"United State"

By The Sun Jester

Brand New Sin's 2011 release from Goomba Music, "United State", kicks off with the powerful "The Lord Came Down". This is fierce rock and roll with intelligence and attitude to burn. Kris Wiechmann's singing burns with conviction. There are no moments of high-flown poetry or progressive leanings in this song - it is direct, straight no chaser, unpretentious rock and roll. "Know Yourself" is a superb, uncompromising rocker with strong lyrics hinting at the autobiographical while remaining universal. The guitar solo is inspired and the band peppers the music with subtle shifts that add a propulsive touch without being gratuitous. "All My Wheels" starts with a vague AC/DC'ish vibe that sounds promising and has a good groove. However, this song is nothing you have not heard before, an attempt at constructing a big "this is my life" song by trotting out a familiar series of rock and roll clichés. The band is sharp, as always, and there is another great guitar solo, but the song is ultimately disappointing.

The next two songs, "Rotten as Hell" and "Elbow Grease", are the polar opposites of "All My Wheels". Instead of wrapping their message in overused images like rolling stones, these songs are bubbling over with a raw, unvarnished honesty. The acoustic blues of "Rotten as Hell" shows the band is much more than loud guitars and 4/4 hard rock. Wiechmann turns in another tough, yet soulful vocal and the guitar solo hits the mark again. The slide guitar is a nice touch and used well. "Elbow Grease" is paranoid, angry, confrontational, and personal. The band makes excellent use of dynamics by slowly ratcheting up the musical intensity from the first note and Tommy Matkowski shines once again.

 "Infamous" is another swaggering declaration of independence with a straightforward riff, but the band adds subtle rhythmic shifts that keep the song moving along. The song is the weakest of the album to this point, but it is not horrible. It fails to reach the same level as the preceding songs. The next song, "Groups of 5", has moody acoustic verses and big, bruising electric guitars that take over on the bridge and chorus. Despite the fact that the band added a new lead guitarist for this album, they play so tight, so well together that it is easy to think they have been together much longer. Matkowski tops the song off with another strong guitar solo. "Your Song and Dance" has the same growling, confrontational spirit heard in "Rotten as Hell", "Elbow Grease", and "Infamous", but does not rise to the same level of intensity. "Goddess of War" gives the band another chance to show their superb understanding of music dynamics. The song shifts between jagged riffing and soft, ringing fills that add subtle touches to the mood. Drummer Kevin Dean plays with power and touch and Tommy Matkowski reels off his best solo on the album. The band changes tempo in the song's last minute and finishes it off at breakneck speed. "The Cup and the Lip" is another mid-tempo number tackling the woes of the modern world and the lyrics contain interesting imagery, but the spark firing the band on their best material is in short supply here. The chugging riff of "Bed of Nails" promises great things from the opening note. This is another tale of the outsider, never at home in the world, never at peace, his spirit unbroken.

 "Travel Well (The Les Daniels Song)" is another highlight of this powerful album. The song is reflective and philosophical without veering into parody. The acoustic guitar playing is sensitive and understated. Once again, Brand New Sin asserts their distinctive personality with lyrics that speak with absolute sincerity. Their cover of AC/DC's "What Do You For Money Honey" grabs the song by the throat and shakes every ounce of bluesy passion out of this 30+ year old hard rock classic. "Glory Days" is a low-key acoustic take on the past. A wonderful guitar solo spices up the hypnotic riff. Wiechmann's voice is well suited for these hard-bitten tales of reflection and defiance. "Sad Wings" is a moody, intense acoustic performance. This rough tale of personal triumph is another impassioned look back at the price paid for living. The album closes with a lackluster cover of Black Sabbath's "The Wizard". While Wiechmann nails the vocal and the band is superb, the problem here is that they play it, more or less, as a straight-ahead rocker rather than giving it the swing heard in the original version.

This is one of the few disappointments on the album. The production neglects the bottom end some, but this is my personal preference. Don't let it sway you. Brand New Sin nails down the essence of what hard rock should be about in 2011. No self-conscious stabs at big statements and poetry; this is gritty rock and roll. It wears its heart proudly on a sleeve that ends in a clinched fist.