Friday, July 11, 2014

Snake Sixx - Itz All About The Riff

Snake Sixx
Itz All About The Riff
Snake Sixx Productions

Leif Gregory isn’t what you would call a household name amongst metal fans. But if you happen to be an avid fan of the underground Australian metal scene, you’ll no doubt know the Sydney based artist through his guitar work in groups such as Aftermath, Destrier, Dark Order, Total Abuse and Nazxul. Having played his part in the group scenario for most of his professional career, Gregory decided the time was right to step out on his own, and under the pseudonym Snake Sixx, he released the covers E.P. ‘Dethroned Emperor’ in 2012. While the release passed under the radar by most, it was an interesting (If a bit flawed) release that saw guest contributions from none other than ex-Celtic Frost drummer Steve Priestly, Morgoth/Insidious Disease/ex-Comecon vocalist Marc Grewe, Tourettes/ex-Meldrum vocalist Michele Madden and the iconic Henry Rollins.
It’s been a long two years since then, but Sixx has finally returned with his long overdue full-length effort ‘Itz All About The Riff’. And much like his E.P. release, ‘Itz All About The Riff’ is another hit and miss affair.
Recorded over twenty-five months, over three continents and hailed as the biggest independent music project of its kind in Australian music history, ‘Itz All About The Riff’ sounds like an interesting prospect on paper. After all, this covers album boasts a collection of Australian classics, and features no less than thirty-three rock/metal legends from both here and from overseas. But while it all sounds impressive, not all the guests and the songs themselves translate all that well in their reworked form.
The first track covered by Sixx is the AC/DC classic ‘Let There Be Rock’, with Anthony ‘Skenie’ Skene of The Poor/ex-Lump on the vocals. Musically, the song is given a bit more punch with an added edge of aggression of the guitars, and Skene’s vocals have more than enough grit to pull the whole thing off admirably. Next up is Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land’ with Johnathan Devoy (Ex-Jerk Johnathan/Melody Black/Ink) on the vocals. Devoy’s performance is solid, but it’s the combination of guitarist/keyboardist Sixx, guitarist Adam Aguis (Ex-Alchemist/The Levitation Hex) and bassist Leeno Dee (Ex-Candy Harlots/Jerk/Melody Black/INK) that really gives the song its own individuality.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst with the Skyhooks cover ‘Horror Movie’. Shane Sparks (Enemy Me/My Therapy) on vocals just doesn’t seem to fit with the arrangements provided, and the song itself doesn’t stand up with its heavier reinterpretation.
The cover of INXS’ ‘Don’t Change’ (With Darker Half’s Steven ‘Vo’ Simpson on vocals) remains fairy true to the original, and is therefore unremarkable (Apart from the shredding solo from Empires Of Eden/Dungeon/Pain Division guitarist Stu Marshall), while The Divinyls’ ‘Boys In Town’ (With Lillye/Peter Northcote Band vocalist Virginia Lillye) is further evidence of the vocalist struggling to fit what is clearly a musical arrangement prepared beforehand.
Sixx’s cover of Rose Tattoo’s ‘Nice Boys’ and The Angels’ ‘Take A Long Line’ (Both with Devoy once again out front) are definite highlights, and two of the album’s seriously heavy and energetic numbers, while the punked up reinterpretation of The Radiators’ ‘Coming Home’ (Featuring ex-Frozen Doberman vocalist Adam Marsh) is a fairly rough and ready affair, but also worthy of a mention.
But for all of the solid efforts featured on the album, there are just as many disasters as well. Those tracks that don’t fare so well include Gangajang’s ‘Sounds Of Then (This Is Australia)’ with Saint Lucifer/Paindivision/The Harlots’ Jordon Howe on vocals (The slow and droning pace of the arrangement simply doesn’t work), Split Enz’ ‘I Got You’ with Heaven The Axe’s Phoebe Pinnock on vocals and Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’ with Simpson once again on vocals. Sure, the riffs are there, but the arrangements and how the vocalists are slotted into those said arrangements seriously let these reinterpretations down.
Things do liven up a touch with the cover of The Atlantics’ ‘Bombora’ and AC/DC’s ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be’ (With Marsh once again out front), while the stripped back cover of The Church’s ‘Milky Way’ with Devoy is one of the rare experiments of complete reworking that works exceptionally well.
In terms of the bonus tracks, there’s the Industrial Stomp Mix of ‘Great Southern Land’ by Cubanate/Pig’s mastermind Marc Heal and Sixx’s cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘Dethroned Emperor’. The remix is interesting, and worthy of checking out, while the Celtic Frost cover (Featuring Aguis and ex-Damaged/Terrorust/Walk The Earth front man James Ludbrook on vocals) is a worthy addition, but hardly a cover that’s likely to rival to the original.
Aside from the album, ‘Itz All About The Riff’ also comes with a D.V.D. entitled ‘One Mans Journey’. And as you would expect, it’s as every bit as patchy as the album itself.
The two hour D.V.D. begins with the promotional video clip for ‘Great Southern Land’ (Which in all honesty is fairly primitive in its homemade glory), and is followed with an interview with ex-Apollyon Sun/Hellhammer/Celtic Frost drummer Steve Priestly. While the interview with Priestly is worthy (As too is the archival footage of Celtic Frost live), the sound is terrible, and makes it difficult to enjoy.
From here, there are interviews with Shane Sparks (Enemy Me/My Therapy), bassist Dave Colless (Skuldugory/Grungeon/Tribe Maelstrom/Apostasy) and an alternate (Studio) promotional video clip for ‘Great Southern Land’ (Which I personally feel is the superior of the two).
Given that Devoy plays a large part on the album, it’s not surprising to see him given a fairly extensive interview here. But once again, the sound isn’t all that great (What do you expect when you’re interviewed in a club!). But at least the live footage of Devoy onstage sounds O.K.
The interview with drummers Steve Hughes (Slaughter Lord/Mortal Sin/Nazxul) and Mick O’Shea (Dragon/Rose Tattoo/Judge Mercy) are further disappointment due to sound issues, but at least the segments with guitarist Rick Rozz (Death/Massacre/(‘M’) Inc.), vocalists Adam Marsh (Frozen Doberman) and Jordon Howe (Saint Lucifer/Pain Division/The Harlots), bassist Zoran Mrakic (Killrazor/Devine Electric/Dark Order), vocalist Anthony ‘Skenie’ Skene (The Poor/ex-Lump) and guitarist Craig Martin (Aggressa/Twin City Riot) fare a bit better.
Finishing up the D.V.D. is the promotional video clip for ‘Nice Boys’ and Virginia Lillye singing ‘Highway To Hell’ on the television show ‘The Voice’.
The concept behind ‘Itz All About The Riff’ is a bold one to say the least. But to pull it all off is another thing. And to be honest, Sixx hasn’t quite succeeded in creating the ultimate covers album that lives up to its long list of guest appearances.

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© Justin Donnelly

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