Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Duff McKagan’s Loaded - The Taking

Duff McKagan’s Loaded
The Taking
Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment/Shock Entertainment

With Velvet Revolver on indefinite hiatus, and Slash still touring off the back of his self-titled solo album (Which was released in 2010), former Guns N’ Roses bassist/vocalist Duff McKagan has decided to devote his time to his own band Loaded – delivering the long awaited follow-up to 2009’s stunning ‘Sick’ with their latest effort ‘The Taking’.
On Loaded’s third full-length studio effort, the band (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist McKagan, ex-Harvey Danger guitarist Mike Squires, ex-Alien Crime Syndicate/Shoveljerk bassist Jeff Rouse and Ex-Loudermilk/Gosling drummer Isaac Carpenter) have decided to work alongside renowned producer/mixer Terry Date (Who has in the past worked with big names such as Slipknot, Pantera, Soundgarden, Overkill, Metal Church and White Zombie), who in turn has given the band a heavier and grittier sound than anything heard on ‘Sick’. But while some of the gloss heard on ‘Sick’ has been stripped back, the band’s song writing has also undergone a transformation, with a greater punk/rock influence evident in a large majority of the songs, and when coupled with a rawer and heavier performance on the album, comparing ‘Sick’ to ‘The Taking’ is like comparing a garage demo with the finished studio product.
‘Lords Of Abaddon’ pretty much sets the tone of the album with its darker vibe and stripped back approach to riffs and thundering bass. McKagan’s vocals add a definite punk feel to the song, while the choruses are snarled in typical McKagan fashion, but with enough hook to sound catchy and memorable.
The slower and bludgeoning ‘Executioner’s Song’, which originally appeared on the band’s ‘Wasted Heart’ E.P. from 2008, is given a second chance here on the new album, and sits well with the band’s heavier and darker sound, while ‘She’s An Anchor’ and ‘Easier Lying’ sees McKagan put forth a pain and hurt that’s as honest as it is biting on the lyrical front, all the while maintaining a sense of melody within the chorus structures that masks the underlying aggression lurking beneath the surface.
While there’s plenty of aggression dotted throughout the album, there’s also plenty of up-tempo straight forward rock numbers that recall the sound heard on ‘Sick’. The first single ‘Dead Skin’ is a driving effort that features some great riff work and plenty of up-front rhythms from Carpenter, while shades of Foo Fighters can be heard on ‘We Win’ (A track that’s sure to get the crowd singing along in no time). Elsewhere, ‘Indian Summer’, the laid back ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘Cocaine’ (Which is also included at the tail end of the album in acoustic form as a bonus track) easily stand out as the album’s more accessible and melodic tracks, as well as some of the album’s finest moments.
‘King Of The World’ (Which features a subtle Queens Of The Stone Age influence in terms of guitar sounds) is a huge ball of energetic rock, while the one-two punch of ‘Your Name’ and ‘Follow Me To Hell’ bring the album to a climatic close with loads of punk rock, both in spirit and delivery.
With ‘The Taking’, Loaded have forsaken the overly polished and accessible feel of ‘Sick’ and regained some of the old-school rock/punk spirit that was evident on 2001’s ‘Dark Days’, and even on McKagan’s own solo release (1999’s ‘Beautiful Disease’). While some may be turned off by the change of direction, there’s no doubt that those who thought ‘Sick’ was a little too slick may find the darker vibe featured on ‘The Taking’ a step in the right direction for the band.
Overall, Loaded have undoubtedly produced another great release, and while I don’t think that their latest quite eclipses their former effort, ‘The Taking’ is another solid effort from one of most underrated acts on today’s rock ‘n’ roll scene.

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© Justin Donnelly