(Red Moon Records 2015)
Salems Lott are a new band from Los Angeles, California, who have attracted a considerable amount of attention for their image and antics. Just a week or two ago, a leading metal news site had a screaming headline that Salems Lott had been banned from the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip for the second time after some shocking escapade involving a piece of raw organ meat, I think. The band’s press photos (as well as those adorning the CD booklet) depict the quartet in black leather and chains, with stacked hair, animal pelts, and exaggerated Asian-style white makeup that makes them look like post-apocalyptic refugees from a stage production of The Mikado. The term “shock rock” or “shock metal” gets bandied about quite a bit with Salems Lott, and one hears comparisons to the likes of W.A.S.P., Lizzy Borden, and unsung L.A. pioneers Witch. Having an eye-catching image is all fine and good. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s an extraordinarily crowded marketplace out there, and new bands have to do something to stand out and attract a buzz. If an over-the-top visual presentation attracts people to your band, I’m all for it, as long as you’ve got the music to back it up.
Which brings me to the task at hand, namely, reviewing the debut Salems Lott EP, a seven-track, 25-minute affair bearing five conventional songs and a pair of short instrumentals. The first thing that stands out on popping the disc in the player is that Salems Lott have gone for a dirty, raw, warts’n’all production job that harkens back to the glory days of the Strip, but sounds muddy, uneven and clangy by today’s standards. That said, the guitar tone of Jeff Black and Monroe Black is sharp, ferocious and incisive, complementing the attacking riffs and impressive leads well. In terms of vocals, Monroe Black has a strong but gruff voice that sounds to me like a mixture of Marc Storace (Krokus), Frank Knight (X-Wild), Mark Tornillo (Accept), and even Torsten Buczko (Not Fragile). Salems Lott’s musical style definitely channels their Hollywood forebears like W.A.S.P. and early Motley Crue, as well as ‘Thunder in the East’ period Loudness; however, they also draw on a broader palette of influences, from speed metal to punk to classic/trad metal to glam. Overall, this is a tougher, more aggressive, and also more schizophrenic release than one might expect from the misleading “hair metal” tag.
It’s a bit tough to evaluate Salems Lott, given the brevity of this EP and the mishmash of sounds within and between particular tracks. Of the five proper songs on display, the single/video track “No Choice to Love” is the standout cut with its incredibly addictive bridge and chorus, mesmerizing drum intro, and compelling melodies. “Wings of Duress” boasts a smokin’ intro riff (sounding like something George Lynch could have written 30 years ago), while “Smoke and Mirrors” is a punchier tune featuring cool gang shouted vocals in the chorus, with a surprising beautiful and effective integration of acoustic guitars at the end. “Black Magic” has distorted voiceovers bookending the song, which mixes tribal drumbeats, too-loud keyboards and a jagged start/stop riff with uneven effect, though I do like the chorus. The final proper song, “S.S. (Sonic Shock)” reveals the band’s speed/thrash influences, beginning with ripping speed, pummeling double-bass and more gang vocals, before yielding to a surprisingly melodic chorus and a bizarre, almost psychedelic guitar break, then resuming the pedal-to-the-metal insanity.
Salems Lott have a strong core sound, an interesting mix of influences, and some obvious playing and songwriting ability. I would love to see what they can do with a bit more focus and a more competitive production. In the meantime, though, this EP is an intriguing and rewarding listen that is well worth your time if you still fondly sing along to the likes of “I Wanna Be Somebody,” “Psychopath,” “Red Rum” and “Live Wire.”
~ Review by Kit Ekman~