It’s always good to hit an album for the first time without any preconceived notions. Obviously with established bands this is largely impossible, but when hearing a new band for the first time a press sheet can do more harm than good as they tend to oversell (or just plain lie about) their charges thus raising expectations sky high and inevitably stirring disappointment in the heart of even the most optimistic of reviewers. In contrast, placing an album in the player for the first time with only the cover art and song titles to guide your opinion allows the reviewer to hear the music for the first time shorn of unnatural expectation and this can often lead to some great and surprising discoveries. Golden Sextion are a prime example of this – if we’re going to be brutally honest the cover art (a shady CGI rendering of what looks like an alien surgeon) is not brilliant. It feels cheap and raises some worrying questions about the content. However I’ve been misled by lame cover art before (early Slayer albums are a prime example of the need to ignore visual <ahem> discrepancies) and when first track ‘Hi-tech love’ detonates you realise that Golden Sextion clearly only have a cheap cover because they blew the budget on the recording which sounds, frankly, pretty damn phenomenal.
We have, on the pages of SonicAbuse in the past, lamented the lack of good, radio-friendly heavy rock bands. It seems now that everything is either mind-blowingly bad punk-pop or extreme to the point of dissolving the listeners teeth and, if this is something of a generalisation, it is still the case that it is damned hard to find good (even great) hard-rock bands capable of delivering both power, precision and the requisite pop hooks. Therefore when ‘hi-tech love’ transpires to be quality hard rock with a gloriously poppy sheen that ultimately sounds like a cross between Metallica’s Black Album, prime Bon Jovi (and before you sneer, kindly remember that ‘slippery when wet’ is a great record), Velvet Revolver and Stone Sour, we could hardly contain our excitement.
And so it goes – Golden Sextion, in ‘the Silicon Age’, have produced a fine album indeed. One that you can head-bang to without shame, sing along to in the shower and still sound cool and, more importantly, it is an album you can play over and over again without getting bored. Every track oozes power, quality and an ability on behalf of the band to absorb all of their influences and reform them as something new and exciting for a generation utterly starved of quality hard rock. Blistering solos are belted out with gleeful abandon amidst riffs that pack a mighty punch (all courtesy, remarkably, of just one guy – Andrea Lusenti), the vocals (Fabio Dessi) are delivered with grit and conviction, the bass (Fausto Giovannini) throbs away in the depths and the drums (Gianvittorio Vandelli) pummelled with power and precision and by the time you rub up against the fast-paced melodic rock of ‘white wall’ you’re sure to be hooked on the band’s addictive sound.
Having impressed from the off, not only with their quality songs but also with a production that sounds like a million dollars, Golden Sextion showcase their lascivious edge (as all good hard rock bands should – just ask Whitesnake) with ‘sex N’ roll’ a track that cruises in on a massive, chunky riff that belies the notion that you can’t have melody and power in the same song; it’s a huge, grinding thing that oozes raw sexuality to the extent that you stop and question whether the band haven’t simply channelled the swaggering ghost of Jim Morrison and squeezed him into Scott Weiland’s distressingly revealing, skinny strides for a song that takes pounding percussion and massed vocals and delivers upon the promise of the title whilst barely breaking a sweat. Equally good is ‘portrait’, a fast-paced, memorable beast that would have filled stadiums if it had been released fifteen years ago (and still would today if the world was less apathetic towards great bands) thanks to the mix of great musicianship and brilliant pop hooks.
It would be a poor band indeed who didn’t want to sit back and take stock after such an opening gambit and thus ‘so far from this day’ proves to be a string-laden ballad that offers vocal histrionics and sugary arrangements that are as much Live as Def leppard, but again as much as you want to run screaming, it’s irresistible and if you can’t allow yourself this one guilty pleasure with a wry smile and a wink then you are a po-faced sod indeed. Of course, whilst one track is a success, more would be overkill, and so it is with relief that we note ‘Jesus on my back’ comes crashing in like an out-of-control truck, a decent chunky riff backed up by a brilliantly gritty vocal from Fabio that sits comfortably between Cornell and Weiland in terms of delivery. ‘Saints are gone’ is a brilliantly sleazy number with throbbing wah-laden bass, a vocal performance torn from the heart of Motley Crue and a chorus that is sticky with non-descript fluids and then the title track appears amidst a haze of gently undulating synth and so9nds for all the world like a Devin Townsend track, vocals and all. It’s an odd, but certainly not unwelcome, transition and it sounds really cool – like an eighties heavy rock track filtered through Devin’s patented ‘industrialiser’ and hopped up on the pop frenzy of ‘addicted!’ it’s an unexpectedly great addition to the album and keeps interest levels suitably high.
‘Hidden truth’ returns to the more conventional hard rock of the earlier stages of the album and does a good job of stacking a pile-driving riff up against heavy percussion and, once again, Fabio’s excellently gutsy voice. Given a choice between the guitars and vocals for most impressive performance I’m hard pressed, but I think Fabio surely has the edge as he consistently excels as a front man and it’d be great to see him perform these tracks live to see if he can match up to his well-honed studio performance. ‘My pain’ reminds us that the band also has a great rhythm section in Fausto and Gianvittorio as it kicks off with a heavy drum and bass groove before the guitars smash in for one of the heaviest tracks on the album and then ‘from High’ closes the disc with an electronically charged blast that mixes up Devin Townsend, Queensryche and Def leppard for a brilliantly charged finale.
So there you have it – Golden Sextion rule. They have crafted an album of sexy, melodic, memorable, powerful hard rock that speaks to the head, the heart and the hips. I had long thought that music like this just wasn’t made any more, but I was wrong and I’m damned glad of it. In an alternate universe (a better universe I might add) households up and down the country would gather around the stereo to rock out to this rather than the mind-numbing tripe of the X factor, but as that’s unlikely to happen I can only recommend this wholeheartedly to all you hard rock fans out there – this record is awesome!