SANTA CRUZ – “The Return of the Kings”

By Colonel Angus

SANTA CRUZ was in the press a while back but other than that story, I had not heard of them until I was given this album to review. I always enjoy finding new bands to follow and being exposed to records that eventually make it into my ever growing collection. I won’t give my age but I was around to enjoy the first wave of sleazy California metal that emerged from the Sunset Strip. Even though it eventually became a parody of itself, there were a number of bands that may not have become really famous but they still produced great records that have stood the test of time. SANTA CRUZ possess that same brash cock-sure attitude that was so prevalent among those bands during that time and I feel that they have tunes to back it up if “The Return of the Kings” is any indication. While they have some of that Sunset Strip sound, they also update it with elements of the bands that followed including those that may not have been classified as metal.

“The Return to the Kings” album loads most of the Sunset Strip sounding metal on the front half of the record whereas the other sides of SANTA CRUZ occupy the latter half. “Here Comes the Revolution” and “Take Me to America” have that sleazy riffing reminiscent of the Strip while updating the sound slightly to give it a more modern edge. Both have an anthemic quality will have your fists pumping in the air. Early on in the disk we get “Disarm” which is a melodic rock ballad but while I’m not a big ballad fan, this one manages to capture all the right elements to lift it out of sappy category and into just a well written slower number that also features some great guitar soloing. Delving into a more modern sound is “Standing My Ground” which, like many of the track on the disk, has a really catchy chorus.

The following 2 tunes kind of finish off the heavy part of the record with “Another Round” being especially good. “1000 Cigarettes” is part melodic rock and part 90s rock as it sounds like something I would have gotten turned onto back in those days. It’s a great catchy song and one of the tracks I seem to go back to revisit with some frequency. Finishing off the disk is a great slice of melodic rock called “Stay” and my only criticism of this piece is the abrupt ending especially since the track doesn’t even crack the 3 minute mark.

Now I know I didn’t mention all the songs on the record but to be clear, all of the album is worth listening to and my suggestion would be to not skip over any tracks. Archie Cruz does a great job with the vocals throughout. He adds a bit of roughness and power to his vocals for the heavier material and provides a cleaner vocal performance on the material that requires that sort of delivery. The rest of the band is new with Jerry Jade joining Cruz on guitar duty. Tommy Bradley and Randy McDemian complete this four piece. As I mentioned earlier, SANTA CRUZ possesses the right mix of rock and metal along with great songwriting. “The Return of the Kings” has the songs that hit the right chord (pun intended) and this is a great record to discover the band.