Perhaps the only other group that could give Nickelback a run for the money as the most vilified in rock music would be Creed. The multi-platinum, arena-headlining, post-grunge band from the late nineties/early noughties were on the receiving end of some pretty vicious criticism, with vocalist Scott Stapp seemingly bearing the brunt. Art Of Anarchy could be his way back into favour. Everyone deserves another shot. The newly-sober Stapp pulls off an amazing recovery, and helps his new band mates produce one of the strongest hard rock albums released so far this year. Art Of Anarchy of course hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when Scott Weiland distanced himself from his involvement on the supergroup’s debut album. Sadly, of course, Weiland is no longer with us. His death in 2015 robbed rock music of one of it’s most enigmatic figures. Album number two, ‘The Madness’, is very good, and would it be rude of me to say surprisingly very good? Too late…
‘The Madness’ is modern day American hard rock. Melodic, but the heaviest album that Stapp has put his name to. Perhaps the album that Shinedown should have followed up ‘Sound Of Madness’ with? ‘Echo Of A Scream’ is the traditional uptempo album opener, with some great drum work from Vince Votta. Stapp changes style throughout, from soft spoken word to screams. He sounds re-energised and ready to take on the doubters head on. Reduced to a bit part in Guns N’ Roses, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal shows his chops early on, with some blistering solos, and his dual guitar work with Jon Votta will get the fists pumping in the air! ‘1000 Degrees’ is a thing of beauty, the pounding bass drum, the megaphone vocals… then the chorus lands with hooks big enough to land a 747. It truly is fucking monstrous! ‘No Surrender’ is another highlight, with a slow burning intro that builds and builds. Instead of developing into a bog-standard melodic power ballad, the song ducks to the left, and the guitars go for the throat.
The title track features a fantastic bass groove, delivered by Disturbed’s John Moyer, very subtle and never overpowering. Moyer again shows why he is one of the most respected bassists around today. After the lighter shades of ‘Won’t Let You Down’, Stapp reflects on past mistakes on ‘Changed Man’ which begins with the line, ”Yes, I made a mess of things”. As lines go, that’s a pretty big understatement, but like I mentioned earlier, everyone deserves another shot. Perfect American drive time radio fodder, this could be a massive hit if fuckers would only play it. Step away from the button that says ‘Bruno Mars’! ‘A Light In Me’ has a massive chorus that soars as Stapp pours his heart out, as he does on ‘Somber’, a song Stapp has had bubbling under for years. Here, it gets the full band treatment. The song benefits hugely from some stunning lead guitar work. It has Stapp stamped all over it, and if ever he had a trademark sound, it would be this. Given the Guns N’ Roses and Scott Weiland connections, ‘Dancing With The Devil’ has a sleazy, Velvet Revolver vibe going on, subconsciously or not, who knows, but it certainly does groove. ‘Afterburn’ closes off the album with a song full of shredding solos and gut-punching bass drum. It’s modern, and it crushes. A perfect way to end the album.
Approach this album as you would an album from an unknown band. Leave the history at the door, and you will be richly rewarded.
Available now through Century Media
Review: Dave Stott