American Angel – Vanity (2007, Chavis Records)
- While I’m Away
- On The Hunt
- Warm Inside
- Don’t Wait Up
- In Perfection
- End Of The Night
- Another Day
- Turns To Grey
- Permanent Pause
- Don’t Wait Up (Remix)
Rocco Fury – Vocals
Dennis Zehrer – Guitar
Mike Biscula – Guitar
Jay Druzba – Bass
Eric Ragno – Keyboards
Marc Ambrosy – Drums
Total Time – 53:06
The last time I heard anything about American Angel was back in 1998 when the band released a 2CD set titled ARCHIVES. I had just started on the Net and I remember reading about the band on various message boards. With all that buzz, I tracked down some samples of the E.P. the band released in 1992, and I liked what I heard. I have been a lucky collector in the last couple of years in acquiring copies of the both the debut album (1989) and the E.P. (1992) and the band has become a “lost” favorite. Fast forward 15 years…..the band has reformed, is touring, and has released this brand new album on Chavis Records.
So what do you get on the band’s latest offering, VANITY? You get some good ol’ fashioned late ’80s Hard Rock! American Angel hasn’t strayed far from their signature sound from Hard Rock’s heyday in the late ’80s/early ’90s: great vocals, superb guitar, tight rhythm section, and solid songs. A winning formula then and in 2007.
VANITY starts off with ‘While I’m Away’, a quick intro piece with some elegant piano that shoots straight into the first barnburner ‘Pantomind’. This song gets the album into high gear and has chugging groove, the vocals sound like John Corabi in his Union days, some grit along with power. The title track has a guitar hook that just sucks the listener right in and Rocco’s vocals are definitely in your face. Three songs in and I’m already pumping my fist, there’s an energy in this band that you can’t escape, almost a live feeling. There’s a couple of audio samples mixed into this song just before the guitar solo but it doesn’t take anything away from the song itself.
There’s a Sleaze Glam feel to ‘On The Hunt’. It’s a mid-paced song that has that sleazy groove going like a slow L.A. Guns or GNR…..you can picture a guy out “on the hunt” walking down a street with all sorts of women around…..OK, that’s for a video I guess. Definitely has that late ’80s strut. ‘Seven’ immeadiately follows with the same mid-paced style. This one I haven’t gotten into yet. Maybe it’s because it follows a similar song in ‘On The Hunt’ but I think it’s that Rocco Fury gets drowned out by the backing vocals. I like the solo here and the crashing drums but not my favorite song so far.
‘Warm Inside’ is one of my favorites on the record. This ballad starts off with a subdued acoustic intro and the band comes in adding a nice melodic texture. Fury’s delivery is a little cleaner, less grit, and sounds a little like Sebastian Bach at times. When a song has that underlying acoustic guitar throughout the song, it usually grabs my attention. The electric guitar doesn’t overpower the acoustic when it kicks in, it just adds another layer. I like the fact that the song ends much the way it began with the acoustic. ‘Don’t Wait Up’ has a Ratt feel to it a la ‘Way Cool Jr.’. It’s uptempo and has that guitar strut mixed with big backing vocals in the chorus. It definitely has a groove to it but it sounds like it’s missing something. It probably could be a little heavier.
There’s a more contemporary feel to ‘Breathe’, an updated sound, but is that a talk-box I hear? What I like is that American Angel can retain their signature sound and expand on it, this could get airplay on today’s Rock radio. ’Breathe’ is mid-paced but there is power to the track. Solid vocals again but listen to the drums, they drive the song. ‘In Perfection’ has become another favorite off the album. Definitely a dated sound (in a good way), there’s a great hook in the chorus and you can sing right along. Great guitar work here, very good solo, a definite highlight.
The band gets a little more modern again with ‘End Of The Night’ and the song sounds a little out of place against the rest of the album so far. The main guitar riff sounds like it needs a little more meat to it and the drum patterns seem a little off pace. Mid-song there is a complete style change, it’s not pure Hard Rock, more like Spanish flavored or European. Vocally, I noticed that I hear a little bit of a young Jack Russell (Great White) in Rocco’s singing. I wonder if he has been compared to Bach, Corabi, and Russell before because it’s a great blend of blues and power.
Another acoustic guitar during ‘Another Day’ and I’m immeadiately hooked. Excellent vocal harmonies and guitars. The Bach/Russell style vocal fits in well with the music. This is a ballad/mid-tempo track that is straight up ’80s flavored. This gets added in to my list of favorites from this album. Things get heavier a bit heavier on ‘Turns To Grey’. Heavier and faster with some true guitar heroics, this track serves as a showcase for the twin axe attack. ‘Permanent Pause’ keeps things rocking although it’s a little slower than the rest of the rockers on this record. There are some interesting guitar tones that keeps the audiences attention. There are also those big backing harmonies that make the song sound richer. The last song is a remixed version of ‘Don’t Wait Up’ and it doesn’t stray too far from the original. I still think it has a Ratt vibe to it but there still seems to be something missing on this track.
If you are a fan of late ’80s/early ’90s Hard Rock, or a fan of American Angel, then this album is definitely for you. VANITY is full of superb guitars, a solid rhythm section, and an excellent set of pipes. The band writes some very good songs, my favorites are: ‘Pantomind’, ‘Warm Inside’, ‘Vanity’, ‘Turns To Grey’, and ‘Another Day’. The album is a great listen and well worth your hard earned money. Hopefully, we will hear more from American Angel in the future and we won’t have to wait long between releases. Those interested should seek out the band’s self-titled debut from 1989 and the E.P. from 1992, they are a little hard to find but worth the effort.
(Thanks to Lori at Chavis Records for providing me with the materials necessary to write this review.)