worth listening to. Steph’s guitar solos are spot on, they aren’t boring and they aren’t too showy and they just sound great. The array of softer songs still shocks me, but they make me think maybe Steph doesn’t want Hollywood Monsters to be just another hard rock band, but rather he wants to be known as a good songwriter, which I think comes across well on Big Trouble.
“Big Trouble” – I wanted to pick one of the harder songs on the album, and Big Trouble is straight to the point, not too long, not too short, and not too generic…well maybe the lyrics, but musically this is easily one of the best songs on the album and it is sure to give listeners a good enough taste of Hollywood Monsters.
7.5 (Out of 10)
|Another Day in Grey – Pt 1||0:29|
|The Only Way||4:20|
|Village of the Damned||7:59|
|Song for a Fool||4:44|
|Fuck You All||3:07|